Now you may wonder why addicts become ongoing drug users. Most people say it’s due to genetics, however it is a direct result of the environmental nurturing they go through. The genetics debate is often used because it is a way of saying we are all “innocent” and society does not need to closely monitor and examine its own social attitudes, perceptions and welfare policies. Research has clearly shown that the biggest driver of addictive relapse and addictive behaviour is stress, which in turn drives increased addiction. This happens because every human being is looking for endorphins in our brains which are the chemicals of reward, pleasure, feeling good, and pain relief. These are the love chemicals that connect us to the universe and to one another. This sets us up for the brain biology of addiction which is both psychological (emotional pain and relief) and also neurobiological development (our early childhood development and adversity).

This circuitry of chemicals does not function well in addicts therefore they need to find other ways to enhance dopamine levels in the brain, which is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate emotion. For that reason, to achieve this desired state, some people engage in stimulant drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, nicotine and caffeine, sexual action, extreme sports, and workaholism which help to normalize these levels in us.

Moreover, the feelings of stress in most drug users are seen because they are commonly abused during their childhood. There is a lack of potent brain development when they’re in a mistreating, stressful, and abusive environment. Furthermore, deeper levels of stress and neglect arise from a mother who is forced to find a low-paying job far away from home (due to poor social welfare policies) and does not get to see her young kids for most of the day. Thus, her children’s brains’ don’t develop the way the need to in a caring, compassionate, and securely nurtured environment. They’re never soothed or fulfilled to “have enough” in their lives; they look in desperation for satisfaction from the outside because they’re empty and want to rid their hunger in the short-term. Their parent’s stress and suffering is also a seed of their continual stress and suffering, which in turn leads to the underdevelopment or lack thereof a child’s brain circuits.

The latest “war on drugs” is basically a war on the people who were abused and brought up in stressful environments from the moment they were born or from an early age on. They are constantly scrutinized, marginalized, and oppressed in a marginalized dire realm of poverty and continuous addiction. A lot of the times they enter the institutionalized “correctional system” they actually come out with increased suffering and are often far more entrenched into their addictions. The system then becomes more punitive and less supporting of promoting development.

To combat these realms of false recovery institutionalized systems, Vancouver is home to the only safe-injection site in Canada, which operates as a residence/harm reduction facility. People are allowed to bring their drugs in and everyone operates in an environment free from fear of being arrested. Essentially, they’re allowed to inject, under supervision and compassionate care through clean needles and sterile swabs.

Since the human brain can develop new circuits even later in life – a process called neuroplasticity – through new positive experiences, there should be more of a collaborate, supportive, and non-punitive system of introducing these individuals to a new life. Overall, these injection-sites serve as an environment for a compassionate and caring approach and thus they directly promote development instead of the “punitive approach” taken upon by medical and psychiatric institutions. The question of how to regulate and control symptoms thus no longer remains in these types of facilities, and they instead with open-heartedness and genuine compassion look at ways of how to promote brain circuit development. I hope that one who may read this understands the deeper socio-politics and economic realizations by this new system.