Research Topic

Human Connection as a Treatment for Addiction

About this Research Topic

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 ...

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.

The aim of this Research Topic is therefore to bring together scholars specializing in neurobiology, psychology, anthropology, theology, ACEs science, psychiatry, and public health to provide more robust interdisciplinary evidence regarding whether intentionally increasing interpersonal connection may be an effective treatment for addiction. To achieve these aims, we welcome the following manuscript types: Original Research, Review Articles, Methods, Hypothesis and Theory, Clinical Trial, Case Report, Conceptual Analysis, Perspective, Data Report, Brief Research Report. We are especially interested in contributions that address the following themes and research questions with both human and non-human animal studies:

Endogenous and Exogenous Opioid Systems:
• How the production or deprivation of endogenous opioids impact later substance use patterns;
• Neurobiological similarities in attachment and opioid use;
• Theoretical, philosophical, and/or theological explorations of developmental neurobiology as it relates to addiction;
• Is it possible to upregulate the endogenous opioid system through social connection in humans or animals;
• Human and animal studies examining the reduction or removal of substance craving if the endogenous opioid system can be upregulated to respond to interpersonal interaction;
• How much interpersonal connection is needed to upregulate the endogenous opioid system;
• Neurobiological effects of religious practices or religious commitment on the drug reward system;
• Whether the presence of exogenous opioids in either the parent or child impedes bonding;
• Neurobiological characteristics related to connection type (e.g. person to person, person to a higher power, animal to animal)

Support Systems and Human Connection:
• The effects of intensive interpersonal connection on substance use rates;
• The relationship among early attachment, later interpersonal connection, and substance use rates;
• The effects of cohesive support systems in childhood on later substance use outcomes;
• Comparisons of people with differing numbers of ACEs and differing levels of interpersonal connection on substance use outcomes;
• How could enough social support be martialed to provide intentional interpersonal connection as a substance use treatment;
• Effects of paid and voluntary (e.g., friend or family) social support on substance use outcomes;
• Comparing the role of religiously motivated and non-religiously motivated social support on substance use outcomes;
• Theoretical, philosophical, and/or theological rationale for providing social support in the context of substance use treatment;
• Differences in substance use for groups that differ in interpersonal connection;
• How enforced forms of social isolation (such as COVID-19 related social distancing or lockdown) influences rates of addiction and relapse;
• The effects of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) on interest in seeking human connection;
• Empirical research or case reports of effective and ineffective addiction recovery support.


Keywords: Endogenous opioid system, social support, religiousness, addiction, opioid use disorder, human connection, wraparound care, addiction recovery, addiction treatment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 June 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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