Research shows that isolation and loneliness have a distinct effect on drug addiction and alcoholism, the results of which may shed an important light on the importance of companionship in navigating through one’s life. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, sought to determine how social exclusion might affect the likeliness of addiction in rats in a controlled setting. As part of the experiment, a group of rats were isolated from their peers for about a month after reaching 21 days of age. Results showed that the rats kept in isolation were much more likely to develop an attachment to amphetamine or alcohol than those counterparts that were kept as part of a group. Of particular significance is the fact that the rats developed their addiction at an adolescent period in their lives, suggesting substance abuse and dependence become very real dangers at the most vulnerable of times.

Breaking the Cycle of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

While the rats in the control group, if given enough amphetamine and alcohol, still showed signs of drug and alcohol addiction, the isolated rats were much quicker to grow dependent on the “reward.” This alludes to a very profound truth that pervades addiction rehab and that should influence our dealings with one another in all facets of life: community is paramount. Though we are all appreciative of those stolen moments where we can be alone with our thoughts, we are all inextricably linked. Our actions, thoughts, and words affect those of our neighbors. In rehab, this means that our families, our friends, our brothers and sisters in treatment, our sponsors, and our counselors all play a role in reminding us of our worth and in assuring us of our place in society. And, in life, these findings suggest that we should strive to be better fathers, better mothers, better peers, and better coworkers. They suggest that the children in our care, the spouses in our homes, and the strangers with whom we might share a few fleeting moments along a sidewalk are all affected by how we treat them.

Addiction rehab teaches us that, through fellowship, we can break the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction. We’re here to tell you that the cycle can be broken long before treatment is ever need. The power to touch lives and express to those around us that they will never be alone rests squarely on our shoulders. The next time we’re confronted with turning a blind eye or lending a helping hand, we should all take a moment to remember that.