“The Difference Between Medicine And Poison Is In The Dose” – Circa Survive
A true enveloping substance addiction is gritty, and tends to be enabled by a varying degree of self-loathing. Self-loathing is such a tumultuous, seemingly endless circumstance that any decent person would not wish on their worst enemy–yet it is something that many decent people deal with on a regular basis. Modern advancements in cognitive sciences have conclusively shown that this state of mind (self-loathing, low self-esteem, an existential dilemma of similar nature with a deep tone, et cetera) is a neurological state that is considered “cognitive dissonance.” This means, with the many layers of consciousness that it takes to assimilate a “Waking Consciousness/Diachronic Narrative,” there can be pieces that don’t meet; there are pieces missing from the self-image of the individual, and this causes a literal dissonance in a person’s biosocial interactions and feedback. The “missing pieces” come from the person’s own neurological landscape, and are perpetuated/reinforced/diminished by the environment according to what the environment represents, and how the individual person has been predisposed to stress-handling-mental-mechanisms beforehand.
As developed by Dr. Stanislav Grof in over 50 years of psychiatric therapy and research, these growing predispositions that dictate how a person reacts to circumstances can be called “CoEx Systems” (Condensed Experience). CoEx Systems are like neurological highways, and their principle operates like the flowing stream to the Grand Canyon–meaning that pressure and repetition over time creates deep-seated mechanisms. Grof’s research is termed “holotropic” therapy, and the idea of CoEx Systems and a noted neuronal growing pattern is neither inherently positive nor negative. However, this accurately represents a crucial piece in understanding the deep-seated mechanisms that are involved with addiction, or any neurosis for that matter.
From here on out, it is important to realize that most of the ideas regarding addiction tossed around in society these days are fundamentally wrong. They are fundamentally wrong, because each “addiction ideology” only recognizes one aspect of what brings a person to substance addiction to begin with, and some of them don’t even acknowledged the deep-seated mechanisms beyond the substance habit itself which is a sure-fire way to relapse anyway. Firstly, it’s crucial to establish the separation between “addiction” and “dependency,” as the two can work together easily, but are mutually exclusive.
The modern social definition of “addiction” is two-part: Physical and Mental Dependence. Physical dependence is what people consider the “physically addictive” properties of a substance, meaning that someone will go through withdrawal symptoms without the substance. But if this were the only quality of addiction, users would be able to suffer their withdrawals through their detox period, and feel fresh and capable of abstaining from the drug forever if they so choose. Yet this doesn’t happen. This is a symptom of addiction, not a part of the root.
Mental dependency is closer to the center of the matter because it analyzes the thought-mechanisms of the individual–the CoEx Systems that make the person a slave is the addiction. In fact, the etymology of the word ‘addict’ is ‘someone who is indebted,’ meaning that they are a slave in a sense to a prearranged agreement that they cannot yet fulfill their end of. This is the true definition of addiction and it is a bottomless psychological, existential dilemma–not genetic or a mental illness. Obviously, genetic and mental factors do play a role, but the fact of the matter is that some may be predisposed to a higher chance of addition due to personal and hereditary factors, yet no one is predetermined to be an addict. Institutionalized, prearranged methods of “rehabilitation” only address the substance dependency, instead of the underlying causal mechanisms in the brain.
As described by physician, Dr. Gabor Maté, addiction is most accurately described as a “biopsychosocial dysfunction.” While it may seem wordy, this definition is very simple to pick apart, and displays the addiction state of mind as the chain of causes (causes that are separate but not mutually exclusive):
Biology, which sets the original template for Cognition, which represents the original template for social interaction. When this synthesis is interrupted, it causes this cognitive dissonance and sets the causal foundation of addiction. The effect of the addiction–or, rather, the CoEx Systems that lead to the addiction–can biologically be summarized as an inefficiency to formulate/maintain healthy relationships; a lack of ability to bond with people, because of dysfunctional social mechanisms that stem from the self.
The next step of the equation is understanding where these dysfunctions come from, and almost without exception, they stem from the social inertia that was initiated in the parent-child bond during the first few years of life. This is definitely not meant to be interpreted as “all of someone’s problems stem from childhood,” but, rather, in a very literal way: The brain is wired to formulate a template of self-concept during the first initial years of life, and as these neural patterns begin to strengthen, this strength then compounds due to simple inertia, and the activity thus becomes more and more condensed. Essentially, this is to say that until a person learns the deep implications and true value of authentic self-reflection, the habits that have gained inertia in the first few years of life will continue to compound until an event in the ambient environment catalyzes a change. Self-reflection, after all, is considered to be one of the definitive differences between humans and animals. Only when a person is taught to authentically assess themselves on a consistent basis will they slowly begin to reign in the inertia of their negative habits, in order to reassess. In terms of addiction, this is why the process is so messy and extensive. To use a simple fishing metaphor: the addict has cast their line, and before they can understand what they have caught, they must first reel it in.
