The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered
January 21, 2015 9:11 PM   Subscribe

And It Is Not What You Think. "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."
posted by bunderful (100 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
Rat Park previously.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:21 PM on January 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine used to say "heroin only feels good if you never feel good."
posted by murphy slaw at 9:25 PM on January 21, 2015 [60 favorites]


uh, the likely cause of addiction in *rats* has/may have been discovered.
posted by storybored at 9:27 PM on January 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


When the reasons that people self-medicate, self-harm, binge eat/drink/Netflix disappear, those activities aren't as appealing.

The only problem is determining the particular causes in each individual's case, and since 'rumination' is considered a psychological disorder, and people can't stand to be alone with themselves - or rather their own thoughts - there's this huge medical-entertainment-enslavement complex which has arisen to profit off the Pavlovian human response to pain. Namely, to constantly avoid it (or move somewhere that's legalized weed), rather than to use it to find and mend the psychological wounds which these activities ameliorate but never cure.
posted by unmake at 9:29 PM on January 21, 2015 [32 favorites]


If you keep making yourself feel better you won't understand why you never feel good.
posted by unmake at 9:31 PM on January 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


Um, duh? Sorry, this is kind of the over-arching street knowledge of addiction.

Sadly, most people do not accept that there is a purpose for the opiate receptor. Most people do not realize that it us there to tell you something. Something important.
posted by daq at 9:31 PM on January 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


While extrapolating into humans seems premature, if we accept for a moment that it does carry over, seems to suggest that what matters is human connection.

Which does approximately fuck all for those of us who are totally broken when it comes to connecting. Pass me another glass.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:36 PM on January 21, 2015 [46 favorites]


I rest my case.
posted by unmake at 9:38 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Rat Park experiments were done 30+ years ago, I'm not seeing what has been newly discovered here.
posted by sophist at 9:40 PM on January 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


So... author thought addiction was caused by a single factor (pharmacology), but then decided it was caused by a different single factor (happiness)?

Meanwhile, research on susceptibility to addiction has been going on for decades. Because it's always been known that it wasn't straight up pharmacology.
posted by zennie at 9:43 PM on January 21, 2015 [28 favorites]


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.
Yeah, I'm gonna need a non-HuffPost link to take this seriously.
posted by maryr at 9:44 PM on January 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


I wonder if the book is actually turning a profit. This guy Hari does seem insufferable. And yes to "nothing new here" as well.
posted by holist at 9:46 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Short version: Drugs aren't the problem, problems are the problem.
posted by aubilenon at 9:51 PM on January 21, 2015 [62 favorites]


uh, the likely cause of addiction in *rats* has/may have been discovered.

I object to the guy's rational approach. We need more fear and panic. Also, if you really follow his logic, it seems that rats are the cure for addiction. And yet there are all kinds of rats in the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, which is where all the heroin is. I rest my case.
posted by philip-random at 9:52 PM on January 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


Film at eleven.
posted by carping demon at 9:55 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I first saw this when someone posted it on Facebook.

Which, by definition, means it's horseshit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:57 PM on January 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I believe his assertions, especially about the low rate of success of the nicotine patch. I've successfully quit 3 times in the last year using the patch. I'm wearing one right now. OK I just took it off and I still don't want a smoke.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:58 PM on January 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


An interesting comic on Prof. Alexander and Rat Park.
posted by JiffyQ at 9:58 PM on January 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


From the comments here, I'm getting the impression that not very many commenters have RTFA.

We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander - the creator of Rat Park - told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery - how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:01 PM on January 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


Recently watched a lifelong friend completely dismantle his entire life with meth . Not his first rodeo, but the damage was far more substantial than his previous alcohol/cocaine related relapses. Like exponentially so. That shit is scary. Needless to say, I've been thinking about this subject a lot lately.

My immediate thoughts are that for some people the "bad cage" is completely in their mind. Not sure how to repair someone with "outside connection" when their very ability to connect at all has been broken somewhere along the way. I think for my friend, the better his life got, the starker the contrast between the world around him, and whatever interior issues were fueling his addiction.

Also, the "tough love" method of turning away from addicts is sometimes more about keeping them from destroying everyone else's good cage. The damage they do to the lives around them doesn't really care about root causes.

Also, we have a real world human analog to this experiment in the US. They're called reservations, and the results are horrifying.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:02 PM on January 21, 2015 [32 favorites]


In the US and Canada, it's not just reservations/tribal lands - it's economics (very much so) and instability (somewhat less) that affect drug use. The worst addiction *stories* may be among the economically excluded, but the highest *rates* of drug use are among people with some spending money but little certainty about social status.
In other words, most working- and middle-class North Americans under neoliberalism.
Really, folks, when the poorest people in Florida and other states were required to do drug tests before receiving public assistance, it was more likely the lab techs, social workers, and legislators requiring the tests were addicts, than the applicants!
posted by Dreidl at 10:16 PM on January 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


charlie don't surf: "I'm not sure I believe his assertions, especially about the low rate of success of the nicotine patch. I've successfully quit 3 times in the last year using the patch."

