Novelty May Help Prevent Relapse in Drug Addicts

In following various pop-culture, media-crazed stories on addiction balanced with staying up-to-date on the latest research on addiction, I came across a study published in a journal from the American Psychological Association.  The premise is simple and yielded some interesting results.

Though not a big fan of animal studies (rats!), I appreciate the value of this research.  Several rats who became “addicted” (showed preference) to cocaine after repeated exposure displayed more ambivalence for the drug when exposed to novel stimuli (PVC pipe, a white sock, scouring pad, crumpled newspaper).

The “real-life” suggestion that can be made is that certain kinds of drug users may be optimally treated using exposure to novel behaviors, sensations, activities or any combination.  Hmm… I like the idea.  I am a novelty-sensation-thrill-seeking person myself.  My impression of this study, however,  is that it highlights the difficulty treating addictive disorders more than it points to new treatments.


Addiction is an “equal opportunity destroyer.”  It does not discriminate against different personality types, races, creeds, etc.  There are as many people with a predisposition to novelty- or sensation-seeking behaviors that become addicts as those whose same predisposition actually buffer them from developing addictive disorders (adrenaline junkies!).

I have led many groups with addicted people, young and old, male and female.  The subject of replacing one’s addictive behavior (or drug of choice) with another activity is a common topic in treatment.  I have repeatedly been advised by recovering addicts that there is no comparable experience or worthy competitor to chasing the chemical high, no matter how novel or exhilarating.


The study has merit in that it proposes a possible essential tool in the toolbox of treatment methods that may make the difference between a sober and joyous life and a life of continued addiction and misery.  What are you thoughts?

Photos by Andy Ciordia and Andrew Ressa.

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One Response to “Novelty May Help Prevent Relapse in Drug Addicts”

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