The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection

That’s one of the powerful messages that comes from Johann Hari’s excellent new book “Chasing the Scream” (see my review earlier this week).

Everything we’ve done to address the issues of addiction within the context of the drug war has been all wrong. It’s focused on the drug causing addiction, when the notion of addiction has a lot more to do with other factors.

I looked at him just now, lying there, his face pallid again, and as I stroked his hair, I think I understood something for the first time. The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection. It’s all I can offer. It’s all that will help him in the end. If you are alone, you cannot escape addiction. If you are loved, you have a chance. For a hundred years we have been singing war songs about addicts. All along, we should have been singing love songs to them.

One thing has the potential—more than any other—to kill this attempt at healing. It is the drug war. If these people I love are picked up by the police during a relapse, and given a criminal record, and rendered unemployable, then it will be even harder for them to build connections with the world.

There’s so much we know about addiction, that has been studied about addiction, yet is ignored in all the major discussions about how to ‘deal’ with addicts. “Chasing the Scream” does an excellent job of discussing these issues.

[Gabor] has shown that the core of addiction doesn’t lie in what you swallow or inject—it’s in the pain you feel in your head. Yet we have built a system that thinks we will stop addicts by increasing their pain. “If I had to design a system that was intended to keep people addicted, I’d design exactly the system that we have right now,” Gabor would tell me. “I’d attack people, and ostracize them.” He has seen that “the more you stress people, the more they’re going to use. The more you de-stress people, the less they’re going to use. So to create a system where you ostracize and marginalize and criminalize people, and force them to live in poverty with disease, you are basically guaranteeing they will stay at it.”

This isn’t new stuff. Or radical stuff. I’ve been saying similar things for years…

“As anyone who has tried to quit smoking knows, dependence is hardest to overcome during difficult or stressful times. That must be why, when the government helps drug abusers quit, they arrest them and take away their job, possessions, and children.” – Guitherisms

But it’s a discussion that we absolutely need to bring to the front, because understanding and accepting these basic truths are what gives us harm reduction rather than prohibition, sane policy rather than insanity.

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43 Responses to The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection

  1. Putsch says:

    Have seen Mental Patients passed around from Dr. to Dr, Group Home to Group Home. Police Officers wives Club running things. Fat Cheques all around, ‘cept for the poor ‘Mental Health Consumer’. Talk about Addiction. Once their Hooks are into Someone he/she maketh a lovely ATM that Raineth Cash. Respite Pay when ‘Caregivers’ grow Tired or Break a Nail Sterilizing someone. Awwwww.

  2. Frank W. says:

    Kind of like saying prostitutes are victims and then arresting them. Very American.

  3. Catman says:

    I know someone, a VERY close friend whose parents divorced when he was 3 and both split, dropping him off at some stranger’s house where two loveless assholes lived who wanted a kid for a punching bag and a slave.

    By the time he was 16, he had been to three different foster homes, never really establishing any kind of loving relationship.

    He found booze when he was 14, and that warm feeling in his gut was wonderful, so he kept trying to chase that feeling for the next 40 years, thru a number of failed loves with women.

    He found illegal drugs at the age of 17 and kept chasing those highs from speed, heroin, opium, meth, LSD, MDA, mushrooms, pot, hash, downers and God knows what else, never getting to where he thought he was going, again thru several failed relationships and one marriage that broke his heart when she left.

    Fuck, that’s enough for now.


    I know it by heart.

  4. Duncan20903 says:


    Sometimes I think that one of my most significant defects of character is being too willing to give evil people empathy and the benefit of the doubt. Take right now for example, I’m actually starting to feel sorry for the idiot prohibitionists. Tonight I’m thinking that these poor souls are playing the role of Wile E Coyote only moments before Mr. Coyote realizes that he’s run off the edge of a cliff without noticing. Hmm, would that mean that we’re playing the roll of the Road Runner? This one is from the “poor poor pitiful prohibitionists” file:

    Healthiest Places in America

    The top 5:
    1. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Massachusetts and New Hampshire
    2. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, California
    3. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon and Washington
    4. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington
    5. Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colorado

    Pop quiz! Can anyone tell me what those cities have in common other than good health?