No offense, but how can you consider it "successful" if you've "quit" 3 times? AFAIK quitting, by definition, means never engaging in that behavior ever again. That clearly is not your experience. A person could "quit" smoking a vast number of times and still be a lifelong smoker.

It sounds to me like you're equating the word "quit" with the word "paused." Again, no offense.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:21 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not sure how to repair someone with "outside connection" when their very ability to connect at all has been broken somewhere along the way.

Something called imaginative focus therapy has worked for me. But I believe any working therapeutic relationship is a way to ween the client onto the idea that deep and safe relationships with other people are in fact possible. Took just over two years. Of course, I was functional enough to be able to afford it. But then disfunctional addicts are quite costly, too, in a way.
posted by holist at 10:30 PM on January 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


No offense, but how can you consider it "successful" if you've "quit" 3 times?

*whoosh*
posted by jklaiho at 10:45 PM on January 21, 2015 [65 favorites]


You guys keep talking about it and now I want a cigarette.

I once tried Chantix to quit smoking. I was completely successful at quitting, I will never ever take Chantix again. It was horrible.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:56 PM on January 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


I've been a drug addict, and in a lot of ways I was in a pretty good place in my life when I really got into it. That's not to say it's not all the more compelling when you're in a bad place.

I think a better framing is as a refutation of a popular, stupid conception of the biology of addiction - "these drugs are so powerful/short-circuit pleasure in the brain/better than anything else/rats will starve themselves pressing the cocaine lever." There are plenty of things in life that are better than drugs. Drugs are just reliably good and pretty easy to get. And a lot of drugs and a lot of those things you can do together and it will all be great, for a while. But the more other good things you have going the less likely you are to choose drugs when you have to choose.
posted by atoxyl at 11:19 PM on January 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't accept the patch's low rate of success as evidence that there's more to addiction than pharmacology. The reason the patch fails is that you're still maintaining the chemical addiction. The only part you're removing is the "more than pharmacology" part. So if anything, the high rate of failure for the patch is evidence that pharmacology does matter.

Other than that, I agree with nearly everything in this article. I mean yeah, a lot of it is common sense, but so what?
posted by evil otto at 11:29 PM on January 21, 2015


[ctrl+f's for "maias"]
posted by en forme de poire at 11:54 PM on January 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


The author was on the most recent episode of the Little Atoms podcast discussing the book. It's an interesting conversation.
posted by coleboptera at 11:57 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


NTS: ask opinion of psychopharmacology prof who specializes in addiction. There's something missing in this article, but I'm not sure what. I suppose I was expecting more complexity. Then again, it's HuffPost, so maybe not. I want more from my science journalism. I mean, is this even substantial enough to warrant counterarguments?

But I'll play along.

The cage analogy is a decent one. Deep human connection is difficult for some of us. At most, you can get an arm or a leg through the bars at one time.

Anecdata: I have tried addictive substances (not "hard drugs", though) when my life was in a good place and I never became addicted. Cigarettes, even. I smoked every day for two months and then gave it up entirely without ever going back or experiencing cravings. I didn't need it for stress relief.

Why are some people in similar situations more immune than others, and why does that sometimes change over time in the same person? In my second year of university I was being stalked and hacked and had several computers destroyed and sensitive data leaked (for five years straight by that point, by the same anonymous person), I had to live with abusive parents, couldn't sleep for days, couldn't keep on weight, and had no friends and no income. I had developed a chronic pain condition. My university psychiatrist remarked (probably very inappropriately) that "This is where most people take up drinking or drugs." But I had no interest. My life had never been easy. I was resilient, at least then. Maybe it's because I was not clinically depressed or pathologically starved for stimulation.

I only took up drinking years later when depression set in; I've had no problems with alcohol in better periods of my life. I only exercised to the point of self-destruction while battling depression. I take much greater risks when I'm depressed and uninvolved with society. I've struggled with dangerous compulsions that ebb and flow, but that only really become problematic when I'm cut off from people and likely angry, depressed, and otherwise under extreme amounts of stress.

I use nonaddictive substances like peyote and mescaline when I'm in the flow of life and my mental state is sound. Contentment and bonding do seem to be protective against addictive behaviours.

