Addiction and the Politics (and Poetics) of Personal Responsibility: me at AmCon

a listicle, and for some reason I saved the best stuff for the end, so feel free to hate me: There’s a narrative that comes up whenever addiction is discussed publicly nowadays: the narrative in which the disease of addiction essentially replaces a person’s free will.The barroom-wisdom version of it is the old line, “First the man takes a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes the man.” A fairly heartbreaking version of it comes in this interview with author (and father of … [Read more...]

Seth Mnookin on Relapse and the Ghost World

One truism of addiction science is that long-term abuse rewires your brain and changes its chemistry, which is why triggers (or “associated stimuli,” in scientific parlance) are major risk factors for relapse. But these changes can be reversed over time. Walking past the apartment where my dealer used to live didn’t make me want to score; it made me feel as if I was in a phantasmagoria of two crosshatched worlds—but I was the only person who could see both realities. None of my colleagues at MIT, … [Read more...]

Random TV Note: “Elementary”

You know, I'm really enjoying this show. Stuff I like:* Let's be honest: My main thing that I like is the way Sherlock's addiction history and recovery are handled. I like that he's skeptical and combative about 12-steppery yet still does a lot of the hard work of it, the constant apologies (the first season of this show really was like that cartoon with the heterosexual date movie theater showing "Things Exploding/Men Apologizing") and amends. I loved his speech at the beginning of an … [Read more...]

If Addiction Is Continuing a Behavior Which Hurts You and Others Because You Can’t Imagine Any Alternative…

what's the Drug War? Radley Balko has a must-read roundup of the knee-jerk and the damage done: ...To the extent that conservatives still defend the drug war (and there are fewer and fewer willing to do so), this is usually the way they go about it. Their argument is that drug use enslaves drug users with addiction, and that were drugs to be made legal, we’d all be robbed of the benefits of living in a populace of responsible citizens. Use and addiction would be common, thus shredding the moral … [Read more...]

“There’s This Thing That Keeps Rising in the Background”

Craving is “the one condition all addicts agree is their worst enemy,” Lewis said. “This is one place where science and subjectivity have to come together. Scientists need to focus on this, because addicts are completely unanimous about it. This is the enemy. It’s not physical withdrawal symptoms, it’s not relief. It is craving." Buddhism teaches that “craving is the fundamental engine of personality development,” Lewis said. “It’s what keeps us going around and around.” But if you don’t much li … [Read more...]

“Identity Theft”: I review (and LOVE) “The Goldfinch”

in the Weekly Standard: When we speak of “the permanent things,” we should mean the enduring, inescapable, and unfulfilled longings of the contradictory human heart: the helpless yearnings found across radically different times and cultures. And among these permanent desires, the need for home and the need for ecstasy stand preeminent.Donna Tartt made her name with 1992’s bestselling murder-by-paganism tale The Secret History, which explored our longing for ecstatic release from the self. Th … [Read more...]

From Anthony Powell, somewhere or other

Like many persons more interested in power than sensual enjoyment, Sillery touched no strong drink. --I got this gemmy little slap from Terry Teachout … [Read more...]


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