‘Ah,’ [said Professor Alexander] ‘we're putting the rat in an empty cage. It's got nothing to do except use these drugs. Let's try something different.’ So Professor Alexander built a cage that he called ‘Rat Park’, which is basically heaven for rats. They've got loads of cheese, they've got loads of coloured balls, they've got loads of tunnels. Crucially, they've got loads of friends. They can have loads of sex.
In Rat Park, they don't like the drug water. They almost never use it. None of them ever use it compulsively. None of them ever overdose. You go from almost 100 percent overdose when they're isolated to zero percent overdose when they have happy and connected lives.
In Vietnam, 20 percent of all American troops were using loads of heroin, and if you look at the news reports from the time, they were really worried, because they thought, my God, we're going to have hundreds of thousands of junkies on the streets of the United States when the war ends. It made total sense. Now, those soldiers who were using loads of heroin were followed home. The Archives of General Psychiatry did a really detailed study, and what happened to them? It turns out they didn't go to rehab. They didn't go into withdrawal. Ninety-five percent of them just stopped.
Peter Cohen in the Netherlands said maybe we shouldn't even call it addiction. Maybe we should call it bonding. Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we're happy and healthy, we'll bond and connect with each other, but if you can't do that, because you're traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief. Now, that might be gambling, that might be pornography, that might be cocaine, that might be cannabis, but you will bond and connect with something because that's our nature. That's what we want as human beings.
…looked at the number of close friends the average American believes they can call on in a crisis. That number has been declining steadily since the 1950s. The amount of floor space an individual has in their home has been steadily increasing, and I think that's like a metaphor for the choice we've made as a culture. We've traded floorspace for friends, we've traded stuff for connections, and the result is we are one of the loneliest societies there has ever been.
Those that spend hours a day moving, meditating, and contemplating will tell you that it doesn’t take time, it creates it, because they’re now able to easily and happily ignore all the distracting, de-energising crap that blinds other people into believing they don’t have time for anything else.