Which is nothing new or surprising, I'm sure, but I'd like to read more on the subject. If I were on my laptop I'd go digging through my university's research archive to flesh this out a bit more. If it's such common knowledge that the cage causes addiction, why do the dominant narratives about addiction still focus on perceived individual failings? Because politics?
posted by quiet earth at 12:06 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


But here's the strange thing. It virtually never happens. As the Canadian doctor Gabor Mate was the first to explain to me, medical users just stop, despite months of use. The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts - and leaves medical patients unaffected.

I cannot believe how wrong this is. Prescription painkiller abuse / Codeine abuse is skyrocketing, and at least in Australia, is a far bigger problem than illegal drugs. Most people start out as legitimate medical users.

Just one link, but there's plenty more

Also this line angered me:

From a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn who was conceived when his mother, a crack-addict, was raped by his father, an NYPD officer.

I took it to mean they were talking about a transgender woman, and they've used the fact that she was trans* as a salacious talking point.
posted by daybeforetheday at 12:07 AM on January 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


Good on Huffington Post for telling me what I think causes addiction - and what you think causes addiction, and what you think causes it, and you, and you, and you, and you, you, you, you you you you you and you. Not you, though. Huff Post has no idea what you think causes addiction. They've been murmuring something about you thinking it's all due to one episode of CHiPs that aired in 1984, but really everyone knows that's bullshit. Addiction has been around since at least 1972.
posted by item at 12:08 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


daybeforetheday: "Also this line angered me:

From a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn who was conceived when his mother, a crack-addict, was raped by his father, an NYPD officer.

I took it to mean they were talking about a transgender woman, and they've used the fact that she was trans* as a salacious talking point.
"

Is there any particular reason you assumed they were talking about a transgender woman and not a transgender man? The only gender indicator is the word "his", which would indicate transgender man.
posted by Bugbread at 12:34 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Because Johann Hari is awful?
posted by ominous_paws at 12:37 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


"It may be surprising to learn that although physical dependence commonly occurs following chronic opiate use, it does not necessarily lead to abuse or addiction. Patients treated with opiates for protracted pain (e.g., postsurgical or cancer-related pain) show both tolerance and physical dependence, although withdrawal signs can be minimized by gradually reducing the dose when pain relief is no longer needed. However, it is relatively rare to have a patient with chronic pain show addictive behaviors. Physicians' unfounded fears of such addiction have prevented many individuals from receiving the relief from severe pain they require. Failure to use adequate painkilling treatment produces much more suffering and subsequently much slower healing than is warranted. Transdermal patches and patient-controlled drug delivery systems are drug administration techniques that provide more humane control of pain and more effective recovery."

— Meyer & Quenzer, Psychopharmacology: Drugs, the Brain, and Behavior (2005), pp. 263-264
posted by quiet earth at 12:37 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Reversal of cocaine addiction by environmental enrichment

Abstract

Environmental conditions can dramatically influence the behavioral and neurochemical effects of drugs of abuse. For example, stress increases the reinforcing effects of drugs and plays an important role in determining the vulnerability to develop drug addiction. On the other hand, positive conditions, such as environmental enrichment, can reduce the reinforcing effects of psychostimulants and may provide protection against the development of drug addiction. However, whether environmental enrichment can be used to “treat” drug addiction has not been investigated. In this study, we first exposed mice to drugs and induced addiction-related behaviors and only afterward exposed them to enriched environments. We found that 30 days of environmental enrichment completely eliminates behavioral sensitization and conditioned place preference to cocaine. In addition, housing mice in enriched environments after the development of conditioned place preference prevents cocaine-induced reinstatement of conditioned place preference and reduces activation of the brain circuitry involved in cocaine-induced reinstatement. Altogether, these results demonstrate that environmental enrichment can eliminate already established addiction-related behaviors in mice and suggest that environmental stimulation may be a fundamental factor in facilitating abstinence and preventing relapse to cocaine addiction.

Link

You can find similar results by searching for "drug conditioning theory environmental enrichment". The study I quoted is from 2008. Basically, this is nothing new.
posted by quiet earth at 1:04 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is there any particular reason you assumed they were talking about a transgender woman and not a transgender man? The only gender indicator is the word "his", which would indicate transgender man.

It's comparatively uncommon for trans men to identify as or be referred to transsexual, particularly without appending 'male'. Trans women are the default for the term - we're still living on a world in which many don't even realise trans men exist.
posted by Dysk at 2:19 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Short version: Drugs aren't the problem, problems are the problem.

Or to quote Russell Brand "Drugs and alcohol are not my problem — reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution."
posted by billiebee at 2:19 AM on January 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


Am I the only one who's slightly jealous of the rats who get to live in Rat Park?
posted by mikeand1 at 2:30 AM on January 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


For many people, the addiction is more psychological than pharmacological. It's the habit of going outside for a smoke. Or the ritual of opening the packet, fiddling with the lighter and having something to play between your fingers. Then there's the social component - drug use can be an eminently social activity and those social bonds can also be comforting. I suspect that's why nicotine patches are mostly useless - many people are only partly addicted to nicotine, and mostly to the ritual itself.

