A challenge to your perspective on addiction can be uncomfortable. After all, you and I know where we sit!
Society has a way of dealing with addicts that draws a very thick line in the sand between them and us. We label them as hopeless appendages to society and stigmatise them with shame, selfishness and weak mindedness. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, mobile phones, social media – wait – everyone has mobile phones and engaged in social media. How else can you be noticed and have so many friends?
Johann Hari[i] in his talk to a TED[ii] audience in London challenges society’s perspective on addiction. The world has never been so connected as it presently is with such great technology enabling multi-media and telecommunications instantly. Yet, the evidence is mounting that we are one of the most socially disconnected generations. Friends are counted as a number on social media, and communication amounts to comments in a small box or the easy tick of the ‘like’ box.
Of course that is not addiction – that is being social as everyone knows. Right?
Are you sure about that?
How many times have you seen families at a restaurant and all busy on their mobile phones rather than seizing the moment of opportunity and chatting? How many relationship difficulties have you heard of that identify mobile phone use as the problem?
Addiction is touching all of us in some way.
Some addictions are more socially acceptable than others, and some are more destructive than others, but all are compulsive disorders of our personality that we fail to control.
American research[iii] published in 2012 found that people’s biggest self-control failures related to media and work and not alcohol and tobacco. Social media addiction is real and when a basic fabric of society such as communication is disrupted, there is a dislocation of basic human needs as in line with Maslow’s Hierarchy[iv]. The Australian Gambling Research Centre[v] found a relationship between family communication, addiction and mental health and went further to say that gambling develops as an escape or an effort to seek that feeling of ‘control’.
Hari feels that disconnection in society is a major driver for persons with addiction issues. Dislocating ourselves from society, our families and cultural norms is a powerful force in forming an addiction to a certain product especially when there may be personality and gene factors already present in our DNA[vi].
It is difficult for families to live with an addicted person. Many families disintegrate and the rippling effect on the extended family is dramatic and sometimes catastrophic. Loving and supporting an addict is beyond the boundaries of unconditional love as multiple rehabilitation failures accumulate.
A new approach to addiction
A new approach to addiction and rehabilitation seems to be on the horizon. Hari says we should be investing more into supporting addictive persons to rehabilitate back into society. He feels that the present society approach further cuts addicts off from any reasonable success with rehabilitation. It may be more useful to concentrate on building basic connections within society and reconnecting addicts back into their life, employment and social connections.
Whatever your view, Hari’s talk on Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong is conversation provoking.
[ii] TED. Hari J. Everything you think you know about addition is wrong. June 2015. http://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari_everything_you_think_you_know_about_addiction_is_wrong/transcript?language=en
[iii] Psychological Science, Hofman, W., Vohs K., Baumeister R. What People Desire, Feel Conflicted About, and Try to Resist in Everyday Life. June 2012; vol. 23, 6: pp. 582-588., first published on April 30, 2012. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction
[v] Australian Institute of Family Studies. Australian Gambling Research Centre. https://aifs.gov.au/projects/australian-gambling-research-centre