Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong.

Do you know, when you read or experience something that changes your worldview a bit? Well a few years back I watched a TED Talk titled, “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong” that did just that. With heroin addiction and alcoholism on the rise across the US and knowing people with other forms of addictions (drug and non-drug), I was curious to understand more. Johnann Hari, the presenter, leveraging his personal connection to addiction, does a near perfect job detailing the topic, so I’ll keep my thoughts short and let him do most of the talking. That said, here are my key takeaways:

  • Addiction (NOT only to drugs or alcohol) is a creation of society, not the substances. Our increasingly isolated society has caused us to find comfort in drugs and other forms of addiction. Humans are inherently social beings and when we lose our connection with others, we seek it in any form we can.

  • Our treatment of drug addicts is literally backward. Instead of isolating addicts and vilifying them for their addiction, we need support and help them in building healthy relationships with friends, family and broader society. If we isolate and make them feel bad for their addiction, we are only perpetuating the vicious cycle of addiction. This may be hard, but unfortunately in most cases getting angry will not help.

  • This approach has been proven to work. Portugal made a broad range of drug reforms in the year 2000 leading to a nearly 50% decrease in heroin addiction.

  • The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection.

  • A bit more of a meta takeaway that Hari discusses is that we need to think about “social recovery” and how we can shift away from the individualistic society we have more recently created, to a more connected, community focused society.

I hope Hari’s TED Talk moves you as much as it moved me. It reminds how important empathy and compassion are. How compassion trumps right. And how much pain (perhaps not obvious to even yourself) many of us are in.

What do you guys think? I’d love hear your thoughts or experience!