Addiction has often been treated as a disease that is condemned by the system and punished in nearly every form. Addicts often face punishment for breaking the law, but then they also face social stigma, lost jobs and a community that looks at their record as stained. Yet, an old experiment clearly showed the importance of psychological and environmental effects on the behavior of individuals on the path to addiction.
In the past, addicts were often blamed for picking up and continuing bad habits. Now, the thinking has vastly changed, but the behavior is still seen as a problem caused by the drugs used, rather than circumstance. An old study that was largely forgotten and ignored may hold the real key to understanding addiction and recovery.
Rat Park was a study done in the late 1970s on a colony of rats and drugs. Two groups of rats were given options for morphine-dosed water and regular water. The difference between the two groups of rats came in their environment and community. One group of rats were given plenty of space and options for entertainment.
The second group of rats were confined to a much smaller space. Surprisingly, the rats that were given adequate space, toys, food and companionship did not struggle with addiction and chose the plain water the majority of the time. The second group in poor conditions consumed much more morphine.
The hypothesis published in the 1980s as a result of Rat Park was that the drugs did not cause the addiction, the living conditions did. Additionally, isolated rats without companionship struggled with even higher levels of addiction, relieving their distress by the pharmacologically treated water. This experiment showed a clear connection between addictive behaviors and the poor conditions that lead towards individual depression.
Toronto rehab clinics center their recovery programs around the idea of community support. Most addicts find great relief from a support group that fully understands their struggles and helps support them in making better life choices. Group and individualized therapy sessions can help restore a strong sense of community and support.
Additionally, many patients find they are further helped when they receive the support of friends and family that can help them transition back into regular, day-to-day life after rehab. Often, the network of support is vital in helping an individual maintain their strength against depression, improve their personal conditions and get a good job that will help them become productive members of society once more.