    Francis is just plain merciless when it comes to the prohibitionist parasites and their sycophants. I just don’t know where he finds the time.

  5. CJ says:

    hello. yes i am not dead yet. i am the epitome of what this particular article is talking about. and ive seen it time and time again kill friends. jewelz, steve, tugboat, rodent, the list goes on and on and on. all of them have a small core things in common: homeless, abandoned, alone, hated etc. its weird to read this too, because before i ever got reflective/introspective/involved id like to tell you this…i was always a loner even on the streets, i mean, there was comradery, trust and love on the street that i never knew anywhere else and so its weird to say that, to be clear in practice what im saying is, when you wake up on the sidewalk in Manhattan [lower east side] usually youll wake up amidst a bunch of other similar people sleeping around you on cardboard and when everybody wakes up, its like a household where mom dad brother and sister and dog and cat are all together eating breakfast downstairs and talking about the day ahead and everything else, well theres rarely breakfast being eaten but were all there, all together, talking about situations, passing out advice or whatever, some lucky folks doing wake ups, some sick people, so we hang out there for an hour about before workers appear or building doormen/security appear and give us the boot. At this point, people will usually go off in small groups, i always went alone but the group reconnects at night, many many hours later after everything has been taken care of, if someone who was there the night before isnt there, theres always concern if their dead or arrested. But I always recall there were two things I would always excitedly talk about to people and the responses were always the same, they never thought about what i was saying or never knew the information. The two things were 1. heroin maintenance and that it is real and that it exists and the other is this very article. I remember very clearly saying to everybody how “how can anybody expect us to ever want to stop. look at this. everybody hates us, we have absolutely nothing, next to no ability to gain anything, we are constantly f’ed up and sick, everything has gone to poop [explitive] nobody will talk to us, the common people hate us with a revulsion worthy of wanting to kill us, i mean, who wakes up in the middle of all this and says, oh ive had an epiphany, i WANT to stop… no, all this f’n horror makes you want to use. all this tough love makes you want to use. its total freaking madness to think anybody would want to stop in the midst of all this.” i mean, id say it in other words and in more words but its so true and it always seemed like common sense to me. but then i think, in those olden days when AA and 12 step first started, the one stark thing I take from the early 1900’s and the mid 1900’s as well is there seemed to be generally an appaling lack of common sense. think the cold war, vietnam, of course the drug war. in those days, common sense went out the window. it seems these days especially with the internet, common sense has made a come back and thats why all that has happened seems so preposterous now. Ive been meaning to share something else for awhile. I was recently in a hospital setting over the course of a few weeks. id totally befuddled a regular addiction “specialist” there so i was given “special treatment” and put under the “care” of the head of the place, whom you can see their job is a more money more political one, they dont deal with the regular people often anymore. So after weeks of destroying this person too, finally they brought me to the actual HEAD of medical, this person with their pictures with presidents on their desk, you can tell, was no longer a real employee of the hospital anymore but more like some kind of politician LOL. GUYS i want to give you all the details but i have gone on alot, it was glorious. I just want to say, when I went in there that morning I was not expecting this meeting i swear so I was taken off guard and I was nervous etc. and I just knew as it was happening that I didnt want to break down, didnt want to act juvenile, etc. you know that feeling of such intense emotion that you cry? well i didnt cry, i was afraid i would and that would ruin everything and id be just another “crazy addict” im glad i didnt but i almost did and guys i am so proud because listen, this head medical person who is probably a F list celebrity or something i destroyed her. I absolutely did. In the argument that ensued I destroyed her it is unquestionable and a victory I guarantee it. Here, you see, as we engaged and I spoke trying to use my best eloquence, when we were in the thick of it this was her best, right here, maybe it was her best because she was just as nervous or maybe she was just incapable, i dont know but here it is, when she was given the opportunity to hammer me because the “discussion” turned into why a person shouldnt use drugs, this was her best shot, she said and i swear, “because it’s illegal.” LOLOLOL! What academic, philosophical brilliance, eh? She had stammered at first, pause and then threw that out there. I laughed in her face and I told her word for word, “that is the most assenine reason NOT to do anything!” and she couldnt respond. The head of medical and head of social/addiction were speechless, the head of addiction had to butt in at that point too. But the victory is in the proof, at the end, SHE APOLOGIZED TO ME. She said “its obvious youre a very intelligent person” and she apologized to me and even said she was sorry if it seemed that shed judged me! Well, i was recently approached by them again because theyre being audited by the government now its an annual thing and apparently they want me to talk to the auditor. they say the auditor wants to interview me. I was dumbfounded. I said “me? of all the people here, me? arent i the last person you would want to do this?” well maybe ive won these people over and they want me to try my best to get my [our, really] point across to their overseer or supervisor… what a crazy situation, huh?

