I read a very interesting study recently, asking some really interesting questions about addiction and the nature of it.
In 1977 a Canadian Psychology Professor called Bruce Alexander carried out some fascinating experiments on Rats – yes Rats. These were done to challenge the theories from the 50’s and 60’s that promoted *chemical addiction* – i.e. that a great deal/all of addictive nature lay in the actual substances – such as Cocaine and Heroine, rather than any other elements (social, behavioural, psychological or ritualistic).
It’s because their genetic, biological and behaviour characteristics closely resemble those of humans.
So Bruce set up 2 cages – one where the poor little Rat was in total isolation, the other cage, was well, basically a park – Rat Park. Seriously – high quality food, a stimulating environment (other Rats, coloured balls, tunnels).
In each cage he stuck two bottles to drink from: one with water in it, the other bottle had water mixed with morphine.
What do you think the Rats did?
Well, it turns out that the Rats in the isolated cage became heavy users of the drugged mixture.
As for the rats in Rat park, while they all tried the drug-mixed water, they didn’t like it, and largely avoided it, drinking less than 25% of the amount the isolated Rats drank.
They would rather be social, free to play and not have the mind bending substances.
This was also the case when the ‘Free’ Rats were tricked into drinking a sweet syrup laced with the gear (Rats love sweet!).
They still avoided it massively, and this was even when the Rat Park rats were deliberately made physically dependant on the substance (by allowing them only access to drugged water).
And when they had days where they could choose to lessen or increase their intake – (i.e a choice of normal water or the drugged water), the Rat Park rats chose to suffer withdrawal symptoms over taking more of the drugs. Impressive little rats!
But what does this mean – if we try to apply the findings to humans?
That advantaged people with a healthy social life, and interesting pastimes and freedoms will not take Coke or drugs?
Well that’s nonsense, as we all know. By far the majority of clients that have come to work with me for help with substance abuse – especially Cocaine – are in relationships, are functional and in well paid employment (even if they are just about to lose it all).
One idea could be when you feel like you’re out of options – without choice – (or believe you don’t have any), that taking drugs could be more appealing.
But that doesn’t really apply to my client group – so what’s the answer?
Humans are more complex than rats, let’s be honest.
From fun times to bad times
You might have started taking substances because you drifted into it after a night of drinking; to allow you to keep drinking and stay out, or because you wanted the high to have fun and experience it.
That high life, and having fun might have stayed the same for a long time, but all the while there was ‘bait and switch’ going on.
Because eventually you realise you’ve done a ton of money on gear, spun every possible line of lies and bullshit to your loved ones and friends, are becoming a paranoid twitchy wreck in certain situations and are getting to the point where the drugs just ‘normalise’ you to a degree.
Not much fun anymore, right?
Sometimes people working in jobs that require hard graft, or high pressure, will see taking Coke as part of their ‘blowing off steam’ ritual. They tell themselves ‘They’ve earned it’, ‘they deserve it’ after grinding through work for the whole week. So they will go out, party hard and will not want the good times to stop.
You can come up with a million reasons for taking, and most of them will appear valid to you, the user, at least for a while.
Often when talking out these reasons to me a wave of embarrassment will wash over the face of my client, as they realise what they’re saying, and how it sounds ridiculous now.
But thse reasons are so very real while in the situation and availability of the bag of drugs.
It CAN feel like you’re the rat in the cage, going down a one way street without the ability to stop and get out: i.e.
- Hard/dull Week at work
- More booze
- More booze
- Go missing for a couple of days
- Bullshit/lie to partner/family
- Feel bad
- Back to work
- GO BACK TO TOP OF LIST
But you can slow down and eventually stop, with effort and help.
What would happen if, as a first step, you just avoided (while you get yourself together) going to the place where you have always scored? You have the freedom to do that, right?
Would you go home and take the gear (either in private or in front of partner/kids? some will, some won’t – I’ve worked with both).
What if you deliberately started to focus on other things. Good things. A good you maybe?
Just as a start?
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to screw up, you almost certainly are, but it means…
You’ve started the process of freedom.
Have you given any thought to how life will be if you didn’t have this problem for good?
If not, WHY NOT?
And when will you?If you think I can help, get in contact:
+44 (0) 7903 713234
P.S. For an amazing online comic of the ‘Rat Park’ experiments go here.