Are addictions a byproduct of evolution, or do they serve a purpose? Things like opiates, caffeine, and sugar seem to have both good and bad effects.

Addiction is, IMO, woefully misunderstood by both modern science and mainstream folklore. Of the ten answers so far in this thread, all of them miss the mark. Biochemistry can help us understand mechanisms of physiological response, but not the causality of addiction itself. Not by a long shot.

In Integral Lifework, most addiction is the consequence what I call “substitution nourishment.” This is when some dimension of our being isn’t being nurtured or nourished, and we attempt to compensate for that deficit in other areas. The areas can be completely unrelated — and there are thirteen I have identified so far, which makes for some odd remedies. For example, one of my clients with OCD who was addicted to caffeine and certain sexual fetishes lost both his compulsions and his cravings when he began to create real intimacy with people — both romantically and in friendships. The caffeine and fetishes were no longer required to “offset” his loneliness, isolation and intimacy starvation. And I’ve seen a similar pattern repeated many time in many other clients.

Is there good data to back up this assertion? Not really. The Rat Park study points in a helpful direction, but the study was poorly constructed IMO. But this is the direction we need to look in in order to understand addiction.

Now I did say “most” addiction, and that is because some addictions are more structural in nature, and there is a growing understanding around genetic markers for certain sensitivities/vulnerabilities. That is a separate topic. But even in such “structural” instances, if all thirteen dimensions of our being are attended to and in harmony with each other, then even those vulnerabilities have less pull on a whole and healthy human being.

My 2 cents.


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