A New Perspective on Isolation and Addiction

Restore Center

Studies researching isolation and addiction have made an interesting connection about the nature of substance abuse. In writing The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think; author Johann Hari pulls from research and his own analysis of addiction to make conclusions about addiction and recovery. This new perspective on isolation and addiction shows us why so many addicts and alcoholics use alone and isolate themselves from others during active addiction. Addicts often feel lonely and struggle with not fitting in which can be the catapult to reaching for mood and mind-altering substances in the first place.

It was 1970s professor of Psychology in Vancouver, Bruce Alexander who studied the effects of social interaction and cocaine exposure on rats in a laboratory experiment. In noticing a rat in a cage with nothing but cocaine laced water has nothing to do but continue to use the substance, he tried a different approach. Professor Alexander built Rat Park, a lush enclosure where the rats would have colored balls and tunnels to scamper down, good rat food and plenty of friends to socialize with.

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Is there a relation between isolation and addiction?

Both the rats in Rat Park and the single isolated rat had the choice between clean water and water laced with cocaine. Not surprisingly, the rats in Rat Park went for less of the laced water, while the isolated rat would consume it almost constantly. Hari draws connections between this and situations like the Vietnam War to bolster his point about drug and alcohol addiction and isolation.

Much research and theory have gone into the issues of attachment and bonding surrounding maladaptive behavior, suggesting that people who have satisfying and meaningful lives will typically do all they can to avoid destructive patterns. The danger or threat of isolation and addiction becomes much clearer when evaluated through this framework.

The good news is that addiction treatment in a group setting helps addicts develop social skills and enhance intercommunication. The question for those in recovery can then be: what am I aligning or bonding myself to today? If it’s not a solid program of recovery, the fellowship, work, friends, and family, then it’s probably leaning toward the road which leads to addictive behavior. At Restore Health and Wellness Center, our focus is on helping addicts and alcoholics in healing from addiction and all of the underlying psychological conditions that come from abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

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