Stress, trauma and addiction: the role of society

410dgJSNaQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_“Addicts are locked into their addiction not only by their painful past and distressing present but equally by their bleak view of the future as well. They cannot envision the real possibility of sobriety, of a life governed by values rather than by immediate survival needs and by desperation to escape physical and mental suffering.

They are unable to develop compassion to wards themselves and their bodies while they are regarded as outcasts, hunted as enemies, and treated like human refuse.

As we have seen, a major factor in addiction that medical and social policies must take into account is stress. If we want to support people’s potential for healthy transformation, we must cease to impose debilitating stress on their already-burdened existence.

Recall that uncertainty, isolation, loss of control, and conflict are the major triggers for stress and that stress is the most predictable factor in maintaining addiction and triggering relapse. They are precisely the conditions that the demonization of addiction and the War of Drugs (deliberately!) impose on hard-core substance users.

I have quoted a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that showed that a history of childhood abuse increases physiological stress reactivity for a lifetime, a reactivity that is “further enhanced when additional trauma is experienced in adulthood.”

The addict is retraumatised over and over again by ostracism, harassment, dire poverty, the spread of disease, the frantic hunt for the source of the substance of dependence, the violence of the underground world, and the harsh chastisement at the hands of the law – all inevitable consequences of the War on Drugs.”

Gabor Mate, in The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, pp. 318.

Check out Gabor Mate’s TEDx’s talk.