This article at Huffpo argues that addiction cannot be found as internal chemical hooks, but rather as a symptom of human boredom and isolation:
The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about the head home when the war ended.
But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.
What would it seem like if ONLY those who successfully completed a program were featured in the media? What would we think about a school where 85 out of 100 students flunked, but only the graduates showed up to say how good the program was? That is the starting point for Dr. Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes’ article in Salon: “The pseudo-science of Alcoholics Anonymous: There’s a better way to treat addiction.”
Rehab owns a special place in the American imagination. Our nation invented the “Cadillac” rehab, manifested in such widely celebrated brand names as Hazelden, Sierra Tucson, and the Betty Ford Center. . . . The fact that they are all extraordinarily expensive is almost beside the point: these rehabs are fighting the good fight, and they deserve every penny we’ve got. Unfortunately, nearly all these programs use an adaptation of the same AA approach that has been shown repeatedly to be highly ineffective. Where they deviate from traditional AA dogma is actually more alarming: many top rehab programs include extra features such as horseback riding, Reiki massage, and “adventure therapy” to help their clients exorcise the demons of addiction. . . . Why do we tolerate this industry? One reason may sound familiar: in rehab, one feels that one is doing something, taking on a life-changing intervention whose exorbitant expense ironically reinforces the impression that epochal changes must be just around the corner.
Who is studying the effectiveness of these programs? Not the programs themselves or, at least, they are not making their data open. That makes these authors suspicious:
Efforts by journalists to solicit data from rehabs have also been met with resistance, making an independent audit of their results almost impossible and leading to the inevitable conclusion that the rest of the programs either don’t study their own outcomes or refuse to publish what they find.
What is the solution? Rather than preach to addicts about a “Higher Power,” the authors suggest that they need something far more personally empowering: sophisticated self-awareness.”
I enjoyed this primer on super-stimuli by Gregory Ciotti, titled “Is Your Brain Truly Ready for Junk Food, Porn, or the Internet?” Super stimuli, featuring the work of Niko Tinbergen. He discovered that we can hijack animal’s instincts beyond their evolutionary purpose.
This is what it’s like to never have enough. It’s the autobiography of a Wall Street hedge fund trader, published in the NYT:
I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. Ever see what a drug addict is like when he’s used up his junk? He’ll do anything — walk 20 miles in the snow, rob a grandma — to get a fix. Wall Street was like that. In the months before bonuses were handed out, the trading floor started to feel like a neighborhood in “The Wire” when the heroin runs out.
I’d always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them, and for me. I made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. I knew that wasn’t fair; that wasn’t right. Yes, I was sharp, good with numbers. I had marketable talents. But in the end I didn’t really do anything. I was a derivatives trader, and it occurred to me the world would hardly change at all if credit derivatives ceased to exist. Not so nurse practitioners. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted.
Here are twenty things mentally strong people don’t do. I do like this list- go to the article to read more. Many of these have to do with worrying about what others would think.
1. Dwelling On The Past
2. Remaining In Their Comfort Zone
3. Not Listening To The Opinions Of Others
4. Avoiding Change
5. Keeping A Closed Mind
6. Letting Others Make Decisions For Them
7. Getting Jealous Over The Successes Of Others
8. Thinking About The High Possibility Of Failure
9. Feeling Sorry For Themselves
10. Focusing On Their Weaknesses
11. Trying To Please People
12. Blaming Themselves For Things Outside Their Control
13. Being Impatient
14. Being Misunderstood
15. Feeling Like You’re Owed
16. Repeating Mistakes
17. Giving Into Their Fears
18. Acting Without Calculating
19. Refusing Help From Others
20. Throwing In The Towel
I just don’t know what to think when I hear of mega-fat people, those who grew while they were bed-ridden. This type of spectacle simply has to be enabled by others, because there’s no way these people can get to food on their own. These are stories of intense co-dependence. They have to be. The murder allegations here almost seem like a distraction to the main story.
I very much enjoyed Brene Brown’s TED talk on living whole-heartedly. She combines a humorous presentation with a deep and serious topic. At the outset, she recognized that “connection” is what life is all about, but shame (the fear that “I’m not X enough”) destroys this sense of connection. To allow connection, we need to take chances; we need to allow ourselves to be SEEN.
With this as the context, Brown set out to understand more about shame. It boils down to whether someone BELIEVES that they are worthy of love and belonging. The one thing that destroys a sense of love and connection is a fear that one is not worthy of love and belonging.
People with a sense of worthiness, the “whole-hearted,” have the courage to be imperfect. They have the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others (because you can’t do the latter without doing the former), They also develop their sense of connection as a result of being authentic. They believe that what makes them vulnerable is what makes them beautiful–these are people who are willing to do something where there are no guarantees. Vulnerability is the core of our sense of shame and fear, but it is also the “birthplace” of joy, of creativity, belonging and love.”
Brown’s research showed that many of us “numb” vulnerability through our many addictions and obsessions. We can’t selectively numb the bad emotions without also numbing the good emotions. Because we numb all of our emotions, we then instinctively feed our cravings through our destructive addictions. We compensate by trying to make uncertain things certain. We also compensate by blaming. We try to perfect ourselves and our children. We also pretend that what we do does not have an impact on other people. We don’t know how to say that we’re sorry and that we’ll make things right.
Brown’s advice: Don’t be afraid to be seen for the vulnerable people we are. We must learn to love with our whole hearts, even when there is no guarantee. We need to practice gratitude and “lean into joy.” Most important, we need to learn to recognize that “we are enough,” because we then stop screaming and start listening. “Only then can we be kinder and gentler to ourselves and the people around us.”
And then again, according to this article in Discover, they might not. Check the comments to see the counter-research, as well as ever-more skirmishes in the ongoing American culture-wars.
To the extent that graphic warnings don’t discourage smokers, I’ll rack this up as one of the many many many counter-intuitive things scientists have discovered about human beings.