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Drug Addiction – How does it begin?

What is it within us that leads us to drug use/addiction?

Not all drug users become addicted.  Why not addicted?

Johann Harri, “During the Vietnam War, 20 percent of all American troops were using loads of heroin, and if you look at the news reports from the time, they were really worried, because they thought, my God, we’re going to have hundreds of thousands of junkies on the streets of the United States when the war ends; it made total sense. Now, those soldiers who were using loads of heroin were followed home. The Archives of General Psychiatry did a really detailed study, and what happened to them? It turns out they didn’t go to rehab. They didn’t go into withdrawal.  Ninety-five percent of them just stopped”.

Why use drugs at all?

One important answer is our human need as a social being.  We crave the comfort of others in our lives. We need connections.  For some of us, there are few connections; for others, there are none- social isolation. No connections- no comfort.

Johann Hari continues, “A few years ago, I was looking at some of the addicts in my life who I love, and trying to figure out if there was some way to help them. And I realized there were loads of incredibly basic questions I just didn’t know the answer to, like, what really causes addiction?  It’s a century since we made this really fateful decision to take addicts and punish them and make them suffer, because we believed that would deter them; it would give them an incentive to stop. And when I learned this, it seemed so weird to me. Why do we carry on with this approach that doesn’t seem to be working, and is there a better way out there that we could try instead?

“Now, if you believe the story about chemical hooks, that makes absolutely no sense, but Professor Alexander (who performs rats-in-cages experiments) began to think there might be a different story about addiction. He said, what if addiction isn’t about your chemical hooks? What if addiction is about your cage? What if addiction is an adaptation to your environment”?

Looking at this, was another professor, Peter Cohen in the Netherlands, who said, “Maybe we shouldn’t even call it addiction. Maybe we should call it bonding. Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we’re happy and healthy, we’ll bond and connect with each other, but if you can’t do that, because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief”. (Ted Talks, Johann Harri, Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong, July 2015.)

Jonathan Davis agrees, “Right now an exciting new perspective on addiction is emerging. Johann Harri’s powerful statement:

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

These sentiments are augmented by a growing number of experts.

If connection is the opposite of addiction, then an examination of the neuroscience of human connection is in order. In A General Theory of Love, 2000, a book written by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, psychiatry professors,

University of California, San Francisco, it reveals that humans require social connection.

“People who use drugs compulsively do so to avoid the pain of past trauma and to replace the absence of connection in their lives”.

“The solution to the problem of addiction on a societal level is both simple and fairly easy to implement. There must be a cultural response to make sure that person knows that they are valued by their society”.

Harri goes on, “Portugal has demonstrated this with a 50% drop in addiction thanks to programs that are specifically designed to re-create connection between the addict and their community.

     “Human connection is crucial in the immediate task of clearing trauma”, he says.

Recreating bonds is essential in the long term, but human connection is crucial in the immediate task of clearing trauma. When a person decides to finally face and feel the pain that they may have been avoiding for years or decades, the first steps cannot be done alone.(Harri quoted in, The Opposite Of Addiction is Connection, By Jonathan Davis, Friday July 17th, 2015)

This is where Counseling on Demand comes in. We offer guidance on your road to connection and recovery.

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I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!