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5 TED Talks About Addiction, Recovery and Opioid Use

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Among featured TED Talks, this one by Brene Brown
5 TED Talks About Addiction, Recovery and Opioid Use

Looking for the latest information from thought leaders on addiction and recovery? Look to TED Talks. Here, we've compiled a few to get you started. 

We want answers. In the midst of an opioid crisis that claims more than 130 lives every day in the U.S. alone, we find people are struggling with many questions just like these: 

  • What causes addiction? 
  • Are there innovations in recovery? 
  • How can we work to resolve the opioid crisis? 

One source of information that is readily accessible to the masses: TED Talks. And whether you enjoy them on road trips or while commuting in town, while getting ready in the morning or winding down in the evening, they are a great way to dig deep on topics of interest. 

To that end, we’ve compiled a few of our favorites with insights about addiction and recovery to share with you. 

And if you’re interested in doing more than just listening to a TED Talk — if this is your time to connect with us and get help — please do so here.

5 TED Talks Worth Watching

1. Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong

There’s a good reason this talk has more than 10 million views. In it, Johann Hari makes a bold claim: “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.”

Hari thinks addiction to everything from opioids to smart phones has a common source, and he believes society needs to reframe its approach to addiction in order to better treat it. By sharing the story of mice living in a community, he illustrates the underpinnings of addiction, and shares ideas about how we move forward. According to Hari, evidence shows that when supported by a community and being reconnected with society, more people are able to get clean and live a happy and healthy life.

2. How Isolation Fuels Opioid Addiction

Neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman studies a part of the brain called the striatum, the point of convergence for addictive and obsessive processing. What does this physical part of the brain illustrate? That people suffering from addiction have lost free will when it comes to choosing their behaviors. She called addiction “a medical neurobiological reality.” In other words, it is a disease, but we seldom relate to it as such.  

Sharing insights from her research, Wurzman shows how social isolation contributes to relapse and overdose rates and reveals how meaningful human connection could offer a potentially powerful source of recovery.

3. Addiction Is a Disease. We Should Treat It Like One.

Michael Botticelli grew up in isolation, so drinking became his source of social connection. His substance use disorder went undiagnosed for years, until a run-in with the law led him to recovery. His personal story serves as a backdrop to his future career: Working on drug and alcohol abuse prevention and recovery processes based in kindness and support, including a stint as Director of the National Drug Control Policy.

In this talk, he discusses why only one in nine people in the United States gets the care and treatment they need for addiction and substance abuse, positing that society tends to blame addicts for addiction — yet we don’t blame those with other medical conditions for their disease. Therefore, he encourages the millions of Americans in recovery today to make their voices heard and confront the stigma associated with substance use disorders.

4. The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown is a researcher in the field of social work that studies the human condition. Like the TED Talks above, Brown focuses on connection, but she also highlights vulnerability as an aspect of addiction and recovery: In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be really, truly seen. 

In this accessible and often funny talk, Brown suggests that people with a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy. And the fear of not being worthy of connection, love and belonging may be leading us toward disorders like drug and alcohol abuse.  

5. How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime

Childhood trauma is a common experience for many who suffer from substance use disorders. Nadine Burke Harris made it her goal to study how exposure to early adversity affects the developing brains and bodies of children. 

The bottom line: Real neurologic evidence explains why people exposed to adversity are more likely to engage in high risk behavior. 

She also talks about the importance of getting to the root of the problem instead of trying to fix a bullet wound with a band-aid. 


What are your favorite TED Talks about these important topics? Share with us on our Facebook page. And if you’re hungry for more fascinating TED Talks, explore the topic of opioids here, or the topic of addiction here

Connection, vulnerability and childhood trauma are just parts of the very nuanced conversation about issues surrounding substance abuse. Over the Influence provides a multi-faceted approach to recovery. It uses an innovative, non-addictive, slow-release naltrexone implant that can significantly reduce or eliminate opioid and alcohol cravings, enabling you or your loved one to get the counseling they need to achieve lifelong sobriety.

If you know someone who needs additional help overcoming addiction, call 844-222-OVER.