Many people have seen the interesting and compelling video “Everything You Know About Addiction is Wrong” where a gentleman by the name of Johann Hari provides his thoughts and insights about addiction. In fact, he emphatically states “The Opposite of Addiction is Connection”. With over 5 million views to date on his impressive and very well thought out video, it’s no wonder that people have questions. For your reference, we’ve provided the video below.
The problem that we have with Johann Hari is that he makes the critical and very common mistake, which is to imply that the physical act of using drugs is the same thing as addiction. See “Addiction Vs. Using Drugs: Why Addicts Can’t Just Stop Using Drugs” for more information.
Addiction has been declared a disease of the brain by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and more. Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Center (NAATC) feel confident that substantial proof / evidence exists and has been presented to support this model. As a result therefore, while we appreciate what Johann Hari is trying to do for the recovery community, he’s not entirely accurate.
The Opposite of Addiction is Connection?
Johann Hari focuses on social constructs and how a lack of connection is what facilitates addiction. His speech is very compelling and has a lot of people believing that addiction can be defeated by filling the void all human’s possess when connection is lacking. In counseling, we call this filling our “critical longings”. While Johann Hari is very knowledgeable about social constructs and the longings we as human being crave, he is implying that addiction is human behavior (a choice) due to unfulfilled longings and desire for connection. Now, if Johann Hari said that a lack of human connection is often the underlying reason why we start using drugs in the first place, we would emphatically agree.
People start using drugs for different reasons, but we agree with Johann Hari that it’s typically as a result of some unfulfilled longing related to connection. There are many possibilities and reasons why we may feel a disconnect and as a result, sadness. This includes heartbreak, trauma, loss, simply not fitting in, anxiety, depression, lack of social skills, lack of opportunity, etc. When human being feel anything less than optimal, the basic human instinct to escape sadness and feel better kicks in. If presented with the opportunity, heroin or other drugs may feel like the solution
Addiction and Using Drugs Are Not the Same Thing
Human behavior is typically the result of cognitive thought and emotion. For instance, you may feel sad and because feeling sad isn’t pleasurable, the typical behavior is to do something to make you feel better. But addiction isn’t a behavior or a choice. Addiction is a disease of the brain that’s acquired by human behavior that touches the pleasure center in the brain of a person with a genetic predisposition to addiction. While no single gene has been isolated or identified as an “addiction” gene to date, the fact that some people who use heroin (for example) for the first time develop such a powerful cognitive compulsion and ubiquitous connection, making heroin seem practically irresistible while others don’t is just one small part of the proof that addiction is a disease. See “Proof that Addiction is a Disease: How Addiction Affects the Brain” for more information.
What is Addiction and What is it’s Opposite?
Addiction isn’t human behavior (a choice) as a result of the unfulfilled longing for connection but a powerful cognitive compulsion and ubiquitous connection to an object or activity that started as a result of how it touched the pleasure center in the brain. There is no logical explanation for it and can’t be explained apart from brain scans and chemical and neural activity traveling through the brain and central nervous system. “Connection” therefore cannot be the opposite of addiction because addiction, by it’s very nature is all about connection. The problem is, the brain becomes connected to something it ought not to and indulging in a relationship (connection) with the object of addiction results in the destruction of the mind, body and soul.
Using the object of addiction, which can be heroin, drugs, other substances or even activities that touch the pleasure center in some way such as gambling, risky sex and even work is what feeds the disease of addiction. Starving it involves abstinence from the “object of addiction”. This connection and urge, though powerful can be resisted. Resisting drug use and abstaining are characteristics of addiction’s polar opposite – recovery.
The Opposite of Addiction is Recovery
The opposite of addiction is recovery. Recovery is the antithesis of addiction. Characteristics of addiction vs recovery are polar opposites. Those living in active addiction use drugs and feed the connection. Those in recovery break the connection by abstaining from drug use. Recovery is the starvation of addiction because you are literally training your brain to focus on and connect to healthier people, places and things..
While we don’t entirely agree with Johann Hari. he did touch on some crucial fact-based information about human behavior and unfulfilled longings. A lack of connection can lead to using drugs and whether someone acquires the disease of addiction or not, lack of connection or other grief, trauma, loss or sadness can contribute to one’s ongoing behavior of using drugs. Thus, the unexplained ubiquitous connection and cognitive compulsion that we call addiction coupled with unfulfilled longings and relational disconnect makes stopping drug use even more difficult.
Does Addiction Have a Physical Component? Addiction Vs. Dependence
This is another important topic that many people are confused about. Addiction does not have a physical component. If it did, nobody would become addicted to gambling or work. The physical component that everyone confused for addiction is actually called dependence. In many cases, addiction and dependence work together which is often why 1) abstaining from a substance that you are both addicted to and dependent to is even more difficult than either one alone and 2) people often mistake dependence for addiction.
Dependence is the body and mind’s physical reliance on an object that, when abstinence occurs, causes the body to go into “shock” and as a result, withdrawal. Taking too much of a substance away causes the “shock” of withdrawal while putting too much of a substance into the body causes the “shock” of overdose. Learn more by visiting “Addiction Vs. Dependence: What is the Difference“. Learn more about the body and how “shock” can produce withdrawal or overdose by visiting “Fear of Heroin Withdrawal Preventing Healing and Recovery”
All in all Johann Hari has the right idea about the importance of human connection and healthy relationships however, addiction is a brain disease that cannot be eliminated even under the best of circumstances and times – even when human connection is at an all-time high. There is no cure for addiction but there is a solution. It’s called recovery. Recovery starts with initial treatment which can come from multiple sources including inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment centers, drug rehab facilities, medicine assisted treatment such as Methadone, Suboxone or Naltrexone (Vivitrol or ReVia), 12 Step Programs, SMART Recovery and more. If you need help finding a treatment or drug rehab that’s best for you, please feel free to contact us.
Written and Published By,
William – Founder and Publisher of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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