The neurological dysfunctions that dictate substance addictions are, without exception, modulating serotonin and dopamine mechanisms in the brain. For those unfamiliar, here is an accurate breakdown of these neurotransmitters:
– Dopamine initiates the rituals of life–it is what drives a person to engage
– Serotonin enables the individual to engage in a situation–it is the deeper layer, the quality that is activated as the “ritual” of the activity takes place
(Hopefully it should go without saying, but “ritual” has no religious connotation, and instead it should be understood that the need for self-ritual in daily life is what drives the emphasis of it in spiritual practice.)
The best explanation of this process can be found in psychologist Bruce Alexander’s study, published in 1981, coined “Rat Park” for the novelty of its methods. To understand “Rat Part,” one must first understand the hypothesis. The basic idea of addiction was in-part greatly initiated by studies with rats in a cage, given the option to drink a water bottle with morphine, or regular water in a bottle. Most of the rats would, over a period of time, eventually choose to administer the drug so much until one day they would overdose. Dr. Bruce and colleagues concluded, however, that in these studies, the rats were put in a cage with nothing more than the drugs and the water. So for his study, Bruce created “Rat Park” which was an elaborate, miniature facility with everything that a rat (or living being) could want: Things in the environment to engage in; other rats to engage with physically; and plenty of food and water to have. “Rat Park” also included solutions of morphine. The conclusions of the study showed that not only did the rats of “Rat Park” hardly ever use the morphine, but when they were put in the environment with nothing but the morphine water or the regular water, they used a refined discretion when using the morphine water, if they did at all. The further details of the study are quite interesting, and recommended for further research.
The very definition of “psycho-social” implies a two-way street, and now that the psychology of the self has been explained a bit more, the grand overlay program that is “Society” must be addressed. Firstly, the War on Drugs is a fundamental error on which Portugal has taken a revolutionary stance by decriminalizing drugs in general, and the statistics are there to prove the efficacy of this social reform.
Perhaps more important than the War on Drugs in this matter, however, is what Johann Hari calls, the “importing of the war on drugs into the family life:” the intervention process. Typified by the American reality-show, Intervention, the institutionalization of this process of families attempting to help a fellow member, has become a clear-cut methodology, and one that does not work. The basis of intervention, using the basic outline of the television show for instance, involves a psychiatrist-led “Gotchya!” moment, where the family bombards the user with the negative influences they have created and further alienates them, while the psychiatrist is paid to explain why institutionalized rehabilitation towards total chemical abstinence is likely the last option before the user’s untimely death. The reason an intervention process to any similar such degree is counterproductive is because, as mentioned above, it alienates the chemical-user–the person who is using because of their dysfunctional bonding process with their environment and the people in it.
In reality, as Harris puts it, the best thing that someone can do to help a loved one who is an addict, is to not enable their negative habits, but to continue to give them love and support, and to lend an ear when the user’s conscience is heavy. On a scientific and biological level, the only way to begin healing is to begin loving authentically, and a person is often hard pressed to do this in a standardized, institutionalized setting.
A final note will be a true allegory of the user; an illustration of the implications through a tale told by esotericist Manly P. Hall, of the Greek philosopher Aristippus. One night, after setting sale on a voyage that involved preparation and finance to pull off, Aristippus overheard some of the ship workers discussing the likelihood of some of their mates robbing Aristippus and throwing him overboard at some point.
See, due to his arrangements, the philosopher had brought along his little chest of gold coins he had saved for his travels. Having heard this, the next morning the crew awoke to see Aristippus throwing his savings of gold overboard, into the water, one by one. When asked what he was doing, the philosopher replied,
“I think it is better that the gold shall perish for Aristippus than that Aristippus shall perish for the gold.”
In the end, all that anyone wants, above anything else, is to feel safe and comfortable, and welcomed in their environment. Because this is such a deep and natural drive, most people will sacrifice all else for it. And because addicts seek a safe, bonding environment with a chemical does not mean that they should be persecuted, criminalized, and shamed. Addicts are no different from anyone else who lives and breathes. The true reason that the addict has been shamed is because a rise and persistence in addiction causes people to analyze their society as a whole and the part that they play in it. Most people unfortunately, still seem unprepared to do this. The fact of the matter is that current clinical methodology for addiction therapy only perpetuates addiction. This entire section of the medical field needs to reel in and reassess itself, because its statistics have proven it a total failure. Rehabilitation and recovery is an entirely different matter, as the Buddha taught:
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Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY9DcIMGxMs, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SkUozXVQ9w, http://thezeitgeistmovement.se/files/In_the_Realm_of_Hungry_Ghosts<_Gabor_Mate__M.D_.pdf, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5sOh4gKPIg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpHiFqXCYKc