CSU One Health Institute event teaches about addiction unrelated to drugs, alcohol

Joe Manely

The Director of the One Health Institute, Dr. Bruno Sobral, gave a presentation aimed at society’s view and understanding of addiction Monday in Rockwell Hall West.

The event, titled “Consumption as Addiction,” focused on addictions that do not involve drugs or alcohol. Although the presentation still borrowed heavily from studies on the treatment and viewpoints around drug addiction, it argued that addiction can come in many forms and is in no way exclusive to drugs.

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Sobral opened by exploring “conventional wisdom” on addiction, showing how people tend to blame individuals for becoming addicts and that they must be “restored to normalcy.” Additionally, drug and alcohol abuse are seen as the “prototypical” addictions. The conventional wisdom on treatment states that addiction can be overcome by professional treatment or “moral reformation.”

Sobral then moved on to looking at the views of Bruce K. Alexander, a psychologist who studied the psychology of addiction. He was among the first to label addiction as a societal problem rather than an individual one, and he did not share the assumption that drug addiction is prototypical. His conclusions serve as the basis for the “dislocation theory of addiction.”

Sobral examined Vancouver’s “Four Pillars Drug Strategy” as an example of how society handles the problem of addiction. The four pillars are treatment of drug addicts, prevention of drug use, enforcement of drug laws and reduction of harm for drug users.

Sobral said the four pillars only focused on illicit drugs and lacked a clear analysis of root causes.

He also said that the system is based on the belief that addiction is best controlled by differing programs, even if they conflict each other in principle.

Sobral applied Alexander’s dislocation theory to the city’s problem, claiming that Vancouver’s main demographics became heavily dislocated over time, such as the Aboriginal people who were forced to move off their land, the Asian population who were heavily discriminated against during World War II and how even White people became isolated from society.

The word “addiction” has shifted its definition heavily over time, according to Sobral, who argued that this is part of the problem. He displayed an older definition of the word from an previous edition of the Oxford English Dictionary: “the state of being (self-) addicted or given to a habit or pursuit; devotion.” He specifically pointed out that this definition has no mention of drugs or any substances whatsoever, something that has changed in modern definition of addiction.

Sobral explained how recent research suggests that addictions that do not involve drugs have the same underlying neurochemistry as drug addictions. As part of the dislocation theory, he discussed that psychosocial integration reconciles people’s vital needs for social belonging with their equally vital needs for individual autonomy and achievement.

Sobral ended the presentation by expressing how computer technology and free market societies create dislocation. He talked about how the marketing business studies the neuroscience of addiction and how they try to turn consumers into addicts.

Sobral said, “I think the changing viewpoint of addiction would help us start get at the root causes and change the things we do that lead to large-scale addiction.”

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Collegian reporter Joe Manely can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @joemanely.