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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Chasing the Scream

Chasing the Scream was one of the most inspiring books that I have ever read in my life. This book taught me the true meaning of what addiction really is. The opposite of addiction is connection; therefore, addiction equals disconnection (Hari). Disconnection from life, society, love, purpose, or meaning. The greatest contributors to addiction are trauma and isolation (Hari). When someone has endured a very traumatic experience, they feel that the only way to forget about the trauma is to get out of their head. People deal with these traumas in different ways, but many turn to drugs or alcohol to help numb their pain. Humans are also very social beings, so when people feel isolated from the world, they may also turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope with feeling so alone. The most important thing that I learned from this book is that addiction must be treated with compassion and understanding, and not by punishment.

One of the most interesting things that I found about this book was a chapter discussing a drug addiction experiment on rats. You may have heard about an experiment done on rats during the 50’s and 60’s where the rats were given a bottle of water laced with drugs and another bottle filled with plain water (Hari). In this experiment, the rats would continue to drink from the drug laced water until they eventually overdosed and died. Scientist tried to explain this by saying that the drugs were so powerful and addictive that once any rat (or person) started using them, they would lose control of their lives and eventually succumb to overdose (Hari). They tried to explain addiction by how the brain reacts to the chemicals inside of the drugs, but this is only a small part of the story. In the late 1970’s, a professor named Bruce Alexander did his own form of rat experiment by building a rat sanctuary filled with toys, delicious food, and most importantly, many other rats to socialize and mate with (Hari). He called this place “Rat Park.” This enclosure also included two drinking bottles, one filled with plain water and the other laced with drugs (Hari). They made a very interesting discovery that when the rats have plenty of things to do and other rats to socialize with, the rats that lived in cages consumed twenty times more drug laced water than the rats that lived in “Rat Park” (Hari). They even tried to force rats to become addicted to the drugs by giving them nothing but drug water for weeks, but as soon as these rats were placed into “Rat Park,” the rats gave up the drugs (Hari). This experiment goes to show that when someone feels they have no purpose in their lives, they are much more likely to develop an addiction than someone who lives a happy fulfilling life.

The author of this book, Johann Hari, travelled all over the world to see how the war on drugs has negatively impacted the lives of so many people across many different nations. On his journey to learn more about the war on drugs and addiction, Johann travelled to many different countries including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, Uruguay, and Vietnam (Hari). In his book he talks about a man named Harry Anslinger who was the leading person to push the war on drugs within the United States (Hari). Harry was a racist man who wanted to keep Black and Hispanic people down by pushing the illegalization of drugs (Hari). He warned Americans about the “Mexicans coming to the US and bringing their ‘loco weed” (Hari). Before long, Harry’s war on drugs had swept across the nation and was later forced on many other country’s governments (Hari). This war on drugs has cost the lives of millions of people all around the world for almost one hundred years. It is time that Harry’s war on drugs comes to an end.

The most important thing that I learned from reading this book is that punishing drug users does nothing to help cure their addiction, and actually pushes the users much deeper into their drug use habits (Hari). The best way to help an addict is to show them love and compassion. Like the rats in “Rat Park,” when people feel purpose in their own lives, they will choose to be present and will eventually walk away from the drugs on their own terms. In order to cure the addiction, we must first cure the connection within their lives. When addicts are thrown into jail cells, and are given a record when they get out, they have a more difficult time securing jobs and end up falling deeper into their feelings of isolation and depression (Hari). The only way they have ever been able to numb the pain of life is to turn to drugs, and they will continue down this cycle if we do not do something to break it. That is why we must end this war on drugs and to get addicts the help that they truly need.









Works Cited

Hari, Johann. “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.” Bloomsbury, 2019.


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