Addiction: Everything We Know Is Wrong! (EXCERPT with Conor Ryan, Eyes Wide Open Podcast)

Uploaded 1/25/2024, approx. 14 minute read

I guess the counter-argument would be to look at all the work that's done with addiction services to help people.

Now we know that a lot of people with support can come out of addiction, whether it's fentanyl, whether it's the really serious stuff, the opiates, alcohol.

But without support and without help and without that clinical intervention, it's exceedingly more difficult.

Recidivism in rehab, and I've spent 10 years in rehab centers, the rate of recidivism within one year is 81%.

That means you go through rehab and you have an 81% chance to go back on your drug of choice, alcohol, whatever.

And that's one year, and we measure only one year, recidivism only in one year. And you know why?

Because if we were to measure five years, the rate would be almost 100%.

So rehab centers are the greatest conceivable scam, the greatest conceivable scam.

And they combine talk therapy with medication, with, you know, they have all the trappings of a science.

There is no treatment in medicine, none that is support. None, and that includes cancer.

The only comparable thing is pancreatic and liver cancer.

So if you were looking for a model, an interventionist model, to help from your perspective, where would you start then?

If you're saying that rehab centers don't work?

Rehab centers don't work, that's a fact.

So how would you, where would you start by offering some help and some treatments to say people that are in the grips of severe addiction?

Right? Are you saying no intervention and no rehab centers, no clinical?

Definitely intervention.

You should provide them with clean needles, you should provide them with drug substitutes, you should provide them with kits for overdose against, to counter overdoses.

Of course you should intervene.

Well that's the more, that intervention is more supporting and enabling as opposed to...

It's preventing the adverse outcomes of drug addiction, overdoses for example, because there's nothing you can do about it.

And anyone who tells you that there is something you can do about drug addiction is lying to you through his teeth. It's a lie. It's not even a myth, it's a straightforward lie. You don't have to trust me. Once this program is over, go online. Check recidivism rates for rehabs.

Yeah, I have looked at this anecdotally, I don't have the stats in front of me. What I heard that recidivism in the first year was 90%, was higher than 81%.

Actually it's 81%. But 81, I mean for all substance abuse disorders. It's true that alcoholism for example is 80% and some other types of drugs are close to 100%.

So when you average them it's about 81%. 81 is bad. 81 is seriously bad.

This is the remission rate in pancreatic and liver cancer, which are the two deadliest forms of cancer and have no cure. This is seriously bad. We don't know what is addiction. We have heard the nonsensical hypothesis of addictive personality which has now been luckily finally discarded. We don't have a clue what is an addiction. We know of course that addiction changes. Biochemical reactions in the brain, pathways, creates new pathways and we know. We have fMRI, we have nice toys, we like to play with these toys. They're very colorful, you know. And they impress the laymen. It's good that they impress the laymen because laymen pay taxes and then you can get grants and you can live the rest of your life off the grants. This is the way science works, so-called science works.

But the truth is we have no idea what is addiction.

Actually a few years ago when I was still involved with the right side of drugs and alcohol, I mean in the rehab side, I suggested in a series of peer-reviewed articles, I suggested that addiction is actually a positive thing.

And the reason I suggested it is because about one third of the brain is geared to tackle addictions. It's as if we have a machine here that is built to generate addictions and then to manage them.

Now why, from the point of view of evolution, why would we end up with a brain whose possibly main task is addiction?

Like the addiction areas in the brain, for example the dopaminergic pathways, the addiction areas are about 10 times larger than the areas that deal with language. Broca's, Orga and so on. If you put all the areas that deal with language, they are 10% of the areas that deal with addiction.


If addiction was a bad thing, a horrible thing and so on, why would our brain, why do we have receptors? Why do we have receptors for cannabinoids and endorphins?


So I suggested that actually addiction is a positive thing, not a negative thing. It's something involved in learning, in attachment, in bonding. Love is a form of addiction, clearly.

There is definitely an addictive process between newborn and mother.

And now I'm talking biology, not psychology. There's no psychology in this age.

So it seems that addiction predisposes us to social connections on the one hand, getting attached and bonded not only to human beings but also to objects or whatever.

And then of course some people are going to misuse it. Of course some people are going to abuse this mechanism.

As some people abuse reading, they read too much. Some people abuse binge watching. Yeah, well I guess some pastimes are constructive, some are not.