But for others, there is certainly also a pharmacological (probably not the right word) component, and they get very heavy symptoms of withdrawal. I suspect that this is very individual stuff, with the withdrawal symptoms being much heavier in some people than in others. And probably not constant over time.
posted by sour cream at 2:38 AM on January 22, 2015


Am I the only one who's distracted by the name 'Rat Park?'

I keep picturing little rat versions of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.
posted by box at 2:59 AM on January 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


The references and sources for all of the information cited in this article can be found in the book's extensive endnotes.

Really? This is ridiculous for so many reasons, and is the thing that frustrates me the most about this silly article.
posted by k8lin at 3:42 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not jealous. I would be equally miserable and prone to drug abuse in the cage or in the park. But then again I'm allergic to rats.
posted by Ashenmote at 3:56 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pointing out another lovely front page juxtaposition for waking on a Thursday morning: Two up from this one.

Carry on
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:06 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Trans women are the default for the term - we're still living on a world in which many don't even realise trans men exist.

Including, apparently, the person who thought that the article could only be referring to a trans woman, and so must be misgendering, rather than the idea it could be referring to a trans man.

As far as I could tell, this was more of an ad for his book than anything else, but I still found it interesting. There is a fairly common strain of thinking that paints the pharmacology of drugs as a sort of demonic force that takes over otherwise 'normal' people. I'm glad there's room for the perspective that while the physical effects of drugs in forming addiction isn't nothing, but is less the overriding factor than the issues surrounding the person taking the drugs.

And yes, it seems self evident that if the point of drugs is to make you feel good, and your life is pretty good already, then you won't feel driven to use drugs as often; I certainly know a large number of fully functional recreational drug users because to them it's a spice rather than an escape.

But considering it seems to be written as a direct rebuttal on the War on Drugs, it really is something that needs to be said and repeated that the way drugs are being demonised and fought against currently clearly doesn't work, and needs to be overhauled completely.

So he didn't say there was no physical component to drug addiction and the example involving humans was the whole of Portugal. Snarking is best done on things actually in the article, such as apparently this guy I've never heard of is awful, according to random internet people.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:19 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Johann Hari previously.
posted by chavenet at 4:33 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hari's Orwell prize was revoked in 2011 owing to his extensive plagiarism and systematic smearing of other journalists on Wikipedia. That was pretty awful.
Still, the article on its own merits is a decent read. Good to see someone in any profession get their shit together after a big fall.
posted by alexordave at 4:35 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, this is certainly good news. Instead of trying to get rid of cocaine and heroine, all we've got to do is eliminate human misery!
posted by drlith at 5:00 AM on January 22, 2015 [29 favorites]


Including, apparently, the person who thought that the article could only be referring to a trans woman, and so must be misgendering, rather than the idea it could be referring to a trans man.

What is this, some kind of gotcha? There was one way that was written to be understood, and that was the way it was understood. It's like claiming someone referred to as American could technically be from Canada or Bolivia or whatever. On some level, yes, technically, but in practical usage and context, no.
posted by Dysk at 5:04 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the service of addressing the trans issue, I just went and bought the damn book (also because it looked interesting; I didn't spend my own money just to settle an argument on the internet).

Anyway, the text of the book makes it clear that the person in question is a trans man, and the author further notes that he will be recognising this by referring to him using male pronouns, despite the fact that the justice system refuses to do so.
posted by Dext at 5:25 AM on January 22, 2015 [22 favorites]


Related: Metafilter's own on addiction journalism.
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:33 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's like claiming someone referred to as American could technically be from Canada or Bolivia or whatever.

wait, what? you're saying that since trans female is the default meaning of transsexual, to use just the term transsexual to mean a trans man is like using "American" to mean a Bolivian? Technically true but extremely rare and non-standard?
posted by jayder at 5:38 AM on January 22, 2015


MeTa
posted by dfan at 5:39 AM on January 22, 2015


Good to see someone in any profession get their shit together after a big fall.

Forgiving someone who has fucked with Wikipedia is like forgiving Napoleon for firing a cannon at the Sphinx, except that Johann Hari atually fucked with Wikipedia.
posted by busted_crayons at 5:40 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Technically true but extremely rare and non-standard?

That's my read, yeah.

I do hope Maias shows up, but in case she doesn't you could do much worse than read the material she wrote linked in this fpp.

