Substance Use and Misuse

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What is Addiction?
DSW Modules on Addiction
Spring 2015
Year 3
Jeffrey Longhofer
These pages have been created to support our upcoming DSW Seminar: What is Addiction? There’s no doubt that we live in an era of biological reductionism, brain reductionism, body reductionism, neurochemical reductionism. Many of our clients are looking for body solutions: drugs, fitness regimes, vitamin regimens. If we could just stretch or run or fix the broken body, perhaps the mind and self would follow. See Jeffrey Rubin’s recent essay (link under Hot Topics on my homepage) on the difficulties a Buddhist has with our current focus on the body and mindfulness. The body symptoms seem endless: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine, restless leg syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and on and on. I would add ADHD to this list. And the list of addictions expands along with changes in technology and the power and reach of the pharmaceutical industry: alcohol addiction, sex addiction, marijuana addition, Internet addiction, shopping addiction, gambling addiction, exercise addiction, food addiction.

And the body solutions seem endless. If only we could just discipline our chaotic bodies, bring them under control: yoga, running, cycling, spinning, face lifts and belly tucks, penis and breast enlargement, and on and on. And with stem cells we’ve the promise of ending the body’s degeneration and pain. Much of what we consume is in the market of body products: anti-aging creams, remedies for hair loss, pills and vitamins to improve your memory. And on and on. Brain puzzles, they argue, will slow the loss of memory and other important functions.

Another important question: are compulsive behaviors addictions? Are addictions a species of compulsive behavior. You will find among the recommended readings on this website an essay by J Lemon, entitled,
Can we call behaviours addictive? This very concise conceptual piece poses some very difficult questions about the so-called “behavioral” addictions.

And only if we could just develop a technology sufficient enough to measure or picture the brain’s neuronal missteps. I call this the neuropharmaphantasy. We could finally locate the definitive place in the brain where addiction It’s a phantasy that drives the sciences of the brain and the political, technological, and consumer culture rooted in the the present. I wish we had the time in this seminar to read Douglas Rushkosff’s book, Present Shock. And if you have time please add it to your reading list.

Paul Verhaeghe, a Belgian psychoanalyst, argues that our era is defined more by what Freud called, “actual neuroses,” than by “psychoneuroses.” According to Verhaeghe, the actual neuroses present intractable problems for therapeutic action. With actual neuroses, the patient does not bring to you mental representations, a richly symbolic world, to imagine and explore their symptoms. They bring you one thing: their damaged bodies.

Nicholas Rose has described a new type of self: the neurochemical self. Or what I would call a self state: the neurochemical self state. On the pages dedicated to this seminar you will find anthropologists, philosophers (phenomenologists), sociologists, and others debating these important understandings of addiction.