Government drug czars have routinely embraced the brain disease model of addiction, in part because it is easier to argue for more funding using colorful brain scans. But this strategy leaves the harmful impression that the brain is the only important level of analysis and understanding of addiction. It sidesteps the crucial issue of psychological motivation. Many addicts, including alcoholics, make a choice to quit because they are embarrassed, worried about kids and family and job security, spending too much money, on and on. Recovery, the authors correctly note, is in the end “a project of the heart and mind.” The search for a magic bullet — the one I yearned for in the throes of my addiction — is pure folly, Satel and Lilienfeld conclude.
Brainwashed — which also includes chapters on “neuromarketing” and “neurolaw” — is not an anti-neuroscience book by any means. Indeed, the authors celebrate the new insights into human thought and behavior that brain studies have yielded. But the book does take a hard stand against the prevailing neurocentrism, and aims to restore some balance to our understanding of human fallibility, including drug and alcohol addiction.
The seductive attraction of neoroscience to erronuously explain and simplify addiction … in an era of technology, binary thinking and certainty!
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