- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs (July 14, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1610394372
- ISBN-13: 978-1610394376
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease Hardcover – July 14, 2015
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Marc Lewis's new book neatly links current thinking about addiction with neuroscience theory and artfully selected biographies. Ex-addicts, we learn, are not cured,” rather they have become more connected to others, wiser, and more in touch with their own humanity. This is a hopeful message that has, as Lewis demonstrates, the advantage of also being true.” Gene Heyman, author of Addiction: Disorder of Choice
Informed by unparalleled neuroscientific insight and written with his usual flare, Marc Lewis's The Biology of Desire effectively refutes the medical view of addiction as a primary brain disease. A bracing and informative corrective to the muddle that now characterizes public and professional discourse on this topic.” Gabor Maté, M.D., author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
The Biology of Desire says a lot about the brain mechanisms underpinning addiction but, to its credit, does not stop there. With minor exceptions, we do not help addicts (and they do not help themselves) by ministering directly to their brains. As Mr. Lewis stresses throughout this unorthodox but enlightening book, people learn to be addicts, and, with effort, they can learn not to be addicts, too.” Wall Street Journal
Neuroscientist Lewis delves into the functioning of the addicted brain. He intends to demonstrate that addiction (substance abuse but also behavioral addictions such as eating disorders, gambling, etc.) is not a disease This objective is met by the detailed life stories of five recovering addicts the author has interviewed. Their descent into the grips of addiction reads like passages of a junkie's memoir: terrifying and page-turning [T]his work helps make sense of how addiction operates and is recommended for readers wanting to learn more on the topic.” Library Journal
"A courageous and much needed voice in rethinking addictionLewis takes addiction out of a disease model and reframes it as a negative outcome of neuroplasticitysimply put, our brains' fundamental nature to change as a result of learning and experience. This model provides realistic hope, given that what has been learnt can be unlearnt by harnessing the principles of neuroplasticity. Through his intimate personal and professional knowledge of addiction Lewis reframes our understanding of its mechanisms and nature in a way that is empowering." Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, author of the International Best Seller, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
"So much nonsense is spoken about addiction and the brain. If you want to understand what's really happening, read Marc Lewis' clear, insightful, and necessary book." Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream
"If you want to understand addictionand why it matters how the brain actually learns to become addictedread this book. In elegant and incisive prose, Marc Lewis expertly explains the neuroscience of desire, and how it shapes the paths of our lives." Maia Szalavitz, author of Unbroken Brain
This is the real story of this is your brain on drugs,' but one that provides a refreshing, convincing alternative to the widespread traditional disease-model view of addiction. Through compelling stories of real people who struggled with various addictions, Lewis lucidly makes the case for a new science-based understanding of what causes and sustains addiction. Most important, it offers far more positivity about ways out of addiction than those offered by traditional treatment, providing hope for those struggling as well as for their loved ones.” Anne M. Fletcher, M.S., author of NY Times best-selling Sober for Good, Inside Rehab, and the Thin for Life Books. Recipient of the Research Society on Alcoholism Journalism Award and APA's Outstanding Contributions to the Understanding of Addictions Awards
Highly readable and plausible illustration of current ideas about addiction from behavioural neuroscience and clinical perspectives by the use of vivid case histories." Trevor Robbins, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, Cambridge University
Neuroscientist Lewis (Memoirs of an Addicted Brain) presents a strong argument against the disease model of addiction, which is currently predominant in medicine and popular culture alike, and bolsters it with informative and engaging narratives of addicts' lives... Even when presenting more technical information, Lewis shows a keen ability to put a human face on the most groundbreaking research into addiction. Likewise, he manages to make complex findings and theories both comprehensible and interesting [T]his book, written with hopeful sincerity, will intrigue both those who accept its thesis and those who do not.” Publishers Weekly
Armed with scientific data and plenty of case studies Lewis enters the ongoing addiction nomenclature debate with an intellectually authoritative yet controversial declaration that substance and behavioral dependencies are swiftly and deeply learned via the "neural circuitry of desire." Lewis introduces biographical testimonies of Americans struggling with addiction that both humanize and reinforce his standpoint. A thought-provoking, industry-minded, and polarizing perspective on the neurocircuitry of human desire and compulsion.” Kirkus Reviews
A very readable, often touching, gateway into the universe of neuroscience and the shadowland of addiction.” Sydney Morning Herald
