The cause of addiction (or not)
I just read that Huffington Post article on the latest discovery into the cause of addiction. I’d previously read about that rat experiment they mentioned in which caged rats quickly got addicted to drugs (well, duh, who wouldn’t in a cage with nothing else to do?) but when those rats were relocated to ‘rat park’ which had everything a rat could ever dream of, they lost interest in drugs.
The author suggests that we apply this model to solve human addiction. That if we all lived in the human equivalent of rat park, we wouldn’t need drugs either. But I’ve been running a rehab for a long time now and plenty of my clients are living in rat park; they have happy childhoods, supportive families, satisfying jobs, good relationships, money in the bank and they are bonded with fellow humans yet they still take drugs. There’s something else going on here. See, we’re not rats. In Chinese medicine what we call ‘Shen’ needs to enter the debate. Shen is is a type of consciousness. Plants have what they call one Shen – an adaptive intelligence (a plant can’t run or seek shelter so it develops extraordinary properties for survival). Animals, or rats in this case, have 2 Shen, they can attack or retreat, which are actions driven by instinct. Humans, however, have 3 Shen so we can reason on our actions. No animal experiments on recreational drug addiction will ever deliver any useful results for humans, because animals only have 2 Shen. I guarantee you that that junkie rat wouldn’t have been sitting in its cage coming down after its last coke high, with its furry little head in its paws thinking ‘why did I do it, why? Our ability to reason on our actions is the mechanism by which we can achieve enlightenment. Drug highs give us a sample of how much more we can be and, because we can reason on these experiences, we can then use a past of addiction to create an extraordinary future for ourselves.