If you were to add up all of the potential addictions that people suffer from, so you have food, sex, you've got all of the negative stuff, drugs, alcohol, porn. You could be looking at over 85-90% of the general population, at least in Western society.

I mean you could even be getting close to 100. Everybody has something.

So I take your point, right? I take your point that there does seem to be some kind of biological wiring in there that predisposes us to pursue, maybe in an obsessive compulsive way, but then you could argue that that gives us the human drive to, is related to the human drive to achieve.

Like how would you get a man on the moon if somebody was in a sense? Why would you get a man on the moon?

That's precisely the issue. Not how, but why.

It's precisely the issue. I agree with you fully.

Today maybe 100% of population are addicted one way or another. Some addictions are more benign. But overall I agree.

Why? Because we have created a civilization that encourages addictions.

So environment is at the core of addiction. We incentivize, we have a set of incentives that encourages addiction. For example, consumerism. Food. What we put into food additives and food, I mean that's a whole podcast by itself. Social media, consumerism, these are all forms of addiction.

So it seems that we have chosen addiction as the main mode of existence, as an existential mode. It doesn't mean that addiction is bad. It means that collectively we are making bad use of it.


Can we define addiction by saying that addiction only really becomes addiction when it's outside of our control? When what we're doing is we are not in control of the pastime.

Yes, and it's not a bad thing. And it's not necessarily a bad thing. For example, I don't think a baby is in control of his addiction to his mother. And vice versa, by the way, it's a mutual identity. I don't think it's a bad thing at all. In itself, it's not a bad thing.

Of course, if you make it an organizing principle of life, and also a principle that imbues life with meaning, makes sense of life.

Because the junky, you know, I've worked with junkies, the addiction provides him with an agenda, a timetable, a goal, it becomes his Bible, it becomes his own data.

And addiction helps him to socialize.

Addiction has massive social dimensions. And addiction, of course, has psychological components. And of course, in due time, it affects the brain, it's very difficult to reverse, and so on and so forth.

So addiction is a complex, such a complex phenomenon, that to reduce it to a sentence like, we can treat it, I think is counterproductive and counterfactual. I don't think we have a clue what is addiction. And we're beginning. In 100 years time, we make it.

Right now, we don't.

I suspect environment, we will discover over time that environment and people's personal lives play a greater part in the behavior than we would have.

It's like the famous study of the American GIs coming back from Vietnam. You know about this study, right? A lot of them are using opioids on a daily basis. They get out of the environment, they come back to the United States. And over 85% of them just stopped using clearly an environmental impact. But that's what I just said. I said we've constructed a civilization that incentivizes rewards, positively reinforces, if you want to use a concept from behaviorism, positive reinforces addiction.

Addiction is cued by the environment. Addiction is a response to signaling. And when you get the right set of rewards and positive reinforcements, then you choose.

It's a choice. You choose to be how do I know that addiction is a choice? Because I have seen the most god awful addictsgive it up in a day, literally. Literally, if this were really a brain disease, if this were really something biological and neurological and so on, you could not give it up in a day.

Addiction is absolutely a choice.

From 10 years of exposure to this field, I absolutely convinced this choice.

However, of course, it's a choice that has impacts on the brain.

But it's a choice that is, I agree with you, fully environmentally cued. It's a reaction to the environment.

If you live in Saudi Arabia, you're extremely unlikely to become an alcoholic. Of course, everyone you could drink in secret and end up being decapitated or something. But you're very unlikely to become an alcoholic, because you're not exposed to alcohol bottles. You're not exposed to visuals. You're not exposed to advertising. You're not exposed to bars.

Clearly, the environment conditions you to not be an alcoholic, exactly as it conditions you to be an alcoholic.

Same goes with sex addiction, for example. Same goes. I think all addictions are...

Pornography is a particularly pernicious one, because it's ubiquitous. It's everywhere.

Pornography is particularly pernicious one, because of the damage it's going to have on pair bonding relationships.

Here, there's a bit of a problem with the science. We still don't have studies that conclusively demonstrate that there is addiction to pornography. So, while I understand what you're saying, and I have come across people who can't stop, which is a test of addiction. We really want to stop and we can't stop. I've come across such people. I've come even across people who damaged their genitalia, masturbating and so on.

So, probably it is an addiction. I'm not disputing this, but at this stage, there's no foundation. There's no scientific foundation. There are no studies that corroborate.