    • NorCalNative says:

      CJ, glad to hear you’re still kicking.

      Thanks for checking in and letting us know how things are going. Stay warm!

    • Thanks, bro says:

      for helping to keep us connected!

    • Citizen Teus says:

      Do the interview, CJ. Give them the view from your side. It may not help, but from what I’ve heard out of you it sure can’t hurt.

    • DdC says:

      I started a thread for your stories C J, Thanks and Be Well.
      If you want to add pics or flicks here I’ll post it sooner or later.

    • B. Snow says:

      Hey CJ, its good to hear from you… especially w/ Winter deciding to show up fierce and *fashionably late* this year!

      You know, There’s always some news about areas with large homeless populations & making sure that they all have (at least the option of) some sorta warm shelter before/during the most severe cold-snaps & hard-freezes.

      And later, stats on the folks that die from hypothermia = some because they’d rather take their chances with Mother Nature rather than deal with the various strings attached to this sort of ’emergency public assistance’ = mostly commonly an ultimatum on sobriety, or curfews/lockdowns, and whatnot.

      It sounds like there could be tiny bits of common sense reappearing across the country. Fortunately – it sounds like you might’ve found some of this *previously mythical substance* = naturally occurring in one or more of these “professional addiction specialist” folks…

      Or -MAYBE- they don’t know what to do with an “addict” that can maintain their composure in a treatment setting (who is presumably sick or detox’ing to some degree – at least in their experience).
      AND deliver an effective argument that gets to the center of things & then to the point of voicing the question – “What the heck does this have to do with *The Law*?”

      [Or something like], “How is that truly relevent to the health or medical discussion here, other than it being compulsory?”, “Why in the world does the government have a greater say in this than the people actually in the room?

      [That’s a doozy of a question = literally and figuratively.]

      I suspect that they’ve started to finally realize that the so-called “Third-Way” (aka) “treating it as a public health issue” crappola = Just isn’t an effective “one-size-fits-all”, *blanket* policy! It’s just not intellectually consistent, and more importantly for our discussion it’s not cognitively consistent.

      They might, just maybe want to have an example of someone who could possibly be best served by a HAT or ‘HAT-like’ program… from a medical standpoint.

      They’ve got to be running into similar issues with people that use cannabis in a manner that is by any fair definition responsible, moderate, and reasonable.

      And someone is surely thinking they should have ‘rocked the boat’ years ago in protesting and denying growing piles of anecdotal evidence, observations & patients ‘presenting’ that appear to show cannabis & psilocybin being effective = That might lead them to believe that these really can help in treating people with PTSD, and if nothing else, to at least help improve their general mood.

      They want to refuse cannabis to the non-terminally ill, but they ran out of answers beyond, “because all illegal drugs are bad… doesn’t EVERYONE know that?”

      I suspect that they’ve started to finally realize the effect that cognitive dissonance has had on them & the people they’re supposed to be caring for, That’s gotta be like running into a brick wall for some folks.
      Imagine how you’d feel, knowing that you could have been helping = If not for “because it’s the law” they could already be helping Veterans with PTSD & TBI’s.

