Despite costing over a trillion dollars and ruining countless lives, the War On Drugs has failed to stop, or even reduce drug addiction. According to author Johann Hari, this is because it's based on a false understanding of addiction.

(source: The Wire)

Much of the modern understanding of addiction comes from animal trials wherein caged rats were provided with 2 water bottles - one with plain water, and one with water containing morphine. The rats consistently chose the morphine water, consumed it compulsively, and eventually overdosed. This lead to the conclusion that the drug itself was the cause of addiction. However, a psychologist named Bruce K. Alexander questioned this conclusion, and recreated the model with an important difference.

Some of the rats in his study were isolated in standard cages, as in the original studies. But others were housed together, in a large enclosure outfitted with toys, comfortable bedding, and plenty of room to play, mate, and explore. The rats in this "Rat Park" rarely used the morphine water, and none of them became addicted or overdosed - while the others, living in isolation in small cages with no stimulation followed the previous pattern of compulsively drinking the morphine water until it killed them.

This demonstrates the crucial misunderstanding that has made the drug war such an abysmal failure - the drug doesn't cause addiction, the cage does. When we place all of the emphasis on the restricting peoples' access to drugs, we are failing to address the real reasons that they become addicts. When someone is happy, in a safe and healthy environment, with strong emotional connections to other people, they rarely become addicted to drugs - even when they are actively using powerful addictive drugs for medical reasons. But when a person lives in a metaphorical cage of depression, isolation, poverty, or fear, they are far more prone to addiction. If we want to heal and prevent addiction, we need to better understand and address the various "cages" that cause addiction.

The video below explains all of this in a brilliant and concise way. It is a collaboration between the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell and Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War On Drugs.

Image: ccbhc.org

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Chris Cox

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