Josh Hamilton, the talented major league baseball player, was the American League MVP in 2010. He has struggled with addictions for year, and just turned himself in for another relapse involving alcohol and cocaine.

Josh said…I live with addiction every day of my life, it’s a chronic disease just like diabetes. But it’s not a disease just like diabetes. A disease is something that has a definitive cause; we know how it’s transmitted and how to treat it. This is not the case with addictions, because the addiction is a symptom of a deeper illness.

The underlying cause of all addictions is the addict’s belief that without them he/she has nothing he can depend on that will make him/her feel as good. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rat or monkey, mammals all share a deep biological imperative to bond with others, we are made to suckle; and it’s those bonds that sustain us when we are vulnerable.

When we feel isolated, unsupported, afraid, and unsure of ourselves, we are ripe for addictions. That’s the message of the new best-selling book Chasing the Scream that says everything we’ve been told about addiction is wrong; it’s not chemicals that hijack the brain it’s the individuals disconnection from the nurturing support of others. Johann Hari, the author of this well researched, easily readable book says the antidote to addiction is human connection.

As a psychiatrist, I agree and wish Josh Hamilton well in his battle against his addictions. What he has however is not a “disease”, it is a symptom of his inability to believe that without his drugs, he has no dependable relationships that make him feel as good.