Contributor: Pranav Sirohi
Drug addiction has been a prevalent problem around the globe for a majority of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is thought to be caused by the drugs themselves, since drugs contain “chemical hooks” that prevent addicts from quitting. For example, if a person were to take heroin for twenty days, they would become addicted because of those “chemical hooks” that would make the brain crave the drug, resulting in addiction.
This has been tested on rats as well during the twentieth century; a rat is placed in a cage with a regular bottle of water and a second bottle of water laced with cocaine or heroin. Almost immediately, the rat began drinking from the bottle with drug-laced water until it eventually overdosed.
This test seemed to prove that drugs cause addiction. In the 1970s, however, psychology professor Bruce Alexander noticed something that didn't quite make sense in this experiment. He noticed that the rat was placed alone in a cage instead of in a population of other rats in order to mimic a more reasonable scenario. Alexander decided to conduct his own experiment based on this observation. He built a cage that housed multiple rats and provided them tunnels to run through, toys to play with, and placed two water bottles in the cage. One water bottle was just water, while the other was water laced with a drug such as cocaine. What Alexander noticed was that hardly any of the drug-laced water was consumed, and none of the rats became addicted or overdosed.
Skeptics thought this was because rats where tested and not humans. However, there was a similar human experiment, The Vietnam war. During the war, approximately 20% of soldiers were using heroin regularly; this worried the American public, who thought that there would be thousands of heroin addicts roaming the streets freely, but this never happened. A study found that 95% of users stopped using heroin when they returned home. According to Professor Alexander, this makes perfect sense. Soldiers who were fighting in the war had to live with the fact that they could die at any moment. Heroin induced a false sense of happiness and became a seemingly good way to cope with their current stressful situation. Soldiers’ homecoming was equivalent to a rat placed into a cage with many other rats, along with toys and other activities. Upon returning home, the rats were out of their former cage and into the cage where they could be with friends and enjoy life. This prevented them from seeking a dangerously false sense of happiness. As social creatures, humans have a need to interact with someone or something. These interactions provide us with relief. When someone is in the company of a friendly environment, they are able to form friendships that can make them happy.
However, if a person is in a hostile environment, such as a mental state of loneliness or stress, they will likely seek comfort in whatever they can find. Unfortunately, that comfort is often found in drugs. Addiction is not actually due to drugs that contain chemicals, but the mental crisis brought forth by stress and isolation. This concept is essential if we want to understand the addicts and former addicts in our community. To treat addiction, an addict must be rehabilitated so they can channel their mental anguish into something that’s productive, and not destructive. But this is difficult because the “war on drugs” has forced addicts into prisons where they are lonely and stressed, perpetuating their mental problems and preventing them from healing. A proper treatment is required for an addict, and it is never by incarceration. There needs to be a shift in society, so people with mental problems can be treated as true patients, instead of being ignored and punished for their problems.
Addiction. Kurzgesagt-In a nutshell. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg