A June 2015 TED talk by British journalist Johann Hari has been posted online.
Hari is the author of a book published earlier this year called Chasing the Scream. It’s an excellent work about prohibition and the war on drugs that I coincidentally finished reading just last night.
Through fascinating character-driven narratives, Hari builds a compelling case that explains how the war on drugs and the persecution of addicts is more harmful than the drugs themselves.
The TED talk is titled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”.
Hari spends much of it covering the work of Bruce Alexander, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University. Alexander has published ground-breaking works that challenge widely accepted theories related to chemical addictions.
In that video, Hari also mentions the work of Dr. Gabor Maté, a Vancouver physician who spent more than a decade treating addicts in the Downtown Eastside.
Hari ends his TED talk with a request for people to rethink how they try and help a friend or family member who is struggling with addiction. He argues that confrontational interventions are counter-intuitive and likely to backfire (for more on that debate, see my June 2014 review of David Sheff's Clean). Instead, Hari says, people should strive to strengthen their relationship with that person in ways that avoids provocation.
“The core of that message—you’re not alone, we love you—has to be at every level of how we respond to addicts socially, politically, and individually,” he continues. “For a hundred years now, we’ve been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along, we should have been singing love songs to them. Because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.”