      Some of whom might be alive if not for the threats to Doctors and their practices/licenses made by a few of the Drug Czars over the years.

      So you have some Doctors with NO CLUE what degree of a *Catch-22* they’d setup (back in 1998 if I’m not mistaken) – specifically to stop any of this from EVER coming to pass… Right after (or around the same time) as DEA Director Lawn over-ruled DEA Judge Young! And just like Dr.Gupta said he/(they) believed the bullshit fed to him about ‘marijuana’ as opposed to ‘cannabis’.

      And looking this up just now (aka last night) I found some details compiled together in a New-ish way = in a Wikipedia page I hadn’t stumbled upon before or maybe – just not recently.
      Removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act

      There’s a bunch more there in the way of details – and it really looks like someone(s) maintaining it rather well _ the mobile version is a bit (lets say) ‘prettier’, the desktop version has the traditional outline that’s IMO it’s often easier to use for links to specific details… you can also read/skim down thru the bulk of the info on the desktop version = in the mobile you have to expand the sections to find stuff.

      Like the history related to Judge Young that most of us know

      On September 6, 1988, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young ruled that cannabis did not meet the legal criteria of a Schedule I prohibited drug and should be reclassified. He declared that cannabis in its natural form is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.

      With a cite note to the version we’ve all read in the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy (aka –
      I think there is a copy of that in dot-matrix printed on “continuous form paper” stuck IN the couch somewhere… or there was I found it in the cushions one day.

      One thing, I didn’t know about = that Administrator Lawn’s decision to over Young went on until 1994!

      I also missed this = Marijuana Considered for Looser Restrictions by U.S. FDA from back in June

      Sorry for the OT rambling, my allergy medicine does that every now & then, Plus my phone-browser ate a chunk of this it got longer in the re-typing process…
      FWIW, I really am enjoying the book review!

  6. darkcycle says:

    If anybody here has missed Mate’s book, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”, it is an essential read. I cannot recommend it too highly. He digs right to the bottom of the problem of addiction, and he confirms my own experiences with addicts personally. The issue is psychic trauma.

  7. claygooding says:

    I am smoking pot to get over the trauma of my government hating me and lying to me about pot use.

  8. kaptinemo says:

    Compassion is anathema to a Social Darwinist. And given that much of the very early drug prohibition legislation was – and still IS – heavily tied philosophically to Social Darwinism and Eugenics (scroll up to Page 12 of the book’s preview to begin) it should come as no surprise that punishment became so Draconian. After all, if the purpose is to ‘cull’ the Human ‘herd’, then the intent was always to destroy addicts, not preserve them.

    More about the kind of mindset that launched the DrugWar can be found here and here.

  9. claygooding says:


    Marijuana Legalization: It’s Time to End Hawaii’s Prohibition

    “”Namely, legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults, or send a ballot measure to voters and let them decide if it’s time for Hawaii to join the growing number of states that are putting an end to America’s modern-day prohibition.””

    The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Eric Pape, Richard Wiens and Chloe Fox. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view.

  10. Windy says:

    OT but important for Washingtonians:

    Rivers calls her bill the “Cannabis Patient Protection Act.”

    It would require medical store owners to get licensed with the state’s Department of Health and all products would have to be tested.

    “We need to make sure our patients are getting what they were promised,” said Rivers.

    Rivers said she is also concerned about marijuana users trying to dodge taxes associated with recreational pot sales at stores licensed under Initiative 502.

    That’s one reason she wants to limit the products available at medical stores to edibles and liquids.

    Her bill would bar medical locations from offering dry pot, the substance commonly smoked by patients and recreational users.

    Sure, the State refused to let experienced growers have licenses and gave them instead to novices, so the pot hitting the rec stores is mediocre and they want to send medical patients who prefer the bud over the edibles, oils, etc. to buy the bud available in rec stores? I think NOT. The news report mentioned a hearing coming up, the written report does not include that info but there needs to be a massive turnout of patients and MMJ growers at that hearing, hubby and I cannot go but I hope lots of people do.

