Addiction 101, the True Way to Treat Dependency

I find that when addiction is talked of in social, political and even in some sports science circles the understanding is as such. Addicts are inherently bad and therefore should be arrested/ put in prison. Or, for those of a more liberal persuasion might suggest some rehab and will instead go after the dealers. I, myself, had a very similar approach to addiction and definitely thought along these lines. However, what if the opposite of addiction is not sobriety? What if the opposite of addiction is connection? To help me make my point I will highlight two psychological studies…

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The first of which are a series of experiments done early in the 20th century. They put rats in cages with two water bottles. One was just water and the other was water laced with cocaine or heroin. What they found was conclusive to the modern addiction misconception- almost 100% of the rats used the laced water compulsively and almost 100% would go on to die from an overdose. Addiction, therefore, is simple- you will always want to take drugs and it will always end in death. This, I assume, is what fuels in endless war on drugs and the negative view of addicts. However, in the 1970s a professor of psychology at Vancouver called Bruce Alexander reviews the previous study and finds several key flaws to it…

He summarised that the cages that the rats were placed in had no resemblance to the environment that humans are in. Humans do not live in sterile cages- they have friends, hobbies, goals and aims. So he redesigned the experiment to better represent an ideal human environment. He called it “rat park”- it had cheese, wheels to run round and most importantly other rats. In rat park almost non of the rats used the drugged water compulsively and almost non would die from an overdose. It seemed the difference was what was in the cage.

With that in mind it would seem that the reason for addiction is a lack of social connection- maybe addiction is an adaption to your environment? We know that both social interaction and drugs release the chemical dopamine (read here for more info about dopamine) so a lack of one may lead to an increase in the other- an equilibrium. But how does that link with a fitness blog?

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As expressed in a previous article on the topic, exercise also releases the chemical dopamine, among others, and will improve your chances of meeting people. This in turn sways the dopamine equilibrium towards the social interaction side. An increase in social interaction will therefore mean a decrease in drug use. I would like to see a statistic that takes those who take exercise 3 or more times a week and see how many of which are compulsive drug users.

I hope this has been as interesting to you as it was to me. I understand the subject is a bit inconsistent with typical fitness writer content however, it is an important message to share. Any questions then just comment below.

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