What is clear, and there, of course, there are studies by Zimbardo and many others. What is clear is that pornography shapes the way people who are exposed to pornography regard sex, sexuality, sexual interactions, sexual orientations, permissible and impermissible acts in sex, etc.

So, shapes what we call sexual scripts.

Until the 1950s and 1960s, sexual scripts were handed down from one generation to the next. A sexual script tells you how to flirt, what is allowed in sex, and what is not allowed in sex, what constitutes coercion and rape and what doesn't, how to interact with the other party and so on.

So, this is known as a sexual script.

Today, sexual script is determined by peers, peers and pornography, the two peers and pornography.

Peers derive their scripts from pornography, so ultimately pornography.

Today, when young people go to a room to have a one-night stand, they reenact pornographic acts.

So, that's why, for example, choking. Choking has been described in well over 80 percent of one-night stands under the age of 25. Similarly, anal sex is now more predominant than vaginal sex. In one-night stands in heterosexual things, couples among age group under 25.

Why? Because anal sex and choking, these are porn tropes. These are, you know, see them on pornhub.

And of course, the objectification of the woman, and to some extent dehumanization of the woman, about 10 percent of women report having had an orgasm in a one-night stand compared to 53 percent of men. So, it's like the man is using the woman's body to masturbate with. And so, all this is pornography.

Let me ask you kind of a legislative question.

Just one thing which I think would interest your viewers. The problem with pornography is this.

The human brain cannot tell the difference between three-dimensional flesh and blood visuals and two-dimensional visuals on the screen. That's a fact. The brain cannot tell the difference.

So, when the brain is exposed to two-dimensional pictures, moving pictures on the screen, the brain has had sex. The brain believes that it has had sex. It's not taking in the physical sense of the touch, the third dimension. It's not incorporating that? Not really.

And that's why men, for example, are the main consumers of pornography. And also, men are titillated and aroused by visuals, while women are titillated and aroused by text.

Story, narratives, text, and so on.

So, if you say to a woman something nice, if you're nice to her, if you have a way with words, if you're eloquent, you're much more likely to get in her pants, sorry for the expression, than if you're a hunk. But a man would be attracted to a looker.

Yes, to a good-looking woman.

Let me ask, this might be outside your agreement, but from a philosophical, legislative point of view, if you were asked, should we ban hardcore pornography, not just for under-18s?

Dr. Richard Hogan, one of my former guests, is launching a campaign to suppress the proliferation of pornography for under-18s. And I was thinking about it, just banning it wholesale. What would your perspective be? Would it create a black market?

Would you go, "Yes, listen, this offers no value to society whatsoever. Let's just get rid of it completely."

The problem is that there's no sex education. The only sex education available is through pornography. In the United States, for example, there's no sex education. And whatever sex education there is, it's redeeming, it doesn't tackle problems that young people face.

So they use pornography as a teaching moment, an instrument.

So you think improved sex education would offset the damage, the societal damage by pornography?

Unboundaried sex education. Sex education, we're allowed to talk about anything and everything, and you're going to get authoritative answers from non-blushing adults. People need to grow up.

So it's, while maybe ethically and so on, it's a good idea, but it won't work.

People consume pornography illegally. Like they do today on the dark web.

You have types of pornography that you can consume only on the dark web. Snuff pictures, for example. Not real, they're simulated, but never mind. Snuff pictures only on the dark web. You can't see. Real incest. Forget what you get via Google. That's not real incest.

But you do have real incest pornography on the dark web in real time. You have on the dark web.

They are prescribed. They're illegal. You could go the rest of your life to prison for some of these things. And yet they're available.

What's a dark web? You have a tour browser in the dark web?

So there's no intervention really that we could make that would stop somebody who's, it would stop people who are less determined, if you like. You can't stop people who are wholeheartedly determined to get access to that kind of stuff, but you would stop people inadvertently falling into it.

That's a short clip from episode 33 with Professor Sam Vachnin. For the full episode, click somewhere round about down here and for the subscribe button, it should be somewhere over here.

A big shout out to everybody that has subscribed so far. I appreciate each and every one of you. Here's to fantastic, prosperous, successful, healthy, and fun-filled 2024. I've got some really interesting guests lined up, people I think you'll be interested in hearing from. I certainly know I'll be interested in talking to.

So here's to 2024 everybody. Thank you so much.

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