Ask people to name something that you can become addicted to and of course straight off the bat the two most popular answers will probably be drugs and alcohol. These tend to be the common answers because they receive a great proportion of focus and attention in our media and because they are the two that society are widely educated on. They are also fiercely debated as the impact of these two addictions have a wider ripple effect on society. Drug and drug-related crime and the number of people in prison due to offences of this nature impacts on the proportion of money extracted from the pocket of taxpayers to fund a working prison. Money that could be spent elsewhere. Even if you personally don't directly know of or have a loved-one with an affliction to drugs or alcohol this doesn't mean that your life isn't in a distant way affected by the issues.
The Ricochet Effect
Of course, there are less prominent addictions also. There doesn't appear to be equal coverage for people suffering from gambling, porn, spending and smartphone addictions for example. These are seemingly more or less modern day afflictions with research appearing to be on the limited side as it stands. However, they will also have a chain reaction like drugs and alcohol addiction. Like any addiction. For example, the health problems that a person addicted to food will develop if left unresolved may eventually begin to take its toll on health services. Or a person with a smartphone problem could unintentionally cause a car accident which also in turn leads to added pressures on emergency services and again health services. Addiction is an issue that effects all of us even if it isn't in an immediately obvious way. So it stands to reason that working towards finding a solution to this global predicament is everybody's responsibility.
1970's Rat-Park Experiment
In his bestselling book, Chasing The Scream author Johann Hari discusses the larger issue of the war on drugs and why the traditional way of handling the problem is not working. He draws our attention to an experiment conducted in the 1970's by Bruce Alexander, a Canadian Professor of Psychology at the Simon Fraser University. In this experiment Alexander used rats to demonstrate that when addicted to drug-laced water, the animals direct environment was instrumental in whether they would continue in their addictions or not. He was successful in showing that the rats living in a situation with very little in terms of enrichment and companionship in their everyday surroundings were highly susceptible to remaining in a state of addiction. Whereas the rats living in happy, contradictory conditions did not feel the compulsion to maintain their addiction.
Based on this experiment and Hari's book, could part of the solution on how to treat an addiction be in how society view addicts and how we approach their recovery? In another book, Loves Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University Irvin D. Yalom, talks on occasion about the existential need to belong. The need to be connected and to be socially accepted. This seems to makes sense. Like many animals, we as humans have an increased survival rate as part of a pack. To be cast out and isolated makes the obstacles of life tough to manoeuvre when you don't have the added weight of fighting an addiction. So why as a society do we veer towards treating addicts in this manner?
Do We Need To Medicate To Cope?
Could this also be why people develop an addiction in the first instance? Why do so many struggle to be present in day to day life without the crutch of alcohol, drugs, excessive food, consumerism and so forth? Are all these just a form of medication to give us temporary relief from a feeling of mental and/or physical social isolation? As a large proportion of the world continues to propel forward at lightening speed and technology is advancing faster than ever before, it is common knowledge that a lot of human beings are more detached from the pack historically than ever before. Are our basic primal needs being ignored in the rush of modern day existence? This certainly is an idea that we cannot afford to ignore.
First published on www.littlemissgeeke.wordpress.com