Lina Pak / YISS 11th grade
The typical preconceptions regarding addicts have been overall negative, with people associating the word “addiction” with a “moral failing.” For example, a study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that out of the 709 respondents who were asked to share their impressions towards mental illness or drug addiction, only 22% stated that they would want to work with drug addicts, as opposed to the 62% who stated that they would work with those with mental illnesses. Not only this, but a great 43% were against providing aid to drug addicts, while only 21% were against providing such support for the mentally ill. This study only serves to indicate that people stigmatize addiction and are often less willing to reach out to them.
It may be time, however, to perceive addiction differently. Two particular discoveries involving rats and American soldiers of the Vietnam War seem to debunk our current theory of addiction. Bruce Alexander, a professor in the field of psychology, performed a fascinating experiment to answer the question of why an individual rat placed in a cage with both water versus water mixed with heroin and cocaine was more prone to get addicted to drug water. He placed a community of rats in a cage in which they could thrive in and observed whether the team of rats would react the same way. To his surprise, none of them overdosed or drank from the drug water obsessively. In the case of the Vietnam War, a study indicates that 95% of the 20% of the American troops who employed heroin throughout the war was able to quit right after they returned to their homeland and reunited with their loved ones.
These two findings pave the way to a new understanding of addiction - that addiction isn’t much about “moral failing,” but rather, the “result of disconnection.” They shine light to the idea that the greatest reason why addicts are not able to stop their cravings is that they lack the bond and communion humans inherently need in society. Perhaps it is now time to stop blaming addicts for their poor choices, but to reconnect them back to society if one truly wants the war on drugs to end.
<Lina Pak / YISS 11th grade