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  • Subject area(s): Science
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Addiction. One of the great banes of the lives of many humans as well as lab rats. From ruining to relationships to whole lives, addiction is no matter to be taken lightly. As lives are ruined and people destroyed, the crackdown on drug addiction and addicts began. The faithful decision was made to “take addicts and punish them...make them suffer...that would deter them; it would give them an incentive to stop.” (Hari 2015). It’s more difficult than it sounds as addiction soley can’t be solved by a slap on the wrist. Addiction evolves from a disruption of one’s brain chemistry and wiring, causing people to fall into downward spirals that could potentially ruin their lives. A practical solution to restoring an addict’s brain’s wiring neurotransmitter signaling processes is to figuratively and literally reconnect them, not through their neurotransmitters, but also socially.

Addiction is the condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity. It stems from the change of circuitry in one’s brain in response to certain substances. When drugs are implemented into one’s system, it disrupts the brain’s chemical balance and causes the brain to slow down the process of its own natural narcotics and neurons (Myers and Dewall, 2015).  The body’s own neurotransmitters are suppressed and productions of natural chemicals such as dopamine and other endorphins causes the addict to continuously seek more and more relief from substances to artificially and temporarily restore a chemical balance. Agonists are molecules that bind onto receptors and mimic neurotransmitters and their actions, these mimics can be found in drugs such as heroin, GABA, and other addictions that mirror the effects of neurotransmitters (Rickgauer 2018).  Over time and with repeated exposure, the addict continuously seeks more and more relief from substances to artificially and temporarily restore a chemical balance; a balance that produces the positive feelings or relief from negative feelings.

Johann Hari is a former journalist of The Independent and The Huffington Post. His main focus of his writing are usually on the topics of the war on drugs, the monarchy, and depression.  He is the author of the book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs which covers and details the war on drugs. He graduated from King’s College, Cambridge with a double first in Social and Political Sciences in 2001 (Hari 2015). Hari has spent three years of his career working on the war on drugs and discovered that addiction is not all as it seems.

In the June of 2015, Johann Hari was invited to an official TED conference to speak about addiction and the current methods around treating addicts. Hari discusses in his TEDTalk the causes of addiction and how people keep on falling into the downward spiral of it. Addiction is different for everybody, from smartphone addictions to that of heroin. Hari claims that one of the core reasons people fall into addiction is due to the environment around them and their connections, stating, “Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we're happy and healthy...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.” (Hari 2015). People, according to Hari, who are unable to form healthy connections and be centered in a good environment are prone to turn to materialistic substances to escape reality. Those in poor socio-economic situations are more likely to find ways to cope with their conflicts than those who are in stable conditions. Some people, after serving their time due to their addiction, fall back into the same old habits. He reaches the conclusion that addicts tend to be drawn to drug-use to self-medicate emotional pain and that drug prohibition, by criminalizing drug-use, serves to amplify and reinforce the emotional and social factors that led the individual to use in the first place - thus continuing the cycle. Hari covers what happens to these people and how they’re treated by others based on their addiction, not for who they are. Hari notes that people are taught to scorn and alienate addicts, ruling them as hindrances to society. He disproves this claim and argues that the way to fight drug addiction and to break old habits is not to scorn people, but to connect them. People tend to respond better to treatment, help, and support than they do to alienation, destitution, arrest, and incarceration.

Neurotransmitters and addicts both have one thing in common, connections. Whether by synapses or through support sessions, connections are how information get around. A damaged neurotransmitter system needs time to heal as well as addicts. Addiction has long-term psychological and physical consequences and as Hari urges, former addicts shall need all the help they can get to keep from falling back into a cycle of self-destruction. Addiction can ruin lives, break apart families, and are one of factors to why crime rates are so high. It’s not hard to deny that drugs aren’t good for society as a whole so as a result, people turn to the users to dehumanize for their actions. Drugs are bad, therefore, the people who use them must be bad people as well. Sympathy isn't usually the first emotion that comes up when discussing drug addicts, when some hear of an addict being thrown in jail they shrug it off as “just another no-good addict”. We dehumanize drug addicts for simply having a problem. Even if they have never committed a crime outside of the actual usage of the drugs, we still feel like throwing an addict in a prison cell is the best thing for society. These views must be changes if society is to improve and evolve, by treating addicts as criminals, we cut them off from socially connecting with others. Without these connections, addicts fall prey to a cycle they can’t escape from. By reconnecting them with society, we not only help addicts steer away from a life of dehumanization, but also, reconnecting people and recovery from addiction in itself is like its own form of neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters that were once dulled can be reignited through reconnecting people and rehabilitation.

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