Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why Only Some People Get Addicted?

Addiction Quote

Have you ever wondered why you got addicted from experimenting with drugs while some of your friends didn't?

No they're NOT weak. According to a new study we finally have the answer we've all been waiting for and everything we thought we knew about addiction is wrong.

For as long as I can remember we've believed that people can get addicted after using only once and consequently abstinence was the only way to prevent getting addicted. The experiment that supported this theory was the one where a rat was put in a cage alone with a water bottle and a drugged water bottle and almost always became obsessed with the drugged water until it killed itself. However, today there's a lot of evidence against this. The  obvious one for me is that not everyone who is prescribed painkillers gets addicted.
In the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander wanted to know what would happen if the rat wasn't left alone with nothing to do but to drink from the water bottles. He built Rat Park: a lush cage with the best food, tunnels and plenty of friends.

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 and 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.

What happened after the Vietnam War supports this new theory. Time magazine reported using heroin was "as common as chewing gum" among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. However, 95% of the addicted soldiers simply stopped because they had shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one. Professor Alexander argues that addiction is an adaptation. It's not you. It's your cage.

Quote Addiction is an adaptation
After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone for57 days and became compulsive drug users. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park.

He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can't recover? The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them.

This new theory seems closer to the truth than we've been in almost a century. Improving the addicts environment, teaching them the skills and giving them the chance to create bonds with others can do wonders for the recovery process. It makes sense. We use to get away from our lives, make our lives worth being present for and the drug use should decrease.

However, I believe the physical dependence part isn't as easy to get over as this theory claims, and I wonder why people with a seemingly good lives still become addicts. Then again they could be dealing with some kind of mental illness we aren't aware of. Despite my questions, I still love the message behind this. Loving an addict will give them a way better chance than punishment or cutting them off -- like some intervention shows seem to promote.

What do you think about this theory?

I'm currently reading his book Chasing the Scream. Join Our Monthly Book Club & Read the Book HERE