  11. strayan says:

    Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School says Colorado’s new cannabis law will ‘probably not’ lead to more addiction:

  12. jean valjean says:

    Email today from Debbie Wasserman- Schultz seeking donations.
    She asks if I have any concerns:

    “Which issue matters most to you and your family?

    Citizens United and campaign finance
    Minimum wage
    Equal pay
    Financial reform
    Infrastructure development & repair
    Foreign affairs & national security
    LGBT issues & equal rights
    Social Security & Medicare protection
    Climate change & environmental issues
    Education reform
    Something else on your mind? Write it in here”

    When I pointed out that she omits one of the most important policy issue for 2016, namely ending the racist, failed, drug war and tried to send it to her, it would not allow it to go through because there was no donation! This useless right-wing “dem” needs ousting urgently….Florida citizens please take note.

    • DdC says:

      Why Democrats Are Reportedly Turning Their Backs on Debbie Wasserman Schultz

      Sad, but absolutely true. Republican policies are destroying the middle class and selling our government off to the highest bidder. It’s nearly treasonous.

      Totally agree and can’t understand why Democrats support them?

      Why Do Democrats Defend Nixon’s Drug War?
      If You Think Marijuana Isn’t an Important Issue
      Democrats can’t afford to put it on the back burner

    • kaptinemo says:

      She’s whistling past the political graveyard if she thinks this issue will go away. She’s already pissed off a lot of voting Floridians with her intelligence-insulting attempt to justify her stance on cannabis…and was forced to take down the page on her site that illustrated her willful ignorance and intransigence when that anger was expressed.

      The pols are on notice: deal with this issue, or you will wish you had, come Election Day. Grammaw and Grampaw aren’t paying the tax bills, anymore, and the ones who are don’t like paying for what amounts to a taxpayer-funded gun with a random trigger-pulling device held to their heads, all because of their choice of intoxicant.

      Whitebread’s Iron Law of Prohibition, that a substance prohibition is trashed when it affects those not intended to be the law’s targets, is once again showing its immutability…and its teeth. And if the pols don’t get wise soon, they’ll feel those teeth on their political throats.

      Case in point: You might have noticed something. Namely, the LameStream Media outlets aren’t engaging in all the cutesy-poo put-downs of cannabists in their headlines like they used to, anymore. They know which side of the bread the economic butter is on now, and they’re adjusting their attitudes, accordingly.

      Any pol who cannot detect that rather obvious shift is too dumb to sit in that taxpayer-supplied office. A point cannabists will make abundantly clear in the next 2 years.

  13. DdC says:

    At, yes baby, we’ve come a long way…

    Rick Simpson Oil
    Green Dragon Tincture –
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    Take your first step to Recovery

  14. strayan says:

    I think I just discovered the UK’s version of Mark Kleiman – Prof Paul Hayes:

    Edit: Ahahahaha, oh god, he’s even worse:

    “Drug policy is working – why do we prefer to think otherwise?”

  15. Crut says:

    It’s so difficult to listen to her bloviating that I avoided watching this for the few days that I’ve seen this on my feeds, but I finally gave in to the torture:
    Nancy Grace interviews 2 Chainz
    The desperate screams of “what about the children” from her are so extreme, I doubt I can relate to anyone that would take her seriously.

    2 Chainz did a reasonable and calm job defending her ridiculous assertions, but I think he also realized early on that she is a special case of crazy that no level of logic can temper.

    • B. Snow says:

      You’re a braver soul than I…
      I haven’t forced myself to watch it yet, I stopped considering HLN a news-chanel, well over a decade ago.

    • kaptinemo says:

      13K comments in only 48 hours as of 11:44 hours EST…vanishingly few are supportive, as you might imagine.

      Get a good look. The seething, feverish crazy that was always there, roiling beneath the faux surface of smiling rationality, is erupting out of the prohibs. And, predictable as an Eastern sunrise, she plays the ‘The Children!’ card.