Reading about Carl Hart and the work he does on the rational choices of addicts also would be good.
posted by rtha at 5:54 AM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


At this point in my life I don't know many users of harder drugs, but I know and work with a lot of very heavy drinkers and fewer (and more than a few heavy pot smokers as well). There's a filtering that must happen along the way where the people who can't maintain boundaries find other paths, but the people who make it into their forties maintaining a successful professional career and a family while drinking hard every day seem to mostly have found a balance point, where the impact of the drinking is mostly contained and kept under limits.

At least with the people I know, they focus on making sure the drinking doesn't spill over and threaten their job as a priority over preventing impacts to their families, which in the model of the FPP probably doesn't bode well for their long term stability.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:02 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


What is this, some kind of gotcha?

It wasn't intended as any kind of gotcha, especially not to you - I was pointing out that the person who assumed the author was misgendering had erased the possibility of it being a trans man in favour of assuming it had to be a trans woman, even though there was nothing to suggest it except the presumption you mentioned.

But then someone actually checked the book and it turns out that it might have been a gotcha after all. He wasn't misgendering, and it's a pretty interesting sign of bias to have presumed otherwise.

Thank you, chavenet for the link to other things that Hari has done; random people on the internet have their opinions, but it's always useful to know where they came from.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:03 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The article does read as an op-ed piece that I agree with and less like a science article. Plus the general tone of "this is so true and will so work for everyone" reeks of the delicious pie of wish fulfillment. You know, the one that reality always steals off the window sill as the pie cools.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:06 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh reality. Such a scamp!
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:26 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Apart from everything else, the way he frames the difference between an enriched vs a relatively empty environment for the rats as "happy" rats vs "sad/alone" rats is, um.... interesting. I don't know too much about addiction research but I do know quite a bit about using animal models to study behavior, and wow is that some really sloppy framing. The whole article reads like someone who isn't really all that informed about science or how it works, and also really isn't interested in complexity. Blech.

I didn't know anything about Hari's past either, but just from the text of the article I am somewhat less than surprised that he is not precisely a stellar scientific journalist.
posted by sciatrix at 7:07 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


No offense, OP, but it seems this topic deserves more effort than a single-link HuffPo self-book-promotion piece. Smug and facile TED-Talk-style hucksterism.
posted by aught at 7:07 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dysk: Is there any particular reason you assumed they were talking about a transgender woman and not a transgender man? The only gender indicator is the word "his", which would indicate transgender man.

It's comparatively uncommon for trans men to identify as or be referred to transsexual, particularly without appending 'male'. Trans women are the default for the term - we're still living on a world in which many don't even realise trans men exist.
Shorter reason: whether the transgendered person was born with male or female gonads matters fuck-all to the story, and needn't be mentioned, so why was it, if not to be derogatory? "This wasn't just an addict - it was a transgendered addict."
posted by IAmBroom at 7:10 AM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ah, I just read this article minutes ago via a link on a friend's facebook page and still had the leftover frown on my face when I saw this post. Glad to see this guy is not exactly highly regarded, because I thought the whole article was remarkably stupid.
posted by something something at 7:28 AM on January 22, 2015


Give even a happy person enough opoid painkillers and guess what: opiate addiction that has to be fed. Once the scrip gets cut off, the next stop on the train is the dealer down the street.

From the article:

Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit. But here's the strange thing: It virtually never happens.

WTF

Sorry/not sorry, but I think the kind of information in the link in the FPP enables the wasting of precious time while there's an epidemic going on in the States. I'm a little teed off right now.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:30 AM on January 22, 2015


Oh my, there has been so much research done on this and in primates which is even more applicable! For example: "The results strongly support the importance of nurture, said Suomi. Mother-raised monkeys of both allele types showed normal 5-HIAA levels, while peer-raised monkeys with short alleles showed much lower levels of the metabolite than either group of "normal" monkeys. The same was true with aggression, with short-allele monkeys raised by mothers showing the same low level of aggression as normal monkeys in either group, and peer-raised short-allele monkeys showing high levels of aggression. Behaviorally, the peer-raised monkeys acted far more anxious, clingy and fearful, no matter what their allele type, he added."

What I don't think is mentioned as much especially by folks who say the problem is "mental illness" is that the reality is a lot of mental illness is being created by unhealthy environments. So we are still not addressing the actual problems when we focus on individuals as the problem.

I feel like this article could have been better written but it makes me so so so sad that so much research gets done on this and yet there is not a lot of quality reporting on it, nor even getting that info to people in other fields who are unaware of the existence of such research or it's implications on the way they are approaching such problems- or harm they might be causing by focusing on research on what makes those who suffer in unhealthy environments bad- vs how to ensure we are creating healthier environments for people and seeing such people's needs as perfectly legitimate rather than a pathology.
posted by xarnop at 7:31 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean how many animals do we have to torture before people will start listening to the reality that bonding matters, family relationships matter, we need to be supporting families with bonding, time together, financial stability, housing, healthcare and food regardless of employment, and access to healing and bonding activities such as massage, parent/child activities, emotional bonding exercises, and trauma healing services for parents to heal and be better connected to their own needs and that of their children.

