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Happiness can keep addiction at bay


A person may take to substance abuse because of various reasons. It may be due to the lack of entertainment, or social connection. He may choose cocaine abuse to color an otherwise boring life. An aimless life too could drive one to addiction. Interestingly, curiosity can also lead to drugs and alcohol addiction in some cases.

In the 1970s, renowned Canadian psychology professor Bruce K. Alexander conducted an experiment, called “Rat Park”, to demonstrate the cause of addiction in the tiny mammals. In the rat park that Alexander built, rats had plenty of friends, entertainment and good food. The rat park included two bottles of water, of which one was drugged and the other was clean. The rats drank water from both the bottles.

Alexander found that the rats which were provided good life conditions consumed only a quarter of the quantity of the drugged water, while isolated and unhappy ones got addicted to the drugged water. In addition, none of the rats that lived in a happy environment died of drug abuse. During those days, addiction was largely considered a chemical phenomenon, which was proved wrong by this experiment.

Some people believe that addiction is nearly irreversible. They believe it is like a downward spiral or falling into a bottomless pit. We often come across individuals who resort to addiction due to various negative circumstances in their lives. Although few addicts may succeed in controlling their habit, others find it difficult to lead a normal life without substance abuse. How can one defeat addiction?

The answer can be found in the second phase of the rat park experiment. Alexander conducted the first phase again, at the end of which the isolated rats became compulsive users of drugs. He reintroduced the isolated rats into the rat park. Not only did the rats lose the addiction, but were also back to normal after being introduced into the happy environment of the park.

Correlating the experiment on rats with humans, Alexander found answers to questions like “whether it is possible that substance abuse is due to unhappiness of various sorts” and “can substance abuse be eliminated by introducing addicts into healthy, social, happy environments”. He inferred that drug and alcohol abuse is a means of escape from unhappiness, be it rats, human beings or any creature. Take the unhappiness away and there is nothing to escape from, so no need for a means of escape.

The study thus proved that substance abuse can be a result of unhappiness in an individual’s life. A person can get rid of this habit by becoming part of a healthy, social and happy environment. It also indicates benefits of positive, nurturing and purposeful environments, which can help drug addicts to give up the habit. An addict is more likely to give up addiction if he or she has something that uplifts the body, mind and spirit.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or mental illness, Sovereign Addiction Services can help. For more information, call 855-683-9756.

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