Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong (TED Talks)

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  1. What is the conventional perception of the causes of addiction?
  2. What does the experiment with rats prove?
  3. Do you agree with the idea that addiction is caused by people’s inability to adapt to their environment?
  4. According to Johann Hari, why is our war on addiction makes no success?
  5. How did Portugal manage to significantly reduce the number of addicts?
  6. Do you agree with Johann Hari when he says “We’ve traded floorspace for friends, we’ve traded stuff for connections, and the result is we are one of the loneliest societies there has ever been.”
  7. To what extent do you agree with the ideas presented in this talk?



to impose = to make somebody accept the same opinions, wishes, etc. as your own

I’d been thinking about it a lot lately, partly because it’s now exactly 100 years since drugs were first banned in the United States and Britain, and we then imposed that on the rest of the world.

to deter (somebody from doing something) = to make somebody decide not to do something or continue doing something, especially by making them understand the difficulties and unpleasant results of their actions

It’s a century since we made this really fateful decision to take addicts and punish them and make them suffer, because we believed that would deter them.

to decriminalize = to change the law so that something is no longer illegal

… the only country that’s ever decriminalized all drugs, from cannabis to crack, Portugal.

a hook = a thing that is used to make people interested in something

We think, because there are chemical hooks in heroin, as you took it for a while, your body would become dependent on those hooks, you’d start to physically need them, and at the end of those 20 days, you’d all be heroin addicts.

to alert = to make somebody aware of something

First thing that alerted me to the fact that something’s not right with this story is when it was explained to me …

to contaminate = to make a substance or place dirty or no longer pure by adding a substance that is dangerous or carries disease

It’s actually much better heroin than you’re going to buy on the streets, because the stuff you buy from a drug dealer is contaminated.

to lace (with something) = to add a small amount of alcohol, a drug, poison, etc. to a drink

One is just water, and the other is water laced with either heroin or cocaine.

withdrawal = the period of time when somebody is getting used to not taking a drug that they have become addicted to, and the unpleasant effects of doing this

It turns out they didn’t go to rehab. They didn’t go into withdrawal.

to get one’s head around something = to understand

And at first, I found this quite a difficult thing to get my head around …

implication = a possible effect or result of an action or a decision

Now, this has really significant implications. The most obvious implications are for the War on Drugs …

mind-blowing = very exciting, impressive or surprising

charged = full of or causing strong feelings or opinions

… and I think one of the reasons why this debate is so charged is because it runs through the heart of each of us, right?

to shape up = (informal) to improve your behaviour, work harder, etc.

Get an addict, all the people in their life, gather them together, confront them with what they’re doing, and they say, if you don’t shape up, we’re going to cut you off.

contingent = depending on something that may or may not happen

So what they do is they take the connection to the addict, and they threaten it, they make it contingent on the addict behaving the way they want.


Vocabulary exercise:

shape up / alerted / withdrawal / mindblowing / charged / implications / contingent / deter / impose / contaminated / laced / hook

  1. They had been ____________ to the possibility of further price rises.
  2. The high price of the service could _________ people from seeking advice.
  3. The drinking water has become _____________ with lead.
  4. I got ____________ symptoms after giving up smoking.
  5. Watching your baby being born is a ________________ experience.
  6. They failed to consider the wider ____________ of their actions.
  7. It was noticeable how a few people managed to _________________ their will on the others.
  8. The images are used as a _____________ to get children interested in science.
  9. He had __________ her milk with rum.
  10. If he doesn’t ___________, he’ll soon be out of a job.
  11. The dialogue is _____________ with menace.
  12. All payments are ______________ upon satisfactory completion dates.