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The Importance of Social Connection in Addiction Recovery

Active addiction can be a time of isolation. We get caught up in our insatiable desire for alcohol and drugs that we care little about maintaining or forming relationships with others. Getting involved with recovery fellowships and communities can be a lifesaver in recovery. Without social connection, we are likely to fall back into isolative behaviors and experience the same negative emotions that had previously driven our addictions.

Addiction is a complex disease composed of many biological, social, and environmental factors. The development of addiction may not be entirely caused by social variables, but research has shown that social interaction may be extremely helpful in managing addiction. Robert Weiss, in a 2015 Psychology Today article entitled The Opposite of Addiction is Connection, explains, “Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander looked at the results of studies in which rats were placed in empty cages, alone, with two water bottles to choose from — one with pure water, the other with heroin-infused water. Those experiments showed that as time passed these rats would uniformly get hooked on and eventually overdose from heroin. So the researchers unsurprisingly concluded that the potential of extreme pleasure, in and of itself, is addictive.” However, Alexander repeated the experiment with new variables. He used a cage that was 200 times larger than the previous isolation cage, gave the rats Hamster wheels, colored balls to play with, more food, and spaces for mating and raising litters. In Alexander’s experiment, the rats ignored the heroin in favor of communal activities, and rats who had previously been taking the heroin-infused water discontinued their use.  

Social interaction is necessary for our mental health and wellbeing. When drug use overtakes our desire to interact with others, we increase our substance use as a means of feeling relief from our negative emotions. Johann Hari, in a Huffington Post article, The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and it is Not What You Think, explains, “human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.” Social interaction and relationships may not be the answer to addiction recovery, but they certainly play a major part in improving our feelings of happiness and wellbeing to a point where we no longer feel the need to seek a sense of relief in drugs and alcohol.

Your life doesn’t have to be held back by the chains of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, brings together the highest quality behavioral health and addictions specialists, holistic experts, and spiritual guides to help clients develop all the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431