Johann Hari’s recent TED talk has proved incredibly popular in that he sees the true cause of addiction being related to social deprivation and emotional isolation. I think he’s missing the point.
Instead, I would argue that Hari’s solution is a critical way to reduce drug use and all the associated issues but it doesn’t get to the root of true addiction. I believe the fundamental difference boils down to the fact that there are users, abusers and addicts. The first two can use the drug and, in the right circumstances are able to give it up. True addicts (with a particular mutated gene profile) could live in the most loving, financially secure environment but still be unable to give up the drug. I count myself in the latter category. When I started using my drug of choice I was in a secure, middle-class and loving home. For me and other true addicts, we can’t just give the substance up without a programme. The Portugal example is fantastic and I do hope it’s replicated everywhere. For the fewer but still significant number of true addicts, we need to continue to understand the bio-genetics of the disease so that better and more effective provision is made available for those who are truly powerless.