      Someone needs to remind her to look at the calendar; we’re well past the 1980’s and 90’s now. ‘The Children!’…have grown and have kids of their own and don’t want their kid’s already tenuous futures trashed by damage caused by the drug laws. Which they know more about than the previous generation that blindly supported prohibition.

      The more they lose, the more wild and crazy they’ll get. We’ve had one more example. Lots more to come…

      • divadab says:

        Who watches this crap? Really – this person is paid big bucks to parade her version of crazy Aunt Nancy over the airwaves – I just shake my head at how stupid and brainwashed you have to be to tolerate her for more than 20 seconds.

        Maybe it’s me – I cancelled my cable years ago and am pretty deprogrammed, I hope – but this stuff is scary bad. Fall of Rome bad. Utter decadence bad. How on earth can we expect reason and justice from people who watch this and think it’s good?

        • kaptinemo says:

          I assure you I only watched the YouTube excerpt. I’m no one’s idea of a masochist. 🙂 Though I am in need of medicating and will do so shortly.

          Nancy Grace is another far-right sort whose regular audience is probably the same sort as BillO’s kind…the kind that like having their bigotries short-stroked and their prejudices validated. The kind that favored drug prohibition because it legally exercised those bigotries and prejudices against races and ethnic groups they didn’t like.

          The kind that are dying off…as is drug prohibition with them.

          Another one of CS Lewis’s moral tormenters:

          ““Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

          Yepper, fits just about every prohib in existence.

        • Duncan20903 says:


          I was going to watch it but my TV screen shattered for no apparent reason the moment that Nancy Grace came on screen and now I have to buy a new TV.

          One of the better parts of Law and Order: Criminal intent was their version of Ms. Grace who they called Faith Yancy. They weren’t nice to her. Not nice at all.

          Faith Yancy is a reporter, and the host of the “Faith Yancy Hour”. Former judge Harold Garrett once described her as a “Botoxed TV shrew”, which would probably be how most would describe her.

          If you take a look at her bio don’t forget that this was just over a decade ago well before it became obvious that she was promoting the Hippopotamus agenda for Big Hippopotami. Don’t trust her my friends because she will eat “the children” if she gets the chance.

          Hey, who the heck knew that hippopotami are rather vicious and sometimes kill people? Can you believe that there are people who promote the hippopotamus agenda and even market it to impressionable children? Remember how the Slate Construction Company used a hippopotamasaurus as a time clock? How about those hungry hungry hippos? They never even tell the children that hippopotami prefer human flesh to marbles.

          I had never before imagined that I would get to use the word hippopotami in a post much less so many times!

    • DdC says:

      2 chains was calm and logical. Totally foreign concepts for Big Mouth Nancy. The only way she can debate is to get louder and cut their mikes when they trump her stupidity with truth and factual references. Nancy Disgrace is one ugly American.

  16. claygooding says:

    On addiction,,we live in a society that has many substance sold that are addictive and harmful to people yet they are legal and sold to people of all ages,,one of the most harmful addictions,sugar, in terms of health care costs and mortality rates and it is in nearly every snackfood and candy bar in the 7-11 yet nobody claims that these substances should be banned,,nooo they advertise 24 hrs a day on TV’s across the land.
    If prohibition is the only way to stop addicts from becoming addicted then we have a lot of shit too add to the CSA.

  17. Will says:


    Holder limits seized-asset sharing process that split billions with local, state police


    • Crut says:

      HO LEE SHE ITE!!

      That is not a piece of the wall, that’s an enormous part of the foundation.

      • Will says:

        “That is not a piece of the wall, that’s an enormous part of the foundation.”

        It sure as hell is. Although chipping away at the wall has had its value, this action is a tectonic shift that weakens the base of the structure. The earth is moving beneath our feet.

  18. sudon't says:

    Or, we could come to the understanding that addiction, in and of itself, is not harmful, nor are opiates.
    It would also be helpful if people understood the difference between addiction and compulsive behavior, or rather, which drugs cause which.

Comments are closed.