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Research supports that social connection is important in both humans and animals. In humans, having a cohesive support/social network system and healthy attachments in childhood predict low risk of later addiction (i.e. substance use disorder), as does perceived support from a religious or other cohesive community. Moreover, personal characteristics such as identifying as religious or spiritual can predict low risk for addiction, but little is known about the intersection of neuroscience and religion/spirituality in this regard. Conversely, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have repeatedly been shown to predict later addiction. However, the role of the body’s neuro-hormonal responses, such as the endogenous opioid and oxytocin systems in this process merits further exploration, such as how the production or deprivation of endogenous opioids impact later substance use patterns. Existing research also provides evidence that individuals decrease pursuit of interpersonal connections and social bonds when they use substances that activate opioid receptors. This has been found with both substances of abuse and medications used to treat addiction (e.g., methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone). Research has also demonstrated that addiction often results in situations of social isolation. However, it remains to be elucidated whether the substances of abuse physiologically meet that need for connection. Importantly, research across numerous fields indicates that intentionally increasing interpersonal connection may be an effective treatment for addiction. However, less is known about how specific characteristics of communities impact the quantity, quality, or effectiveness of care and support for a person with addiction [...]

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Human Connection as a Treatment for Addiction

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