Monday, August 3, 2015

Collecting the loose ends - and more about addiction

Just want to put this out there - I was away from home, and then house-sitting without internet, for the past 2 weeks, since the last publish date (7/23).  Feeling stressed that I didn't write last week! Today is already Thursday and while publishing once a week at this point seems like a good goal, I am finding it sometimes difficult to maintain.  Also aiming to keep in mind the practice of not entertaining stress in my body, mind or experience.  I choose to relax in this moment.  I choose to accept that my writing could not happen last week, and relax into my knowing that it is all happening in divine timing.  I choose to trust myself to write in a structured way whenever possible, and to accept when that cannot be so.  To those of you who are following this blog - thank you! - and just know that I will do my very best to write something good here every week. 

There are many loose ends in my previous posts: the legal aspects of using Schedule One controlled substances - which is one aspect that will have to wait until I am able to schedule an appointment with a lawyer;  the other entheogens I have not yet written about (San Pedro and Ibogaine); the cultural taboos and vilification of entheogens in general; the possible dangers of using, and misusing these medicines; rites of passage; elders and eldering; and a deeper look at what is known about how these substances do what they do for us.  After clearing up some of these loose ends, I want to take a look at some of the world cultures that use entheogens, specifically looking at how they raise their children around these medicines. There may be a few more subjects arising as this research is completed, after which I plan to begin interviewing people who are raising or who have already raised their children in the US as members of an indigenous spiritual tradition.

Just a note on staying focused: it has been hard these past few weeks to get in the state of mind I feel I need to achieve in order to write.  I have found myself performing avoidance maneuvers - like this morning I was going to focus for 3 hours on writing and instead deep-cleaned the bathroom (it needed it!) and went to work on my other home project an hour early.  Tired myself right out with five hours of labor, troweling concrete onto the exterior and interior walls of our addition/ greenhouse.  Now it is 10 pm, I am beat, and I still have not gotten this blog written.  I feel like I am falling short.  Just admitting this in writing feels like a good step.  However I will not be satisfied until I get into some real content here.  My coach, the one who initially advised me to start this blog, recommended I write (or research, or focus on this project) from 9-12 every Tuesday and Thursday.  Starting next week, I am going to hold to that.  I am definitely a morning person when it comes to thinking!

Before continuing on with my list, I want to share about an article I recently read: "The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered and it is Not What You Think, ",(1) by Johann Hari, author of a book on this subject entitled Chasing the Scream.   In his article, the author mentions some of the drug studies done on rats which seemed to prove that addictions are completely self-destructive, even unto death, and that the "War on Drugs" is completely necessary for our continued survival.  Researchers put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles.  One bottle contained regular water, and the other water with cocaine added.  The rat would quickly become obsessed with the cocaine water and would drink it until it died.  These results seem to point to the fact that access to drugs causes addiction.

Then along comes another researcher, a Psychology professor from Vancouver named Bruce Alexander, who noticed that these rats were all alone in their plain cages with nothing to do all day but take the offered drugs.  He designed an alternative experiment, where rats got to live together in "Rat Park," a special environment where there was stimulation, exercise, games to play, good food, and other rats to hang with, as well as regular water and cocaine water.  Lo and behold, the rats in Rat Park did not drink the cocaine water very much, consuming less than a quarter of the amount that rats in isolation drank.  And they did not get addicted!  According to the article, "Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It's not you. It's your cage."

The prevalent view in our culture on addiction has been that people get addicted because drugs 'hijack their brains.'  But with these studies, and further studies showing that even addicted rats can stop using the cocaine water if they get moved into Rat Park, the view of addiction as the result of chemical hijacking is coming into question.  The new paradigm looks at the bigger picture, seeing that the addict is not finding what they need in their life to be happy and fulfilled, like the rat in the barren cage. What is needed is a new cage (aka environment).  And what many people are starting to realize is this new 'cage' needs to be one where bonding and deep connections are made.  Professor Peter Cohen, also quoted in the article, says people will connect with whatever they can.  If there isn't a person or people available to connect with, the addict will connect with a drug, or with a behavior, searching for that (missing) comfort and sense of belonging..

 In the words of the article's author: 
"So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection."

If this perspective were adopted, the treatment for people with addictions would begin with the view that addiction is just a symptom of a much greater issue - and the addiction itself would NOT be the focus of the treatment!  Instead, treatment would focus on teaching people how to find connection and meaning in the world: how to connect with themselves, how to connect with their emotions, how to connect with others, and how to connect with the sacred and discover a purpose for their lives.

This is the essence of the medicine work of which I have been a part for the past 10 years.


No comments:

Post a Comment