Louie Verrecchio
Framing substance abuse within the confines of gay politics
By Louie Verrecchio
February 3, 2015

On January 20th, Huffington Post published an article, The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think, by Johann Hari.

As Mr. Hari tells it, after experiencing firsthand the deleterious effects of drug addiction on individuals and families, he set out on a three year, 30,000 mile journey in search of answers to some very important questions:

How does one become an addict?

Why are so many people apparently unable to overcome their addictions?

And most importantly, how do we as a society help them return to wholeness?

According to Hari, what he discovered was nothing short of amazing, and based upon most of the reactions to his article that I've encountered, many of his readers seem to agree.

I'm not one of those readers; in fact, I'd say that his conclusions are fairly predictable.

Hari begins his article by illustrating the conventional wisdom as it relates to drug addiction:
    Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days. There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That's what addiction means.
In his travels, however, he made discoveries that indicate that this isn't entirely true.

"Almost everything we have been told about addiction is wrong – and there is a very different story waiting for us, if only we are ready to hear it," he writes.

To tell that story, Hari points, among other things, to research involving rats that were offered cocaine.

In one experiment, repeated many times over, a single rat was placed in a cage and provided with two bottles of water; one pure, the other laced with cocaine.

"Almost every time you run this experiment," Hari tells us, "the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself."

Thus reinforced was the notion that chemical hooks are to blame for addiction.

Hari then introduces readers to the work of Bruce Alexander, a psychology professor who tried an alternative experiment.

Alexander introduced a group of rats (as opposed to a single rat) into an environment that he called Rat Park; described by Hari as "a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want."

Rat Park's inhabitants were also given a choice between pure water and cocaine laced water, but in this case, a surprising thing happened.

"The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water," Hari reports. "They mostly shunned it."

What's more, when Dr. Alexander placed rats that by all appearances were helplessly addicted into Rat Park, an amazing thing happened:
    The [addicted] rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them.
Hari then makes Professor Alexander's conclusions his own, "Addiction is an adaptation. It's not you. It's your cage."

Hari argues that chemical hooks are but "a minor part of a much bigger picture" wherein those interested in exploring the causes and cures for drug addiction need look primarily at society itself.

According to Hari, "We will have to change a lot more than the drug war."

"We will have to change ourselves," he says, and that includes our attitude toward the decriminalization of illicit drugs and the people who use them.

So, what makes these conclusions so very predictable?

Johann Hari, as his article plainly indicates, is a political liberal who suffers with same sex attraction.

As such, he arguably brought to the discussion precisely the sort of biases and preconceived notions that all but guaranteed that he would ultimately determine that one's "cage" – a euphemism for both individual families and society at large – shoulders much of the blame and responsibility for the plight of the addict.

You see, from at least 1973 on forward, when the APA (American Psychological Association) officially declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder (a change in class facilitated not by groundbreaking research, but rather by intimidation at the hands of gay activists – see essay by Dr. Jeffrey B. Satinover), practically any mention of the actual causes of, and various maladies associated with, same sex attraction has been strictly verboten in "polite" (read, politically correct) circles.

Those mental health professionals who, placing a premium on authentic compassion, dare to cite any of the well-designed studies that speak to the actual causes of homosexuality (to say nothing of potential treatment protocols) and the increased prevalence of substance abuse; depression, and attempted suicide that come with it, invite personal and professional retribution at the hands of LGBT activists and their politically correct allies in the media, academia and elsewhere.

That's not to say that either Johann Hari, or the LGBT community at large, denies the fact that such maladies are indeed more prevalent among their ranks; on the contrary.

In a recent interview with the British media outlet, Pink News, Hari readily admitted as much; all but suggesting that he brought to his "journey-of-discovery" a predetermined desire for exactly the conclusions he ultimately reached.

According to the interviewer, Nick Duffy, "He [Johann Hari] also says a more radical view of drug addiction helps to explain its prevalence the gay community."

"There's a clear parallel," Hari told Duffy. "Gay people are disproportionately likely to have traumatic childhoods, disproportionately likely to be rejected by their parents."

Consider as well a statement offered by Pride Institute, a treatment center that caters specifically to LGBT patients:
    It is generally held among researchers that GLBT persons are more likely to use alcohol and drugs than the general population and more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, as cited in the Center for Substance Abuse Treatments – A Provider's Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Individuals, (2003). Twenty to twenty-five percent of gay men and lesbians are heavy alcohol users, compared to 3-10% of the heterosexual population, (CSAT, 2003).
As for what accounts for this threefold spike in the prevalence of substance abuse in the LGBT community, you'll never guess where Pride Institute places the blame: society itself!
    What factors contribute to the prevalence of chemical abuse among gays and lesbians, bisexual and transgendered individuals? ... The society in which we live marginalizes the LGBT community. In fact, there is an everpresentness of possible oppression in LGBT people's lives.
The entire "anti-bullying" movement (even if unbeknownst to many a feckless parent) is built upon the same fallacy; namely, that LGBT adolescents are at particularly high risk for depression and suicide, not due to any sort of resident mental disorder in the children themselves; but simply because society as a whole does not embrace their "orientation" and the sexual deviancy that goes along with it quite vigorously enough.

