How Addiction Works

I remember learning about an experiment done with rats to identify how addiction works in the brain. For most of the 20th century there was an experiment done where a rat was put in an empty cage and given the choice between heroin-laced water and normal water. The rat will almost always kill itself by drinking the laced water until it kills itself. This was how addiction was looked at in the early 20th century, that we need to stop addicts forcefully by cutting off their supply of drugs, because if we don’t the individual will kill themselves through overdose.

The experiment was redone however in the very late 20th century with the rats being given loads of activities to do such as tunnels and balls, and crucially other rats in the cage as well as the laced water, and the normal water. The interesting thing here is though that the rats didn’t drink the laced water in this scenario, they almost exclusively drank the regular water.

Can we relate this experiment done with rats to our own psyche? How do we properly combat addiction? Does cutting off the supply of drugs work, or will people always find what they most desire? I think that we must drastically change how we look at addiction, or we will always have a large group of our population suffering through addiction with little possibility of escape.

I think one of the most crucial aspects of the study was the fact that the rats had friends. We know that people cannot live without others, as I learned from watching Interstellar, people go crazy and do incomprehensible things when they’re alone. Even the most introverted individual will eventually crave some level of social interaction. It’s how we as humans are wired. We have always been living in societies and tend to thrive when doing so. To counter addiction, we need to have hopeful friendships as well as a sense of belonging. How often do we find ourselves at our most lonely and sad when we’re alone with our thoughts? We need to minimize that time and know that we have a purpose and are loved with our closest confidants.

Finally, the rats also had activities to do, when we are left alone and feeling lazy, sleeping or lying in bed all day we are vulnerable. Addictive thoughts enter our mind when nothing else is present. It is much easier to push them out or ignore them when we’re having fun, or focusing hard on our studies. Though we should not overbook ourselves and become stressed. Having activities throughout the day, or even a reason or goal to step out of bed will help create an environment of healing. With a goal in mind we will be more committed to our cause. A goal I frequently set is to be able to lift a certain amount by a specific date. The details of the goal are important because it keeps me committed. I hope that you will all find this article insightful and overcome your addictions.