16 March 2020

Everything you know about addiction is wrong

Drug usage and addiction, alcohol addiction and more! Sometimes it does take a journalist to put research in perspective. Johann Hari spoke at a TED talk in 2015 on the true cause of addiction according to the latest studies around the world. He says, at the very heart of addiction is loneliness and isolation. He also said that the solution is replacing addiction with social connection. Research overseas found the rates of drug usage dropped by 50% with relationship building strategies and better employment opportunities.

Hari reminds us that animal studies where rats are living in a stimulating and fulfilling environment have no desire for drugs. But rats put in a socially isolating and boring environment became addicts and died. So addiction being purely a chemical adaptation doesn’t fit anymore. We all have a strong need for happy and fulfilling lives.

He also debunks the ‘War on Drugs’ approach that has dominated the US for decades. Studies show that shame and punishment doesn’t work. In fact, the opposite is true. The more opportunities for building a healthy social world, the better the outcomes for addicted patients. The more reasons for getting up in the morning, the more likely the person will recover.

Our need for social connection, close relationships and healthy bonding appears more important than we once believed. It is our nature to want our emotional needs met as humans. The decline in intimate friendships in our society has dropped according to our floor space at home. This means we are favouring space over people.

Social recovery needs to be the focus according to Hari. The opposite of addiction is connection. He suggests offering patients reassurance that ‘they are not alone’ as the best possible supportive measure for drug addiction.

For more, check out the Ted Talk