Saturday, January 24, 2015

Social Justice Saturday: Addiction

Labyrinths Of Love 1
This Huffington Post article about the roots of addiction really caught my attention. It confirms what I've been thinking lately - that many of the ills that plague our uber wealthy society are caused by the emptiness behind the consumer illusion of happiness.

When it comes to drug addiction, we have been told it is purely chemical and studies with lab rats seemed to confirm this belief. However, according to the article, a study done in the 1970s by Professor Bruce Alexander pointed out a flaw in the earlier study. In the first study, the rats had no alternative but to either drink plain water or to drink drug-laced water. Professor Alexander set up a different experiement. Instead of putting the rats in a stark cage with two choices, he
built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want.....In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn't know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
The article continues to explain other situations even social experiments to determine the causes and effective treatments for substance addiction. It seems that, while there are chemical roots in drug addiction, the environment is more important. And the author sums it up nicely:  
The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live -- constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.
Continuing the so-called War on Drugs is not the answer. It might fatten the pocketbooks of those in the law enforcement business and the contractors they use, but it destroys the lives of those who become addicted as a way out of the shallow lives we are encouraged to create. 


David said...

Cherie, addiction is something that to some degree we all struggle with. It may not even be drug related. I've heard about people who are so addicted to the Internet that they will neglect their kids. Of course TV shows are built around some who are addicted to food. Many are addicted to earning money and working. It's tough to get through life without coming in contact with some form of life that could become an addiction. Even a good thing like gardening for me could become an addiction. I could spend every waking moment talking about, planning for, or working in the garden. Total isolation in gardening would be the ultimate life for me. However, I am wise enough to know that would be a mistake and in the long run would not be good for me. So I've learned to intentionally allow others to infiltrate my life and am even considering letting some friends help with the gardening. A couple years ago that wouldn't have even been considered. It was my get away world that I didn't want anyone to touch. I've had to open the door and let others into that world and become a part of theirs. It didn't come easy for a guy that was pretty much a loner and liked it that way.

Have a great non addictive day.

EcoCatLady said...

Wow. And that study was done decades ago. I think that in general this society has a pathological fear of emotional reality - and that's the cause of the vast majority of our ills. Combine that with a self-righteous punitive mindset, and you have a recipe for a LOT of unhappy people.

It's just soooo much easier to blame all of our problems on bad people or bad brain chemistry than it is to deal with all of the emotional stuff that our society is constantly trying to sweep under the rug.

I dunno... just seems to me that we should focus on fixing the misery, and so much of the rest will take care of itself. We should be trying to build "rat park" for people instead of more prisons.

Cherie said...

David, that's one thing the author said. That one can be addicted to gambling so it's not necessarily chemical. For a long time I've said we need to address the societal problems that drive people to drugs rather than penalizing them for it. The experiment in Portugal showed that decriminalizing drugs, especially when coupled with programs to help addicts, does not increase use.

Cherie said...

EcoCatLady, yes - we need to fix the misery. Something is driving people to drug addiction and criminalizing it is not working. Putting them in jail and marking them for life is not a solution - except for those who profit from their misery. Fun rat parks instead of jail makes sense to me. :)