In all cases, LGBT activists are at pains to deny what research plainly indicates; namely, that homosexuality is in fact a psychological disorder in its own right, and the heightened risk of the various maladies that go with it (including substance abuse) is a result of the disorder itself; not the social setting in which the individual lives.

To the extent that Johann Hari embraces this denial, neither his discoveries nor his conclusions are especially surprising; on the contrary, they're exactly what one should expect when the issue of substance abuse is framed within the confines of gay politics.

"For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts ... we should have been singing love songs to them all along," Hari states.

His conclusion, therefore, is that it's time to end to the war on illicit drugs by making their use legal.

Certainly Johann Hari isn't the first person to reach such a conclusion.

In this case, however, his is an especially predictable one, coming as it does from a man who adheres to the tenets of the LGBT movement; the same that has openly declared war on traditional marriage via calls for the legalization of so-called "gay marriage."

In both cases, pressure is exerted upon society at large to embrace, even within its juridical framework, that which is truly harmful to both families and society, while effectively deflecting attention away from the destructive behavior of the individual persons involved.

Much of what Johann Hari presents as evidence in support of his conclusions suggests that something in the drug addict's life makes it difficult for him or her to make healthy connections with other human beings.

He chooses to view this situation, however, almost exclusively through the lens of the "it's not you, it's your cage" theory; with the cage being a metaphor for one's surroundings, either familial or societal.

For example, in support of this notion, Hari calls our attention to hospital patients who are treated over a period of time with diamorphine, a medical-grade version of heroin (the street drug that his ex-boyfriend, to whom we are introduced near the end of the article, is addicted).

Hari points out that when the diamorphine is discontinued, it is rare for these patients to hit the streets in search of heroin upon discharge.

Speaking of a hypothetical patient, he says, "She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different."

This seems plausible until one applies a bit of rational thought, and in many cases, personal experience, to the discussion.

Like me, I suspect that most readers are personally aware of individuals who, in spite of living squarely in the bosom of a family's love (a "good cage," in Hari's parlance), still fell victim to drug addiction.

Many readers also know, as do I, of similarly loved individuals for whom legitimately prescribed pain medication became a stepping stone to substance abuse.

In any event, according to Hari, the addict's family simply needs to suck it up and deal with the manipulating, lying and stealing that is so typical of drug abusers:
    When I looked at the addicts I love, it was always tempting to follow the tough love advice doled out by reality shows like Intervention – tell the addict to shape up, or cut them off. Their message is that an addict who won't stop should be shunned. It's the logic of the drug war, imported into our private lives. But in fact, I learned, that will only deepen their addiction – and you may lose them altogether.
In this, one sees yet another hand-in-glove parallel between Hari's conclusions and the ethos of the LGBT movement, which has long been keen on insisting that parents and other family members overcome their moral / religious aversion to sexual deviancy by welcoming, nay applauding, their gay relatives, their "partners" and their perverse activities under their very own roofs.

All of this said, Johann Hari does write well when he stresses the importance of human connections.

"Human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections," he states. "It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can."

He also does well to encourage clinical treatment for drug addicts designed to help them form bonds with other people and the broader society by helping them "reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma."

Therein lies a thread of truth that committed LGBT activists dare not follow; leading them instead to embrace a sort of "have your cake and eat it too" proposition.

You see, on the one hand, Hari's article proposes a cause-and-effect progression wherein trauma leads to difficulty in forming healthy human relationships, which leads to substance abuse, which calls for clinical treatment.

Fair enough.

On the other hand, however, his biases preclude him from recognizing a similar progression – the same confirmed by research – wherein trauma leads to difficulty in forming healthy human relationships, which leads to homosexuality, which often includes by no small coincidence an increase in the prevalence of substance abuse, all of which calls for clinical treatment.

Recall that Johann Hari himself, in his interview with Pink News, plainly acknowledges the link between trauma in one's formative years and homosexuality, saying, "Gay people are disproportionately likely to have traumatic childhoods;" one of the many LGBT elephants in the room that just won't go away.

All in all, Johann Hari's article (and presumably the book that it's promoting) contains some interesting observations and points worthy of consideration, but it also includes some specious reasoning that is reflective of the writer's biases, with its conclusions as questionable as they are predictable.

© Louie Verrecchio


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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