If you were the life of the party or the wallflower, you hear a common tale when you make it to the rooms of recovery support meetings or a treatment facility: you felt alone. In a room full of people, in conversations, while physically touching someone- you felt alone. Loneliness plays a severe role in alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. Coping with loneliness is a reason why many people drink and use drugs. Alcohol and drugs become friends- consistent friends who never leave, never say harmful things, and always know how to help. Unfortunately, being a lonely addict or alcoholic feels equally as lonely as before substance abuse.
Rat Park Experiment
One experiment called commonly referred to as Rat Park discovered that isolated rats who lived a lonely and boring life were more likely to abuse drugs (cocaine infused water) until they died than others. Famously, the neuroscience of addiction model was discovered through studying rats in a cage. Rats had access to normal water and water with cocaine. Overwhelmingly, the rats became addicted to the cocaine water, even when they had to step on an electrical shock to receive it. Later on, “rat park” was built. Full of physical activities, open space, and other rats (with whom they could mate) the park still had two options: cocaine or regular water. The rats chose the regular water. While some rats continued to choose the cocaine water, they did not seek it out as aggressively as the isolated rats. Sobriety, many scientists argued, is not the opposite of addiction. Instead, they assert, connection is.
Loneliness Triggers Body
Back in 2015, researchers discovered that “loneliness actually triggers physical responses in the body which make people sick,” reported The Telegraph. Loneliness triggers the “fight or flight” stress response in the body which, in addition to releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, affects the production of white blood cells. As well, it increases inflammation while reducing immunity. “Essentially,” the article writes, “lonely people had a less effective immune response and more inflammation than non-lonely people. They feel socially threatened which has an enormous impact on health.”
Recovery is an opportunity to connect with people who have similar experiences. Through treatment, people often find solidarity with their peers as everyone is struggling. If you are struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, know that you are not alone. We are here to help. Call Sound Recovery Solutions today for information on how we can help you recover, 561-666-7427.