So many of these studies are done and yet while they imply SO MUCH that would be doing to promote actual health and wellness, stop mental illness and addiction patterns before they start-- instead they get fueled into a system that seeks only solutions to problems once we have already failed families- more drugs, more pathologies, more labeling of individuals as bad and attempts to find the next drug/therapy that forces people into unhealthy circumstances without complaining or malfunctioning in a way that bothers those who are profiting from things as they are.

Working in childcare places I can tell you there are kids who will literally cry themselves to sleep in misery and when you talk to parents there is nothing they can do because we deny plenty of research that early day care can be very harmful to some children, especially in the first year or so-- and single or low income families often have no choice even if it's not working for their kids. We also completely fail to support nursing relationships viewing them as irrelevant- and these kinds of disconnects are throughout the ways we expect families to ignore their desires to be with each other-- despite that there are higher levels of depression and negative impacts even to MOTHERS putting their children in early day care. We don't value nurturing and we are ignoring tons of research that tells us we should care about it and design policies around the idea that financial stability, access to participation in society, and time to spent with each other are fundamental needs, not things we can ask the unfortunate to do without and then act suprised they want up mentally ill/addicted/or physically sick-- with affects impacting their future generations as well.
posted by xarnop at 7:51 AM on January 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


In fact our programs are designed to FORCE all single and low income mothers to work at 6 weeks. No choice. That is disturbing and an act of cruelty and abuse.
posted by xarnop at 7:53 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


So people can be helped out of addiction by re-establishing or recreating some sort of social support system for people who have become isolated? My gosh, why didn't anyone think of that before?
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the trans derail: it is more statistically likely that the article used the (increasingly outmoded FWIW) term "transsexual" to refer to a trans woman who gets misgendered for sake of salaciousness than that the author was correct and considerate. Bear in mind that "a transsexual" is already an offensive way to refer to someone, and it's not a huge assumption that the writer is in fact not well-informed or sympathetic to the realities of actual trans people. It's also unnecessary and only mentioned as a prop: it just codes for poor/homeless, and a certain kind of poor/homelessness devoid of humanity.

On addiction: complex thoughts I'm not even going to try to hammer out because I just woke up, except to echo that addiction to opiates, hypnotics, etc. in legitimate medical users is still a significant problem in the US. Doctors are frequently not good at patient education, and often skip it entirely to hand off to nurses who are caring for 10+ (or 10x) patients simultaneously and only have time to print out a document that many patients can't understand anyway. I am sure that an absence of additional life problems makes transitioning away from drug abuse more likely to be successful, though; that's true of any harmful behavior. Addiction is probably something that does not have one overriding "cause" as such; and a lot of drug users' problems are created by a culture that treats them with unnecessary contempt regardless of actual safety and health concerns.
posted by byanyothername at 8:41 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


How America Is Making Painkiller Addiction Even Worse by mefi's own Maias.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Give even a happy person enough opoid painkillers and guess what: opiate addiction that has to be fed. Once the scrip gets cut off, the next stop on the train is the dealer down the street.

Do you have a cite for this? I know many people, including myself, that have had copious doses of morphine while in the hospital, and painkillers thereafter, and none of them sought opioids after the medication stopped. Conversely, I know someone who was the child of an addict, deeply unhappy with their life, and became addicted to painkillers. I didn't like the article in the OP but I don't disagree with the premise.
posted by desjardins at 8:51 AM on January 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


wait, what? you're saying that since trans female is the default meaning of transsexual, to use just the term transsexual to mean a trans man is like using "American" to mean a Bolivian? Technically true but extremely rare and non-standard?

We're well into inside baseball territory here, but effectively yes, though not merely because of the default, also because of the use of transsexual rather than transgender - it is comparatively uncommon for trans men to identify as transsexual (in no small part due to its medicalisation and implied link to bottom surgery and its falling out of favour in trans communities in general outside of HBS groups that aren't generally awful accepting of trans men)

With the context provided in the book, things may be clearer. In the context of the article, however, it reads one particular way, and that is decidedly obtuse compared to the apparent intended meaning.
posted by Dysk at 8:57 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


[it's probably best to drop the trans* derail at this point]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:03 AM on January 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


So people can be helped out of addiction by re-establishing or recreating some sort of social support system for people who have become isolated?

