I think one of the most interesting breakthroughs in medicine, if it turns out to be true, is that addiction is caused by social isolation and not the drug itself.
In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.
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.
This hits on so many intuitions and observations that it’s hard to ignore, but I do wonder if it will stand against the coming inevitable scrutiny.
The most fascinating part of the theory is that it explains two common observations:
- The socialite who uses heavy drugs on and off and never seems to have an issue
- The regular Jane/Joe who gets heavy drugs administered in the hospital for weeks, only to have virtually no addiction when they leave the hospital
But does it answer the other observation of someone being relatively normal, trying a heavy drug, and being instantly taken into a life of depravity?
I guess we need the data on how often each of these happens, and hopefully that was part of the study.
Regardless, it’s a fascinating new theory, and I’ll be watching as scrutiny is applied liberally.