Addictions & Substance Use · Continue the Conversation

Continue the Conversation: Johann Hari

In this addition of Continue the Conversation, Johann Hari discusses his journey on finding out what causes addiction after he was touched by addiction through his family.

At his TEDtalk in June of this year, in London, Hari talked about his interest in addiction since it’s been 100 years since Britain and the United States banned drugs in their countries. Later, that ban was imposed on the rest of the world. He goes on to say that it’s been a century that a treatment regiment was created to take addicts, and make them feel bad for their addiction. We did this, because we thought that negative reinforcement would make them deter from their addiction and give them the incentive they need to stop.

After realizing that he really didn’t know the answers to basic questions about addiction, and decided to go out and talk to people who had first hand knowledge of addiction after his research still didn’t give him the answers he wanted. His travels and discussions led him to a realization: everything that we know about addiction is wrong.

The story that we are fed is that anyone who takes hard drugs (heroine, cocaine, etc), will immediately become a drug addict. But, what that narrative is really telling us is that if someone has no other choice, they will choose drugs. But, if they are surrounded by friends, family, things to keep them stimulated. A person won’t turn to drugs.

He quotes a couple of Professors that say addiction is about bonding with the drug, especially if the person feels isolated. Human nature is to bond with things, we tend to bond with things that give us a sense of relief. Hari believes that the core to addiction is not being able to bear the idea of participating in your life, and you use your addiction as a means of escape.

Hari also discusses the experiment that Portugal did to deal with addiction, which as seemed to succeeded. It’s a different approach than Britain and the United States, and no one seems to want to go back to the way things was.

“The opposite of addiction is connection,” Hari explained.

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