noun con·nec·tion \kə-ˈnek-shən\
There has been an ongoing discussion that there is a connection between addiction and an individual’s relationship with the self. More importantly, there has been chatter about the importance of connections with others to avoid the attractiveness of substance addiction. In short, addiction is less about the effects of the nicotine or alcohol, but rather the user’s inability to connect with other people.
The theory of human connection and drug addiction first began in the 1970s with Professor Bruce Alexander’s Rat Park experiment. He took previously isolated rats and placed them in his Rat Park with other healthier rats. He soon discovered that even if you have become addicted to a drug, you can recover, stop your usage, and go back to living a healthy life as long as you are surrounded by social interaction.
The opposing school of thought is that the pleasurable effects of nicotine or alcohol are what trigger the addiction in the first place. It is true that these substances release all sorts of pleasurable side effects, and the “feel good” feeling makes some of us come back for more. But that is only part of the issue. Addiction is two-fold, where our environment and the people we surround ourselves with can sometimes affect our decisions.
Dr. Gabor Mate, a Canadian doctor, stands by this theory. As a medical doctor, he sees patients leave the hospital after being given strong drugs for long periods of time, and they stop using once they have gone back home. In this situation, “home” must be a safe, secure, and healthy environment. In reality, a very small percentage of people who try an addictive substance, including prescription drugs, get addicted to it.
It is possible that the root of any addiction can be tied directly to our loneliness. British journalist Johann Hari has a theory. He has done extensive research and recently written a book about how the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but rather connection. Humans have a need to be around people and bond with each other. Like rats, humans are social creatures that need each other’s company and interaction to stay happy and healthy. We need to be able to emotionally connect and trust one another to form bonds.
When we are children, we have an intense need for a safe and reliable environment. As adults, we still need that healthy environment, full of safety and stability. If a person’s childhood is unstable, their life as an adult can be tumultuous too. This insecurity as an adult can hinder their ability to fit in and connect. This can cause a ripple effect, where a person can seek out an unhealthy addiction to fill a void, a need, or a want.
This is not to say that humans without a stable community become addicts. The lack of trust and stability for a person may cause them to seek out things other than addiction, such as therapy, support groups, or healthy relationships to enrich their daily life. Healing can take time. It also takes effort and a great support network to help someone in recovery. The opposite of addiction must be connection, where a social network can help you up and help you heal.
ReFind is a great resource for you on your recovery from addiction. We offer programs with a variety of lengths and focuses tailored to help you where you need it. Contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation session. To book your appointment, click here.