Can human connection defeat addiction? - Sovereign Health Group
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02-12-16 Category: Recovery, Substance Abuse, Treatment



Recreational drug use is social. Drug dependency is thinly sheathed misery that often craves the company of a few birds of the same feather. Addiction is a solitary confinement behind a mask that you are “doing just fine.”

Rock bottom is a respecter of no person. When an addict has the epiphany, instinct drives them to someone, anyone, for a helping hand out of the fiery furnace. Some experts argue that the opposite of addiction is connection.

Experiment pits sociability versus addiction

Bruce Alexander, Ph.D., together with three colleagues conducted a study in the 1970s to disprove earlier theories on the irresistibility of drug addiction.

He observed, however, that rats in the tests were caged, isolated, sometimes starved and thus psychologically abused. His team instead created what they called a “reasonably normal environment.”

According to Alexander, “This required building a great big plywood box on the floor of our laboratory, filling it with things that rats like, such as platforms for climbing, tin cans for hiding in, wood chips for strewing around, and running wheels for exercise. Naturally we included lots of rats of both sexes, and naturally the place soon was teeming with babies. The rats loved it and we loved it too, so we called it ‘Rat Park.'”

Researchers found social rats easily resisted available morphine, while isolated rats abused the drug. The team concluded that “the drug only becomes irresistible when the opportunity for normal social existence is destroyed.” Media took the data and ran with it, but those in the addiction field did not.

Is social connection enough?

Adi Jaffe Ph.D., expounds on the Rat Park experiment and offers logical rebuttals to connection being the cure for addiction. He points out human psychology compounds traumatic life circumstances and genetic complications with cognitive interpretation. Jaffe argues humans can’t achieve the “rat heaven” of the experiment, and the oversimplification of the study likely doesn’t translate over to human substance abuse.

“So while I agree that social connection is very important for dealing with substance use problems … it also matters who we’re connecting to and that, unfortunately, is something we control only to a limited extent. We have to deal with the circumstances we are born into – dysfunctional marriages, depression, dietary limitations and gang violence, – and sometimes substances are the solution, not the problem,” Jaffe writes.

A real solution to the problem

The last, broken step on the downward spiral that begins with substance use is addiction. It may have begun on one’s own accord initially but addiction is a warped autopilot of the brain one cannot easily deactivate. If addiction is a disease, then connection can’t be the sole antidote, rather a necessary component in recovery.

For tens of thousands of addicts nationwide, substances from cigarettes to prescription painkillers to meth seem like a temporary solution to get their mind away from life’s problems. In reality, drug abuse will only guarantee a shorter life.

Drug abuse will not solve anyone’s problems, and social connections might not solve drug addiction by themselves, but making the right connection that yields effective solutions can produce real results.

The Sovereign Health Group has emerged as a nationwide leader in mental health rehabilitation from psychological disorder, addiction, dual diagnosis and eating disorders. We are a hub of doctors, therapists, alternative therapy experts and residential attendant’s all dedicated to tailoring treatment to each individual for lasting recovery. Make the connection: Call our 24/7 helpline.

About the Author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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