The psychiatric establishment in the Western world has unanimously branded addiction a brain disease. And the idea that an addict has an incurable illness, as opposed to a contemptible moral weakness, has served an historically important role in changing how addiction is understood, researched, and treated throughout the world.
But as renowned developmental neuroscientist and recovered addict Marc Lewis argues in this illuminating, compelling, likely controversial book, addiction is not in fact a disease. Addiction, whether to drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, sex, or cigarettes, is rather a developmental learning process resulting from the normal functioning of the human brain.
Through vividly rendered, compassionate stories of five addicts, interpreted in the light of state-of-the-art neuroscientific knowledge, Lewis shows how the compulsion to use arises in a brain that is highly efficient in pursuing singular goals. He reveals addiction as an unfortunate twist of fate for a brain doing what it’s designed to do—seek pleasure and relief—in a world that’s not cooperating. He shows that recovery from addiction is indeed possible,and that it is nothing like remission from a disease, because brain physiology doesn’t need to change for addicts to get better.
The Biology of Desire is vital and enlightening reading for anyone who has wrestled with addiction themselves, in their families, or as a medical or treatment professional. It illuminates a path to more effective treatment for addicts, and limns the essential requirements for individual recovery. Combining clearly rendered scientific explanation with insight, compassion, and even humor, Lewis boldly challenges us all to re-examine our approach to addiction, and whether the metaphors we’ve used to explain it have now become obstacles to healing.
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