Imagine for a moment that you are locked in a cell all day, every day, alone with nothing to do but listen to your own endless thoughts. In the corner you have two large water bottles; one contains just water, the other is laced with heroin and cocaine.
No, this is not Alice in Wonderland, this is an early study based on rat experiments which concluded that drug addiction was the result of chemical dependency and has been the foundation of the war on drugs for many decades. But what is the real problem in this scenario?
Professor of Psychology in Vancouver Bruce Alexander suggests that drug addiction and perhaps all addictions are a result of environment and a lack of human connection rather than chemical dependency. Addiction is a complex brain disease involving altered function of reward and motivation systems. It’s a serious problem in today’s society with the most notorious offenders being drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But not all addiction is substance based; gambling, sexual addiction, video games, work, food and the Internet are also leading issues.
Alexander suggests the underlying issue is that many people in society feel isolated and lonely, and their craving for human connection manifests itself into various forms of addiction. The strength of an individual to overcome an addiction is no easy feat, particularly when they remain surrounded or return after rehabilitation to the environment and relationships that may have fuelled it.
Alexander believes the answer to combating addiction needs to come from a societal level; we need to stop villianising addicts and demanding zero-tolerance ultimatums. Rather we should focus on social recovery: reconnecting people to society, providing employment and support.
Disconnection and loneliness are the disease of our modern society which can take the form of a variety of mental illness. Take the time everyday to connect with the people around you, whether it be family and friends, a co-worker or a stranger in a queue, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel!