02 October 2010

The Cage Is The Problem

How many addicts do you know? How many people in your world are curiously tied to something... pot, TV, porn, prozac, heroin, apple pie?

For years we have been taught about addiction in terms of the disease model. In a nutshell, it goes like this: Our brains have a reward system that makes us feel good when we do certain things. Typically things that have survival value trigger the reward system... food, sex, etc, thus increasing the likelihood that we will do these things again and thus survive to perpetuate the species. The disease model states that addiction comes from a manipulation / problem with the brain's internal reward system. Cocaine, for instance, causes a rush of the same neurotransmitters that are present during orgasm. The disease model states that we then become "hooked" on these increased levels of activity in the reward system. The culprit is a chemical reaction between the outside substance and the mechanisms of your brain.

Seems pretty reasonable, eh?

BUT... have you ever noticed that some people are able to do certain drugs without getting hooked on them? Nancy Regan's "DARE" anti drug program ttaught us all that if we even TRIED heroin one time, a hellish and lifelong addiction would result.
I know that you can think of exceptions to this rule with everything from cigarettes to any number of hard drugs.

Several years ago a researcher decided to take another look at addiction. First, let's look at how addiction was studied in the past. Rats would be placed in small cages (about the size of 2 shoe boxes), and were offered two water sources: clean water, and heroin laced water. When the rats developed a preference for the heroin laced water, researchers concluded the seemingly obvious: heroin is addicting.

Researcher Bruce Alexander decided to manipulate one of the variables: the cage. He created a huge "rat park"... a large habitat complete with trash piles, room to run, breed, etc. It was an expansive and fairly realistic rat habitat. He put rats into the "rat park" that had been "addicted" to heroin in the previous lab situation. Again, they were given 2 water sources: clean water and heroin laced water.

The rats came to favor the clean water.

Perhaps the problem is not the drug... it is THE CAGE.

You can read more about the study here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park

Though there have been some criticisms of the study, it still provides something for us to ponder...

So often, we self medicate. We do things, we take things, we indulge, to make ourselves feel better.

What is causing this discomfort in the first place?
What cages are you in?
What would you feel like if that cage were to be disolved?

In freedom -

Paul

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