Beth Osmer

The Causes of Addiction


noun  ad·dic·tion  \ə-ˈdik-shən, a-\

The question of what causes addiction is full of differing opinions and theories. Why is it that some people become addicted and fixated on a drug or behavior and cannot stop themselves? How do we help them instead of letting them go down that path? At the outset, what causes drug addiction seems obvious. If you start taking a drug over and over, soon enough you crave it and need it all the time. Anyone would become addicted to the drug. But how do you become addicted in the first place?

The theory of drug addiction first began in the 1970s with experimenting on rats. It was a simple way to test how addiction works. The rat is put in a cage all by itself with two water bottles, one contains water and the other is water but with added drugs like cocaine or heroin. Over and over, the rat chose the water with added drugs, gets addicted to it, and dies.

But during this same time, psychology professor Bruce Alexander thought there was something missing from the rat experiments. He figured since the rat was all alone in the cage, it was drinking the drugged water out of boredom. So he came up with another idea: Rat Park. He built a cage 200 times the original size of the rat cages, with toys and balls and good food and tunnels to play in. The large cage also contained other rats, so they had plenty of friends to play with.

What happened in the Rat Park experiment is amazing. The rats tried both water bottles since they didn’t know what was contained in either one. But since they were enjoying their life with other rats and toys and good food, they were uninterested in the drugged water. Without drinking the tainted water, the rats didn’t die. Professor Alexander took the Rat Park experiment one step further by taking the isolated rats from the earlier experiments and placing them in Rat Park with the 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.

Humans have a need to be around people and bond with others.

The theory goes that addiction occurs when your environment makes you do it. So it’s not necessarily the person, but rather the “cage” they are living in. Dr. Gabor Maté, a Canadian doctor, also 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. This is for the most part, the same drug used on the streets;  given to a hospital patient, but once the patient goes home and is with friends and family, can stop using and not be addicted. If you are an addict out on the street, it is your “cage” that is causing your addiction. You are isolated, alone, with only one thing on your mind.

Humans have a need to be around people and bond with others. So if a person can’t connect with other people, they will find a bond with drugs or something worse. 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.

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