Can loneliness cause addiction? In most societies it is considered not acceptable. Loneliness is the most stigmatized feeling. It is often shame-inducing and unspeakable.

Sure, while some choose to be solitary, in other cases a person’s introverted lifestyle leads society to think something may be wrong with that person. They’re strange, they’re psychotic, they’re just straight out anti-social.

Nothing about this is positive, and more often than not, when such labels are flung at a lonely individual, it only solidifies their solitude. And once that occurs, destructive behavior such as alcohol and drug use can become a large part of that person’s loneliness.

For instance, consider the person who likes to drink alone. Or in other instances, the person who wants to be alone so they can drink. The same rings true for them as it does for users of other drugs. Whether they choose to exist alone, or feel forced into loneliness due to drug use, loneliness indeed seems to have a hand in a person’s addiction.

In support of this, Johann Hari, author of “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, posted an article on the Huffington Post website that highlights an experiment conducted in 19701 by Bruce Alexander, a Vancouver professor of Psychology in which he concluded a strong component in addiction is loneliness.

If the proof found in Alexander’s 1970 experiment involving rats and heroin abuse isn’t convincing enough, weigh Alexander’s results up against your or a loved one’s own addiction. It’s almost guaranteed that when it comes to compulsion, little to nothing in addictive behavior and solitude differentiates humans from rats.


The experiment that Bruce Alexander conducted in 1970 began with one rat in a simple cage.

At the rat’s disposal were two water bottles, one laced with heroin.

Solitary and with nothing to entertain itself, the rat turned to the water bottles for amusement, diversion, or distraction – you name it. What matters is the rat soon became addicted to the bottle dispensing the heroin-laced water, which soon resulted in this and other rats’ demise and eventual death.

Then, Alexander had a moment of insight. He wondered what would happen if he introduced additional rats to the cage for company and sex as well as some high-end rat amenities such as hills, tunnels and other entertaining surfaces. Oh, and quality rat food – that had to be part of it, too.

In short, Alexander’s thought was to create a community of happy rats, yet leave the two water bottles in place to see if addiction outdoes happiness.

What resulted in Alexander’s experiment was that while all the rats tried both water bottles, their addiction level as a whole was tremendously low in comparison to the solitary rats that grew addicted, then died due to the heroin-laced water.

The community rats were more communal. They congregated, romped around or chose to eat. A lot better and healthier behavior than sipping down water with heroin in it, wouldn’t you say?

In short, being social as well as having a society to relate to trumped the self-medicating abilities of drug addiction.


The author of the Huffington Post article explains that instances similar to the rats occur with humans. His most notable example is the Vietnam War in which he states that 20% of the American soldiers overseas were addicted to heroin.

However, when the conflict ended, and the soldiers headed home, 95% kicked their heroin habit on their own, with only a few going to rehab. Again, as is the case with the rats, once the soldiers left the cage of war for happier, more positive environments, they simply no longer needed their addiction.

And this is heroin we’re talking about: A powerful and addictive opioid-based drug.

Professor Alexander took his experiment to another level in which he removed rats that were addicted to heroin for close to 60 days, and placed them in the cage where the rats were happy, playful and well fed.

Alexander explains that aside from a few twitches from 60 days of heroin use, the addicted rats quickly adapted and joined the “happy” rats in their new community.


Highly interactive rehabs such as the drug treatment centers found in Los Angeles seem to understand and practice much of what Professor Alexander discovered in 1970.

In his view, addiction is adaptation, in which one tries to cope with their environment. Unfortunately, some environments, such as war, urban depression, loneliness, or even a poor family atmosphere triggers addictive tendencies, and why?

It’s all in an effort to adapt.

Because there are so many “environments” that are negative in Los Angeles, rehab treatment centers in the city tend to create their own environments. These comprise relaxing and supportive facilities with many activities to which you can adapt as you leave your addiction behind.

If Professor Alexander’s experiments prove loneliness can contribute to addiction, rehabilitation proves that reintroduction to society is the essence of recovery. Don’t be alone in your addiction. Reach out to others, and you will soon find you’re on the road to recovery, possibly before you even know so.

If you or a loved one feels a need to overcome an addiction, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout Southern California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.




  1. The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It’s Not What You Think, The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016.





Can Loneliness Be the Root Cause of Addiction?