Russell Brand says mental state drove his heroin addiction

March 13, 2014

The causes of addiction are so varied from person to person and so difficult for even drug rehab programs to identify that many suffering from drug addiction have a hard time recognizing that there is even a problem in the first place. While certain genetic and physical traits certainly factor into substance abuse, a deteriorating mental state can often be the final push towards losing yourself to a drug.

Escapism at its worst
A lack of personal gratification is exactly what turned British comedian Russell Brand on to a long struggle with drugs. CTV News reported that during a speech to a group of students at Cambridge University, Brand admitted that while there were a dozen other factors that led to his decade-long battle with heroin addiction and alcohol abuse, his substance abuse began when he stopped feeling like himself.

“When I took drugs I felt lonely, alienated and disconnected,” Brand said. “I felt that this culture isn’t serving me. It was a personal problem – I couldn’t cope with being alive, I needed to take drugs.”

After taking part in recovery programs, Brand has been sober since 2003. When asked about his recovery, Brand answered in trademark style.

“My mother’s life is better now,” he quipped.

Addiction as avoidance

Brand’s story about his mental state contributing to his addiction is not unexpected. New research, like this 2013 study from Rutgers University, indicates that drug addiction may not stem from a repeated chase after the high of heroin or bump of cocaine, but rather the need to avoid the emotional crash that comes after a hit.

Professor Mark West lead the study, which found rather than a sustained period of manic activity and positive feelings after the first dose of cocaine, laboratory rats take successively larger quantities of the drug to keep negative feelings at bay.

“Our results suggest that once the animals started a binge, they may have felt trapped and didn’t like it,” said West. “This showed us that negative emotions play an equal, if not more important role in regulating cocaine abuse.”

Brand’s experience and the Rutgers study shows that the prevailing opinion of drug addicts as “junkies” may be patently false. Drug addiction is a multi-factorial disease that’s causes are frustratingly difficult to pin down. Anyone struggling with a substance abuse problem faces a difficult climb toward sobriety alone, but seeking help just make a difference.

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