Dr. Lewis a former addict who recovered to become a distinguished neuroscientist and author writes engagingly about the addictive experience, the recovery experience and the science behind them. Whether you are looking for a foundation in the neuroscience of addiction, guidelines for recovery or just hope that recovery is possible, it's all here. The scientific information is presented in the context of day-to-day behavior and the lives of individuals you will come to care about. You'll learn more about neuroscience (and human development and psychology) than you may have thought possible. Informed by this book, you'll see how neuroscience explains addiction as a part of life, rather than a mysterious entity only experts can understand.” Tom Horvath, Ph.D., President of ABPP, Practical Recover, and SMART Recovery and author of Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions
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Lewis manages to synthesize a large body of literature that a layperson (which I am when it comes to the neurobiology of addiction) cannot do on one's own. I've always wished I could have a conversation with an addiction neuroscientist who had not blindly accepted the disease model, and that is essentially what this book is. However, his disagreements with others such as Nora Volkow are actually quite subtle and sophisticated, and I wonder if readers will miss the subtlety, chalking it up to mere semantics. For instance, “hijacking” of the brain’s natural reward system is the metaphor often used in the brain disease model, which some might argue is not that different from Lewis’ notion that addiction is an “accelerated” or “deep” form of the developmental learning our brains are meant to do. However, I think one crucial difference is he’s challenging the notion that the DRUG is the key point on which to intervene. The disease model needs a vector or pathogen, which the drug becomes, and this turns our attention away from what the person is experiencing and the meaning attached to that experience. Rather, Lewis argues, we have a natural motivation toward powerful emotional experiences, and drugs can provide a particularly powerful experience that we more quickly learn to seek out than other, less powerfully motivating experiences (nonlinear dynamics here being critical). Over time, people who are addicted (and not just to drugs) become trapped in the moment-to-moment experiences and disconnected from their past and future. The question becomes, how does the perspective change such that the meaning attached to the experience drugs provide is less powerful? (Understanding this also can help us to understand why most people who try drugs, even heroin, do NOT become addicted...for whatever reason the experience was not as powerful or as meaningful for them.)
When we turn our attention away from the big, bad drug, it really does change how we intervene. In particular, we have a lot more to learn in exploring Lewis’ theories around ego fatigue, the addict’s perspective on time (linear v circular), and "social scaffolding." What might drain some people’s willpower more than other people’s? What are the effects of stress, inequality, oppression, and poverty on one’s ability to avoid ego fatigue, or on one’s ability to envision a better future? More importantly, what causes one to shift perspective, and can social scaffolding precipitate and not just take advantage of these shifts in perspective?
"Addicts experience something breathtaking when they can stretch their vision of themselves from the immediate present back to the past that shaped them and forward to a future that’s attainable and satisfying."
He’s making a good point about how self-awareness, identity, and belonging to a caring community contribute to recovery (a word, by the way, he doesn’t like).
Problem is, this point comes too late in the book to do much good. I imagine thousands of readers having given up way beforehand. Lewis himself has stated in an ill-advised diatribe against at an Amazon reviewer, the book is meant for the layperson, but that statement is hard to square with his chronic and often confusing references to brain parts that govern craving, “now thinking,” and all the other emotional and physiological factors that make addiction so baffling. He does include a little brain map near the beginning, but that didn’t help me much—and I read this book carefully.
Not that his brain mapping, and frequent references to the Ventral striatum, the Amygdala, et al isn’t valuable—it is just presented in too disorganized a manner to be easily understood.
Worse, I kept waiting for him to explain how this information could help an addict grow beyond his addiction. He sort of gets to this point at the very end—and his advise comes off as a bit suspect, even if it is well-intentioned. He mentions Peter Sheath’s Reach Out Recovery in the city of Birmingham, England, which is designed to enlist the community in a campaign to help addicts when they decide they want help. Great idea, but it’s unproven (and sounds Utopian). In any case, the final chapter, “Developing Beyond Addiction,” which should be the meat of the book, comes off more as an after-thought.
On the plus side, he makes a strong argument—both biological and philosophical—against the disease model, arguing that addiction carves out the same neural canals as growth and learning.
Memo to Marc Lewis (from a reader who’s no stranger to this problem): rewrite your book, or write another one, this time with a talented editor who can organize your strong material into something stronger.
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For someone who is newly sober or considering getting sober this is a horrible book that will most...Read more