Why Addiction Happens

In quoting Gabor Mate from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: ‘the infant brain, in particular the all important orbitofrontal cortex, require healthy emotional input from the parenting adults. Infants read, react to the parents. They are affected by body language: tension in the arms that hold them, tone of voice, joyful or despondent facial expressions and yes, the size of the pupils. In a very real sense, the parent’s brain programs the infant’s and this is why stressed parents will often rear children whose stress apparatus also runs in the high gear, no matter how much they love their child and no matter that they strive to do their best’.

‘To begin to grasp the matter, all we need to do is picture a child who was never smiled at, never spoken to in a warm and loving way, never touched gently, never played with. Then we can ask ourselves: What sort of a person do we envision such a child becoming?’

‘The three environmental conditions absolutely essential to optimal human brain development are nutrition, physical security and consistent emotional nurturing’. ‘Human connections create neuronal connections’, ‘this is particularly so for the brain systems involved in addiction. The child needs to be in an attachment relationship with at least one reliably available, protective, psychologically present and reasonably non-stressed adult.’

‘Should the parent not respond, or not respond adequately, endorphins won’t be released, and the child will be left to his own inadequate coping mechanisms – for example, rocking or thumb-sucking as ways of self-soothing or tuning out (ADHD) to escape his distress. Children who have not received the attentive presence of the parent are, as we will see, at greater risk for seeking chemical satisfaction from external sources later in life.’

‘The very essence of the opiate high was expressed by a twenty-seven-year-old sex trade worker. She had HIV and has since died. “The first time I did heroin” she said to me, “it felt like a warm soft hug.” In that phrase she told her life story and summed up the psychological and chemical cravings of all substance-dependent addicts.’

Can you really expect to take away someone’s ‘warm soft hug’? How about we deal with, Why the Addiction? Why the pain?

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