- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (March 5, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1610392337
- ISBN-13: 978-1610392334
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 90 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs Reprint Edition
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“A surprising and charming addition to this crowded genre. Yes, it embraces the classic redemption narrative - teenage experimentation, late-’60s Berkeley, exotic forays into Malaysia and Calcutta, the inevitable slide into deception, crime, and desperation. But he ends up a professional neuropsychologist, able to enliven the tired streams of addled consciousness with metrical rapids of semi-hard science.”
“Marc Lewis's brilliant – if not wholly sympathetic – account of his many mind-bludgeoning drug experiences wears its biological determinism on its sleeve … Lewis has certainly woven his experiences into an unusual and exciting book… (Memoirs of an Addicted Brain) is as strange, immediate and artfully written as any Oliver Sacks case-study, with the added scintillation of having been composed by its subject.”
“The most original and illuminating addiction memoir since Thomas De Quincey's seminal Confessions of an Opium Eater…[an] electrifying debut.”
Midwest Book Review
“A powerful survey recounting the author’s powerful addiction and how he broke an intense hold on drugs… This will appeal to a range of collections, from those strong in autobiographies to science and health holdings alike.”
“Developmental neuroscientist Lewis examines his odyssey from minor stoner to helpless, full-blown addict….as [he] unspools one pungent drug episode after another, he capably knits into the narrative an accessible explanation of the neural activity that guided his behavior. From opium pipe to orbitofrontal cortex, a smoothly entertaining interplay between lived experience and the particulars of brain activity.”
“Meticulous, evocative… Lewis’s unusual blend of scientific expertise, street cred, vivid subjectivity and searching introspection yields a compelling perspective on the perils and allure of addiction.”
Wall Street Journal
"Compelling…for readers grappling with addiction, Mr. Lewis's…approach might well be novel enough to inspire them to seek the happiness he now enjoys.”
Chronicle of Higher Education
“He proceeds deftly from episodes of his drug years to neuroscientific explanations of his brain's response to drugs.”
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Top customer reviews
The feel and structure of this book is an unusual and remarkable combination of explanations from both a raconteur and college lecturer. It is extraordinary and unique because Lewis is both neuroscientist and drug addict in the book. He is able to provide valuable insight that could usually be lost in translation between experimenter and lab rat. Lewis guides us through the neurology behind addiction as he reveals his first encounter with underage drinking, his temporary escape from depression via dextromethophan, sexual desires, and his experimentation with psychedelics, PCP, and eventually heroin and more. Though not an addict yet, in the first chapter, Lewis jumped straight to expressing the insecurity and curiosity that led first to drinking alcohol. He noticed a change in mood and his self-criticism finally being silenced. He switches from raconteur to college lecturer mode when he begins describing how alcohol is affecting his system by enhancing GABA transmission, which means "the inhibitory chemicals get boosted," and muffling glutamate transmission, meaning "the excitatory chemicals get hushed." His explanations are thoroughly detailed, and he provides just enough background information about brain structures and functions for the less informed readers. He emphasizes physiological effects as well as the emotion state and external situations surrounding addiction. For Lewis, he battled a constant "ache for acceptance" and a deep depression that he learned to dull with chemical substances, partially leading him to conclude that "addiction is really just a corrupted form of learning."
Even as Lewis falls down a path of crime and deceit, he manages to describe the chemical mechanisms. He recalls as an undergraduate working in a laboratory how he considered stealing morphine from an old lab fridge and then explains the part of his brain that deals with this ethical battle: "the dorsal anterior cingulated cortex is where context and judgment come together to create the will, that beam of self-direction that makes it possible to choose consciously and act morally." Here, we can see that he does not stop with just illustrating the effects of drugs while an addict is actively abusing them. Lewis goes into further detail and describes various structures and functions of the brain and ties them back to an addict's thought process, choices, and acts.
When I first took a look at this book, I had expected to learn about drug addiction in the strictest sense, but various aspects and types of addiction are covered in this novel. Lewis describes mental and emotional addiction early in his memoirs when he relays his first encounter with dextromethorphan, illustrating how "people take drugs because they're not feeling right [and] the whole point of taking drugs is to change the way you feel." He illustrates the wanting and craving of an addict through descriptions of sexual desire with the neurological culprit revealed to be neuromodulator, dopamine: "with every letter she wrote me, the dopamine pump got activated." Lewis also managed to connect and compare various types of addiction throughout this book. He did so sometimes by comparing emotional states, such as explaining how his "attitude toward LSD, a drug, was not much different from [his] zeal to connect with Lisa, a girl, thanks to a flood of dopamine in [his] ventral striatum - wanting and wanting and wanting..." Other comparisons and connections simply illustrated similar biological mechanisms, such as describing PCP as `an NMDA antagonist, like dextromethorphan and ketamine."
Readers of any background can easily understand the scientific descriptions, but the explanations are still detailed enough to not feel too simplistic. He discusses major neuroscience topics such as functions of varying sections of the brain and the roles of neuromodulators and other natural chemicals of the central nervous system while exploring neuropharmacology of substance abuse drugs. Cellular biologists, however, may not be satisfied with the level of detail in this book. Lewis focuses more on the emotional and cognitive aspects of addiction rather than the major underlying molecular mechanisms behind it. Though not extensive, Lewis does provide some information on current research and external resources in the endnotes for readers who wish to be more informed. For those interested in more complex detail, one would have to resort to textbooks or journal articles (as is the case for any scientific research). This book is not a series of case studies. It's a memoir, so high level of detail of biological pathways and mechanisms is not to be expected. The neuroscience discussed is examined with enough detail to satisfy introductory neuroscience students but explained clearly enough for anyone to understand. Ultimately, his descriptions smoothly connected neuroanatomy, basic neurophysiology, and perception.
One more note I will make is I would have liked to see more on the effects of drug addiction over time. Lewis went into sufficient detail on changes in perceptions and basic physiological pathways but provided less detail on long term effects.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is effective and engaging, and I would definitely recommend anyone to read it. Lewis brought the understanding of addiction passed the level of recovering addicts revealing their history and cautionary tales and brought to life the biological mechanisms behind the addiction. This memoir illustrates an enthralling life story and delivers a successful merging of the mental, emotional, social, physical, and molecular aspects of addiction. The tales are heartbreaking, sometimes horrifying, and sometimes extreme, wild, and often foolish, but Lewis, a flawed but inspirational man, ultimately leaves the readers with a happy ending from a cautionary tale. His straightforward, simple, and engaging explanations of various neurological concepts will help anyone understand a little more about how our brains work. Though unfortunate, terrifying, and tragic at times, Lewis' rich history with substance abuse and addiction as well as his current knowledge and expertise of neuroscience truly made it a fascinating read.