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The 'opposite of addiction' theory: How community can drive recovery
The path to sobriety isn't one that can be traveled alone, studies suggest.
- The theory that the opposite of addiction is community was introduced by author Johann Hari and has been backed up by mountains of evidence from various studies over the past few decades.
- A 1993 study showed that a spouse/significant other's involvement in behavioral marital therapy "significantly improved" outcomes for recovering alcoholics.
- A 2001 study on the effectiveness of group therapy for depression showed that there are times when the sense of community, togetherness, and compassion found in group therapy programs is much more helpful than individual therapy.
In today's society, it seems that we are in a never-ending war with drugs.
Digging deeper into the psychology of addiction will tell you a story that looks like this: the chemicals in drugs (and our body's reaction to them) cause people to crave them, become dependent on them. Their bodies and minds change and adapt to create a demand for the drug of choice.
'It's a lifelong journey' most people who struggle with addiction will say. A life-long journey of awareness, of choices to do the right thing, of willpower, and of acknowledging this weakness in themselves. There is nothing inherently wrong with this explanation, except that it does not show you the most important parts of the recovery process.
What is the "opposite of addiction is community” theory?
Again and again, we have seen the evidence that supports the "opposite of addiction" theory is relevant not just for recovering addicts but also for people who struggle with mental health conditions as well.
Image by i3alda on Shutterstock
The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is community. This idea was brought forth first by author Johann Hari using the Rat Park experiment. Past studies of rats have given us a deeper understanding of addiction. Given a choice between water laced with cocaine or pure water, the experiments showed that isolated rats will often choose the drug, once they discover it. When they do, this quickly becomes a habit and they eventually ingest enough of the drug that they die.
Similar experiments were done in the 1940s. However, in the 1970s, psychology professor Bruce Alexander made one major change: the rats were placed in the same cages instead of separate ones. When housed together, many of the rats tried the drug-infused water, but none of them became heavy users. They often switched back to the clean water, and there were no drug overdoses. Alexander later conducted additional studies where he placed addicted solitary rats into cages with other rats (as well as stimulation in the form of toys). The change of environment and social settings resulted in the rats no longer relying on the drug-laced water.
These experiments point to a strong need for human connection that helps us thrive. The most important things needed for the long-term recovery of addiction are empathy, compassion, and connection.
The importance of community and human connection has been proven multiple times in the past...
There is an abundance of proof that community and connection drive recovery in many different ways. According to this 1993 study, a spouse/significant other's involvement in behavioral marital therapy "significantly improved" outcomes for recovering alcoholics. A more recent study from 2008 suggested that people who struggle with addiction have a better prospect of successful long-term recovery if they participate in peer-support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Again and again, we have seen the evidence that supports the "opposite of addiction" theory is relevant not just for recovering addicts, but also for people who struggle with mental health conditions as well.
"At the core of every addiction is an emptiness based in abject fear," Dr. Gabe Maté says in his book "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts." "The addict dreads and abhors the present moment, they bend feverishly only toward the next time, the moment when the brain, infused with the drug of choice, will briefly experience itself as liberated…"
Both Alexander and Maté were explaining the idea that addiction, while a deeply personal struggle, may require more than a personal recovery process. Addiction itself can be isolating and empty - it only makes sense that the recovery process not only addresses the physical addiction but the emotional emptiness problem, as well.
"Addiction is an adaptation. It's not you - it's your cage." - Bruce Alexander
Human connection (in group therapy sessions) drives faster and more long-term recovery from depression, study says
Not only is community beneficial for addiction recovery but it can also help aid the maintain recovery of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Photo by Monkey Business Images on Shutterstock
A fascinating 2001 research experiment analyzed the results of 48 separate studies on group therapy. The purpose of this data collection was to determine whether or not group therapy was more or less effective than individual therapy or no therapy at all.
The information about these studies breaks down like this:
- The group therapies ranged from 4 weeks to 52 weeks long (with an average of 19 weeks).
- Both pre and post-treatment scores for patients were submitted.
- The average age of participants in the studies was 44 years.
- 70% of the participants in the studies were female.
- The studies were comprised of people who had sought out routine out-patient treatment for depression.
- These studies were then combined using meta-analysis to determine the effectiveness of group therapies.
The results of this experiment strongly prove that group therapy is effective and beneficial.
- 45 of the 48 studies concluded that group psychotherapy was effective.
- 43 out of 46 studies that focused solely on depression found that group therapy significantly reduced depression in the patients.
- 14 studies found that group therapy significantly reduced depression compared with delayed control treatment (either no treatment or individual treatment).
- Group therapy increased the proportion of patients who had clinically meaningful improvement post-treatment by 48.2%, in comparison with patients who were not treated in a group setting.
The benefits of group therapy have been speculated for years (you can find another example here), but the results of this massive experiment further prove the theory that community aids in the recovery of not just mood disorders but for other problems of the human condition such as addiction.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.