Drug addictions are related to natural reward process

BOOK REVIEWIn the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, Close Encounters with Addiction, by Gabor Mate, M.D.:  Dr. Mate conducted a personal interview with the seminal researcher Dr. Jaak Panksepp, who is quoted at length: “Drug addictions wouldn’t occur unless they were related to natural reward process of some kind.

Nontraditional Rewards

Habits and the brain circuits that maintain them form around substances and behaviors that promise instant if only temporary satisfaction. Those habit structures are so incredibly robust, and once they form in the nervous system, they will guide behavior without free choice. Addicts become addicts because they develop these habit structures which become totally focused on nontraditional rewards, drug rewards. They get hooked and they can’t break out of that psychological imprisonment.”

Made Not Born

Thus addicts are not born but made. In the words of Nietzsche, the addict lies his way out of reality. There is no powerful “free won’t” operating in the brains of those suffering from drug addictions. The addicts life expresses the history of the multigenerational family system.

Dislocation Causes Drug Addiction

According to Bruce Alexander, professor emeritus of psychology at Simon Fraser University, “The precursor to addiction is dislocation. Dislocation means the loss of psychological, social, and economic integration into family and culture–a sense of exclusion, isolation, and powerlessness. Only chronically and severely dislocated people are vulnerable to addiction.”

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Drug addiction was not an epidemic until after 1800

The historical correlation between severe dislocation and addiction is strong. Although alcohol consumption and drunkenness on festive occasions was widespread in Europe during the Middle Ages, and although a few people became “inebriates” or “drunkards,” mass alcoholism was not a problem. However, alcoholism gradually spread with the beginnings of free markets after 1500, and eventually became a raging epidemic with the dominance of the free market society after 1800. -Bruce Alexanderrr, “The Roots of Addiction in Free Market Society,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Toronto, April 2001, 12;

Destruction and Recreation of Traditional Life

With the rise of industrial societies came dislocation caused by the destruction of traditional relationships, extended family, clan, tribe and village.

New Tradition

One of the reasons for the success rate of 12 Step programs and Alcoholics Anonymous is that a new tribe is created. Alano clubhouses create a new village square. The Alcoholic is no longer lonely and isolated. A.A. creates a new tradition of life.

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By Dean McAdams

Born a poor peckerwood in a Tujunga holler, Dean overeducated himself beyond his social station to end up a retired paralegal in the coastal paradise of West L.A.