Causes of Addiction to Drugs and Alcohol

We have been brought up in a world that teaches us that drug addiction is caused by some sort of disease or excessive partying. Not many of us think past the stereotypes for addicted people and addiction itself. We were taught from an early age that addiction is a shameful thing and that drug addicts should be shown tough love until they snap out of it. However, if we look past what we were taught and consider what really causes people to become addicted to drugs, we will find other unexpected answers.

One theory established through the testing of lab rats shows that people who are or feel they are alone, are more likely to rely on drugs than those who are surrounded by loving people and a good environment. Bruce Alexander, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver, conducted an experiment he entitled Rat Park and noticed a startling pattern in the rats. He observed that if a rat was put into a cage alone with one water bottle laced with heroin or cocaine and one bottle of pure water, the rat would repeatedly go back to the laced bottle until it became a necessity. Conversely, when that same rat was put into a cage with others, the rat barely drank from the water bottle that it once craved. This experiment showed that the rats with good lives did not need or want the laced water, whereas the rats that were alone gravitated towards the cocaine/heroin water.

Another example that mirrored this was after the Vietnam War. During wartime, U.S. soldiers used heroin almost as much as they used chewing gum. Many of them were addicted throughout the war, however, when the war ended and they were sent home, the soldiers stopped using the drug altogether. Both examples illustrate that you will be more or less inclined to use drugs depending on your environment and the people around you. Addiction is fueled by the feeling of being alone and isolated; it is not some disease like we were taught to believe. Human connection and positive reinforcement are what ultimately help someone overcome a drug addiction.

It will take time for society to accept that human disconnect is part of what fuels drug addiction, but this change of heart will further help us to assist loved ones to overcome their substance problem.

Here at the Discovery Institute in Marlboro, New Jersey, we understand how difficult fighting and addiction can be.  Our highly trained and compassionate staff understands what you are going through and we want you to know that we can help. Call us at the Discovery Institute today at (800) 714-2175 to start on the road to recovery.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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