TED Talks I Like – Johann Hari: Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong

No click-bait here because this 14 minute and 42 second video is so important for everyone to see. I’ll even give spoilers to give you some insight!

This video talks about how the approach to deterring and changing addiction and how we view addiction has been wrong.

How do you view addiction?

This talk suggests [and it may not be new information to some of you] that the opposite of addiction is connection.

We’ve been taught to believe that addiction to drugs like heroin happens because there are chemical hooks. As you take it for a while, your body will become dependent on these hooks and you will be physically addicted.

But hospitals give diamorphine [pharmaceutical grade heroin] to patients after surgeries like hip replacements and they do not become addicted.

In Vietnam, 20% of all American troops (that’s hundreds of thousands) were using loads of heroin. They were followed home and studied. They didn’t go to rehab. They didn’t go into withdrawal. 95% of them just stopped.

Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond and when we’re happy and healthy we’ll bond and connect with each other. But if you can’t do that, because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief.

Now, that might be gambling, that might be pornography, that might be cocaine, that might be cannabis, but you will bond and connect with something because that’s our nature. That’s what we want as human beings.

[How we treat addicts] We punish them. We shame them. We give them criminal records. We put barriers between them reconnecting.

In the year 2000, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe. One percent of the population was addicted to heroin, which is kind of bind-blowing, and every year they tried the American way more and more. They punished people and stigmatized them and shamed them more, and every year the problem got worse.

After putting together a panel to look at the latest research, they came back saying, “Decriminalize all drugs from cannabis to crack, but — and this is the crucial next step — take all the money we used to spend on cutting addicts off, on disconnecting them, and spend it instead on reconnecting them with society.

It has been about 15 years since the experiment started and injection drug use is down in Portugal, according to the British Journal of Criminology, by 50%.

Unbelievably insightful TED Talk — I can’t recommend it enough.

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