New CCPA study says addiction not just a drug problem, and solutions must address economic globalization

April 30, 2001

(Vancouver) A new study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says that the current debate about addiction is incomplete. Public debate about addiction prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement focuses only on drug addiction, without addressing the root causes of addiction.

Bruce Alexander, author of the study and a professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University, says that all forms of addiction are on the rise in Canada, not just drug addiction.

"We talk about addiction in terms of drug use, but it really means any harmful and compulsive behaviour that a person adopts as a substitute for healthy emotional and spiritual ties. Both drug and non-drug addiction are increasing ever more rapidly."

The study, called "The Roots of Addiction in Free Market Society," says that the precursor for addiction is what Alexander calls "dislocation."

"People become addicted to harmful substances or behaviours when they are dislocated from the many intimate ties between people and groups--from the family to the spiritual community--that are essential for every person in every type of society," says Alexander. He argues that free markets produce widespread dislocation, and that as free market globalization speeds up, so does the spread of dislocation and addiction.

"Free markets disrupt the healthy integration that society has built," says Alexander, "since traditional aspects of social integration such as community responsibilities, guild or union rights, charity, family obligations, social roles or religious values cannot get in the way of the 'free' market."

Alexander says that attempts to treat or prevent addiction that don't adequately address the connection between free markets, dislocation and addiction, and therefore will not stop the rapid rise of addiction.

"Clearly we need humane approaches to addiction that involve more than law enforcement. But what we also need is to begin a realistic discussion of addiction that recognizes that society, as well as individuals, must change. We need to move away from policies that undermine our ability to care for one another, and build sustainable, healthy communities."

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