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  • What causes, say, heroin addiction?

  • This is a really stupid question, right?

  • It's obvious; we all know it;

  • heroin causes heroin addiction.

  • Here's how it works:

  • if you use heroin for 20 days, by day 21,

  • your body would physically crave the drug ferociously

  • because there are chemical hooks in the drug.

  • That's what addiction means.

  • But there's a catch.

  • Almost everything we think we know about addiction is wrong.

  • If you, for example, break your hip, you'll be taken to a hospital

  • and you'll be given lots of diamorphine for weeks or even months.

  • Diamorphine is heroin.

  • It's, in fact, much stronger heroin than any addict can get on the street

  • because it's not contaminated by all the stuff drug dealers dilute it with.

  • There are people near you being given

  • loads of deluxe heroin in hospitals right now.

  • So at least some of them should become addicts?

  • But this has been closely studied; it doesn't happen.

  • Your grandmother wasn't turned into a junkie by her hip replacement.

  • Why is that?

  • Our current theory of addiction comes in part from a series of experiments

  • that were carried out earlier in the 20th century.

  • The experiment is simple:

  • you take a rat and put it in a cage with two water bottles.

  • One is just water, the other is water laced with heroin or cocaine.

  • Almost every time you run this experiment,

  • the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water

  • and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

  • But in the 1970s, Bruce Alexander, a professor of psychology,

  • noticed something odd about this experiment:

  • the rat is put in the cage all alone.

  • It has nothing to do but take the drugs.

  • What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently?

  • So he built Rat Park, which is basically heaven for rats;

  • it’s a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls, tunnels to scamper down,

  • plenty of friends to play with, and they could have loads of sex

  • everything a rat about town could want.

  • And they would have the drugged water and the normal water bottles.

  • But here's the fascinating thing:

  • in Rat Park, rats hardly ever use the drugged water;

  • none of them ever use it compulsively; none of them ever overdose.

  • But maybe this is a quirk of rats, right?

  • Well, helpfully, there was a human experiment along the same lines:

  • the Vietnam War.

  • 20% of American troops in Vietnam were using a lot of heroin.

  • People back home were really panicked,

  • because they thought there would be hundreds of thousands of junkies

  • on the streets of the United States when the war was over.

  • But a study followed the soliders home and found something striking:

  • they didn't go to rehab; they didn't even go into withdrawal;

  • 95% of them just stopped after they got home.

  • If you believe the old theory of addiction, that makes no sense.

  • But if you believe Prof. Alexander's theory, it makes perfect sense,

  • because if you're put into a horrific jungle in a foreign country

  • where you don't want to be, and you could be forced to kill or die at any moment,

  • doing heroin is a great way to spend your time;

  • but if you go back to your nice home with your friends and your family,

  • it's the equivalent of being taken out of that first cage

  • and put into a human Rat Park;

  • it's not the chemicals, it's your cage.

  • We need to think about addiction differently.

  • Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect.

  • When we are happy and healthy, we will bond with the people around us.

  • But when we can't,

  • because we're traumatized, isolated, or beaten down by life,

  • we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief.

  • It might be endlessly checking a smartphone;

  • it might be pornography, video games, reddit, gambling, or it might be cocaine.

  • But we will bond with something, because that is our human nature.

  • The path out of unhealthy bonds is to form healthy bonds,

  • to be connected to people you want to be present with.

  • Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection

  • that's happening all around us.

  • We all feel it.

  • Since the 1950s, the average number of close friends an American has

  • has been steadily declining.

  • At the same time, the amount of floor space in their homes

  • has been steadily increasing.

  • To choose floor space over friends, to choose stuff over connection.

  • The War on Drugs we've been fighting for almost a century now

  • has made everything worse.

  • Instead of helping people heal and getting their life together,

  • we have cast them out from society,

  • we have made it harder for them to get jobs and become stable,

  • we take benefits and support away from them if we catch them with drugs,

  • we throw them in prison cells, which are literally cages,

  • we put people who are not well

  • in a situation which makes them feel worse and hate them for not recovering.

  • For too long, we've talked only about individual recovery from addiction.

  • But we need now to talk about social recovery.

  • Because something has gone wrong with us as a group.

  • We have to build a society that looks a lot more like Rat Park

  • and a lot less like those isolated cages.

  • We are going to have to change the unnatural way we live

  • and rediscover each other.

  • The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.

  • This video is a collaboration with Johann Hari,

  • the author of the book

  • Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs”.

  • He was very kind to work with us on this video to spread the world.

  • We recommend that you give the book a try.

  • Our videos are made thanks to your support on Patreon.com.

  • If you want to help us make more of them, we really appreciate your support.

  • We made an interactive version of this video together with some friends.

  • See the link in the description.

  • Subtitles by the Amara.org community

What causes, say, heroin addiction?

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Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong

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    Ray Du posted on 2015/10/31
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