—Systemic change begins with personal change—

759: Bruce Alexander, part 1: Rat Park, Addiction, and Sustainability


I start by describing how podcast guest Carl Erik Fisher, author of bestseller The Urge, reviewed my upcoming book Sustainability Simplified as a subject matter expert on addiction. Carl mentioned how my book suffered from what Bruce describes as the demon drug myth. He pointed to Bruce's work as seminal, so I started reading it. I'd heard of Rat Park and later remembered Johan Hari mentioning Bruce in his TED talk where he said "the opposite of addiction is community". I couldn't wait to talk to Bruce. Carl introduced us. We spoke. Bruce clarified the demon drug myth. I described how addiction and doof figure in my sustainability leadership work. In our conversation, Bruce described how working with self-described junkies in the early 1950s led him to reinterpret the common wisdom "proved" by experiments that some chemicals addicted people, end of story. He then described how he created Rat Park, which showed a lot more nuance and alternative explanations. You can read about Rat Park on Bruce's page or this comic book version, but his description in our conversation is engaging and thorough. Then he shares how people continue to stick with the old view of addiction and drugs. It's easy. It takes parents and others off the hook. He describes new views of addiction. You won't see addiction the same after. If you want to stop polluting and depleting yourself and help people you know and communities you are a member of, this conversation will change how you view it forever. You'll approach it with more understanding, empathy, and compassion.

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