"some sort of social support system" is a pretty loose paraphrase of the AA ideology.
posted by thelonius at 9:05 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Only in the sense that it's also a paraphrase of "you should get out more" or "drop by anytime" - so vague as to not really be descriptive at all.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:22 AM on January 22, 2015


"To begin with, there is evidence that a big part of AA’s effectiveness may have nothing to do with the actual steps. It may derive from something more fundamental: the power of the group. Psychologists have long known that one of the best ways to change human behavior is to gather people with similar problems into groups, rather than treat them individually. The first to note this phenomenon was Joseph Pratt, a Boston physician who started organizing weekly meetings of tubercular patients in 1905. These groups were intended to teach members better health habits, but Pratt quickly realized they were also effective at lifting emotional spirits, by giving patients the chance to share their tales of hardship. ('In a common disease, they have a bond,' he would later observe.) More than 70 years later, after a review of nearly 200 articles on group therapy, a pair of Stanford University researchers pinpointed why the approach works so well: 'Members find the group to be a compelling emotional experience; they develop close bonds with the other members and are deeply influenced by their acceptance and feedback.'"
posted by blucevalo at 9:29 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Group support where you aren't pressured into getting a sponsor, calling him every day, working the steps, studying the Big Book, etc. sounds terrific, but that's not what you'll find at many AA meetings.
posted by thelonius at 9:34 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's the habit of going outside for a smoke. Or the ritual of opening the packet, fiddling with the lighter and having something to play between your fingers.

Okay, now you're just fucking with me.
posted by slogger at 9:39 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The fact that this asshole is encouraging people to stay with their addict boyfriends because, you know, LOVE will change them (and calling it science), makes me want to punch him in the face umpteen times.
posted by corb at 9:40 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who's distracted by the name 'Rat Park?'

I keep picturing little rat versions of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.


I keep parsing it as a Korean name.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


this has been a weird thread to track for a bunch of reasons.

One of them is that I actually took a 100 level undergraduate psyche course from Bruce Alexander way back when (late 1970s) when I imagine he was just getting started on his research. It was called the Psychology of Addiction and was completely concerned with shaking up notions of what constituted addiction. Needless to say, I haven't forgotten about it.

Two things that come quickly to mind are:

A. beware of how the police report drug related crime stats; they have a bad habit of mucking with them to justify their own budgets etc

B. there are virtually no ex-heroin addicts; they either die, find some other drug to be addicted to (ie: alcohol), or find religion. The one exception (and I'm guessing it was huge in directing Alexander's further research) seemed to be addicts who were removed completely from their environments (ie: veterans returning home from Vietnam*)

* Alexander didn't say ALL returning Vietnam vets kicked their addictions, just that a statistically relevant number did.
posted by philip-random at 9:55 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for bringing up Karl Hart, rtha. I've been meaning to check out his book. In this interview he talks a little more about addiction vs regular use, and mentions the Rat Park study.
posted by twoporedomain at 10:30 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


> How America Is Making Painkiller Addiction Even Worse by mefi's own Maias.

You can find here recent writing on her page at Substance.com.

Related post: Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


thelonius: Group support where you aren't pressured into getting a sponsor, calling him every day, working the steps, studying the Big Book, etc. sounds terrific, but that's not what you'll find at many AA meetings.

It is, in fact, what I've found at most of the AA meetings that I've been to, and for the ones that do pressure people to do these things when they're not ready to do them, there's a pretty simple solution: go to a different meeting. (Obviously not applicable to places where there may be only one AA club in town.) I should be clear here: I do think that the steps are useful (at least, they've been useful to me), but there's also a very social aspect to AA that isn't tied into what step you're on or whether you've called your sponsor every day.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:47 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


From TFA:

But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet.

Oh, please. There's a million examples on MeFi alone of real, meaningful connection on the Internet. Why are authors still doing this?
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:25 PM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's the habit of going outside for a smoke. Or the ritual of opening the packet, fiddling with the lighter and having something to play between your fingers.

Okay, now you're just fucking with me.


No. I've smoked since I was fourteen, and have tried to quit more times than I can count. Battling the nicotine craving is substantially easier than battling the habitual nature of the rituals: having a smoke walking down an empty street at night, lighting up after sex or food (or both, I suppose), sneaking out of wherever to have a quick fag and reset your brain, etc. Plus, personally to me, smoking is more or less the only way to consistently get a break in professional kitchens that few people will complain about.

Addiction seems to fill a hole. For many of us, that hole is the one left by lack of real connection with others. For many of us, that hole is created by the substance itself (e.g. but not limited to people on prescribed opioids developing addiction), and I strongly suspect there is a huge intersection in that particular Venn diagram. Personally, I know I can never, ever try opioids recreationally, because my one medical use of them was this pseudo-epiphany where the heavens opened and angels sang and some lovely voice said "There, there, everything's okay now."

It seems to me that reducing addiction to only one cause is as ridiculous as reducing anything else humans do to a single cause; there are several contributing factors and if they align in the right (wrong?) way: addiction.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:38 PM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oops, meant to respond to this as well:

Oh, please. There's a million examples on MeFi alone of real, meaningful connection on the Internet. Why are authors still doing this?

There is real and meaningful connection, yes. But two caveats:

1) It is not universally recognized as real and meaningful in the same way as meatspace connections are, and

2) They are purely cerebral connections. Physical interaction--from shaking hands or touching a shoulder to full-on crazy fucking--carries a much deeper satisfaction for many people, possibly due to point 1 or possibly due to something innate. Personally I have many deep connections forged online, but would give up most of them for someone to spoon with. Again, whether that's nature or nurture is up for debate, and I would say it's a mix of the two.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:41 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered And It Is Not What You Think.

No, that was exactly what I thought. Stop using your one weird trick on me.
posted by w0mbat at 2:09 PM on January 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'll address the issue of why it's hard to make meaningful personal connections these days right after I'm done shitting all over anything anyone says on the Internet.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:22 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one who's distracted by the name 'Rat Park?'

Despite all my snark, I am still just a rat in a park
posted by aubilenon at 4:44 PM on January 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


you mean if i made real friends i wouldnt be here dancing for favorites?
posted by klangklangston at 6:24 PM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Do you have a cite for this? I know many people, including myself, that have had copious doses of morphine while in the hospital, and painkillers thereafter, and none of them sought opioids after the medication stopped. Conversely, I know someone who was the child of an addict, deeply unhappy with their life, and became addicted to painkillers. I didn't like the article in the OP but I don't disagree with the premise."

Part of my recovery from my broken leg was realizing that I could never really take opioids for fun anymore. They used to be fun every now and then for a kind of happy zone-out, but after having to take them several times a day for three months, all I associated them with was junkie sweats, itching and ass-rending constipation. Another unfortunate side effect is that when I later had to have some unrelated surgery done, my tolerance is through the fucking roof and it took four trips back to the fentanyl before I was finally insensate enough for them to operate. I've always had a higher-than-average tolerance for drugs, especially being a big guy, but the months-long regular dose seems to have kicked that up to a higher level.

(Weirdly, my tolerance for weed seems to have declined greatly over the years, to the extent that if I got anywhere near the levels I was at when I was younger, I'd be an anxious, clenched mess.)
posted by klangklangston at 6:51 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


B. there are virtually no ex-heroin addicts; they either die, find some other drug to be addicted to (ie: alcohol), or find religion.

I dunno, I have known a few long term heroin addicts, like ten or twenty years, who seem to be highly functional (for junkies I suppose). I recall hearing some research that this is not so uncommon, but I don't recall the source.

(Weirdly, my tolerance for weed seems to have declined greatly over the years, to the extent that if I got anywhere near the levels I was at when I was younger, I'd be an anxious, clenched mess.)

There may be other opinions on this topic.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:39 PM on January 22, 2015




This is not new information, but the writer is trying to make people aware of the impact of the research. Much of the research was done in the '70s. I started my research career in the mid '70s studying illicit use and diversion of pharmaceuticals with funding from the DEA, NIMH, and NIDA. The literature back then was clear that nearly all heroin users were below age 25 and 90% matured out of use before age 30. It's just that no one who writes the laws knows anything about drug use and abuse and doesn't care to. They know what Jeebus wants, plus here's a horror story someone can tell you.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:13 PM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


B. there are virtually no ex-heroin addicts; they either die, find some other drug to be addicted to (ie: alcohol), or find religion.

I dunno, I have known a few long term heroin addicts, like ten or twenty years, who seem to be highly functional (for junkies I suppose).


sorry, I should have made it clearer. Alexander made this exact point (ie: don't discount the "functional" addicts who either come from wealth or are together enough to keep a regular income).
posted by philip-random at 12:36 AM on January 23, 2015


When the reasons that people self-medicate, self-harm, binge eat/drink/Netflix disappear, those activities aren't as appealing.

Netflix ?

As in

I saw the mehst minds of slack jawed millenials destroyed by boredom, overfed ironic tattooed, clicking themselves through the social media at dawn looking for an angry Netflix... ?

O.R.L.Y...
posted by y2karl at 12:16 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]




A friend of mine used to say "heroin only feels good if you never feel good."

This statement is wrong.
posted by josher71 at 10:56 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine used to say "heroin only feels good if you never feel good."

Some people react badly to heroin, and other opiates. My mother becomes violently nauseated with even small doses, whether it's codeine, morphine, or fentanyl. For people without this problem, though, opiates are very effective at making you "feel good," and in a way that feels natural, because it perfectly mimics the natural highs you get from life which are mediated by opiate receptors.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:27 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


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