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Non-fiction book of the month: Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis. Post up questions about addiction for author Q&A by 11 November.

(16 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 04-Oct-16 11:27:50

Marc Lewis' examination of addiction, The Biology of Desire, is our non-fiction pick for October. This insightful and readable study explores our understanding of the causes of addiction, and questions current methods of treatment. Find out more about the book and apply for a free copy.

Marc Lewis will be taking questions about the book, so please leave your feedback and post up questions on this thread before the end of October.

CoteDAzur Wed 05-Oct-16 21:45:30

I would be very interested to read it but fell out of the habit of reading paper books a long time ago.

Any chance that MN might give out digital vouchers for free Kindle copies of this book?

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 11-Oct-16 12:05:42


I would be very interested to read it but fell out of the habit of reading paper books a long time ago.

Any chance that MN might give out digital vouchers for free Kindle copies of this book?

Hi there, apologies for taking a while to get back. We have tried running e-book giveaways in the past but the mechanism was quite complicated and there were quite a few issues. We did some research last year and it seemed that most people who read on e-readers are still happy to read paper books and so we decided to stick to non-digital for the time being.

Although we won't be able to set anything up for this particular book, it is something we will revisit next year and pick up with publishers to see if there's an easier method to offer this in the future. If anyone else has any thoughts on this, please do share.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 11-Oct-16 12:06:57

The giveaway for The Biology of Desire is now closed and we'll be emailing all those who were allocated copies later today. Please do share your thoughts and post up Qs for Marc Lewis on this thread before Friday 11 November.

purplemonstermum Sun 23-Oct-16 23:12:30

Thank you for my free copy. I have just finished this book. I was impressed. Although the subject was complicated, I found the book easy to read and follow - even if some of the finer points did go over my head I think I understood a reasonable amount! I really liked the case studies and I found it interesting how the author linked what was happening to the people in their lives with what was happening to them in their brains. I completely agree that addiction is not a disease.

I appreciated the fact that the author repeated a lot of the same points a few times and in different ways, as this made them stick better in my head and enhanced my understanding - I would like to ask him, was this a deliberate ploy, given his explanation in the book that repetition of actions/information develops/reinforces neural pathways?? And another question - what does he think of the research being carried out by the Compassionate Mind Foundation (Paul Gilbert et al) into how developing self-compassion affects the brain, as it seemed to me that there were some cross-overs between the two areas of work?

I would be interested to read the author's first book about his own experiences of addiction and I shall look out for this. Thank you again!

weathermum Mon 24-Oct-16 16:56:13

Thank you so much for the book next one to read after the book I am now reading I will be back with my thoughts

weathermum Fri 28-Oct-16 10:18:45

I have read some chapters of this book and found the section on "Johnny needs a drink" extremely interesting and enlightening...My daughter is a psychiatric nurse so I shall be passing this book on to her..Thank you once again for sending me a free copy.

minsmum Sat 29-Oct-16 22:29:34

Thank you for the book, I have just started it and am finding it fascinating. It makes sense to me. It has already led to some very interesting conversations with friends who are in the medical profession. I will report more as I read further

aristocat Mon 31-Oct-16 14:18:23

What an amazing book. I loved the introduction to neuroscience and the scientific insight into what goes on in the brain when an addiction starts.

I didn't realise at first that the author was also a former addict. This has obviously helped him write so well and to give others hope.

clopper Mon 31-Oct-16 22:24:59

I really enjoyed this book. It was not a 'light' read but it made some of the more complex ideas about neuroscience more accessible. In some parts of the book there are graphs and some quite heavy scientific language, but these are framed around interesting case studies which make the subject come to life. This sort of detailed case study seems similar to the approach of Oliver Sacks , so if you like his writing, you will probably enjoy this book too. It offers an interesting perspective into different types of addiction which challenge the current view that addiction is an illness or disease. Lewis explains it more as a reaction / behaviour linked to our environments and as a natural reaction for the brain to seek pleasurable rewards. Having had a close family member with a drug addiction, I found the chapters concerning this resonated with some of my experiences. However, it was equally interesting reading about drink and food addictions. The book ends by explaining different methods and approaches to overcoming addictions which seem to challenge the disease / medical model prevalent at the moment. It was an interesting well-written book which made me think about addiction in a different way.

markg71 Tue 01-Nov-16 12:46:25

The timing of this book has been peculiar and fascinating for me.
As an addict I have wrestled with the options available. The various 12 steps programmes just haven't worked for me (although I can see they are effective for some people) and I struggle to see every form of "relapse" as a reason to start again from zero. My reality is that they form part of the journey away from compulsive behaviour and that keyrings with numbers on do not represent progress and the readjustment of my own focus is far more important than a long period of clean time on its own.
It's convenient (and might even feel kind) to pigeon hole uncomfortable conditions or behaviour as diseases that can be cured but the reality of this does not feel accurate for me. For example are large populations who live in inner city deprived blocks of flats all prone to the same “disease” or are these concentrated areas of addicts due to their environment and lack of options?
The ability to form habits (through the coming together of different elements of my brain performing the functions that they are supposed to) and the pursuit of desire for an alternative form of perceived happiness also make sense.
This book has helped my piece together my behaviour and thoughts in way that nothing else I have read has ever managed to.
I would like to explore the wonderful final chapters as the author explains how individual-based treatment can form a structure to move away from destructive habits and identify one’s own motivations. This is a genuinely uplifting concept that moves away from the idea of keeping a lid on a fatal illness that is set to kick in at any given time of one’s life. We can change our own habits having identified where our own motivations lie. It’s a realistic concept that shows how the same drivers that got us into behaviour can be redirected.
The week I received the book my 10 yr old son started a week’s multi family therapy for his anorexia. This book has been invaluable in understanding my son’s condition and helping him start to re-adjust his own thinking/motivations away from his compulsions. This feels like a long road ahead but it seems easier to help him having understood how his brain has led him to this path and how the same “strengths” can help him move beyond.
In have two questions.
I am interested by the way in which a brain starved by anorexia can start on the path towards motivation/desire. How would the author suggest that this path can be started/assisted? If a brain is suffering in its decision making because it has been physically denied what it needs to grow how would he suggest creating the first glimmer of desire onto which to base future goals?
Secondly I am interested to learn more about the re-focussing on one’s desire on healthy habits in order to move away from destructive addictive behaviour. Although I understand the process has to be based on the individual, are there key elements that he has recognised as essential elements of re-alignmnet?
Thank you for this book. It has made such a difference.

Pigeonpea Thu 03-Nov-16 17:35:08

I liked this book a lot
I understand that modern medicine needs things to be classified as diseases and wants to offer medicine to make things better, however, I truly believe we can look at things in a holistic manner, in terms of the whole person and what are their drivers, motivations, kicks and so on. Once we understand a person, we can then offer the support and help they need, if they are willing to work at it as well

Bizzyashell Thu 10-Nov-16 16:20:09

As a clinician constantly butting up against medics who are ready to pathologise and diagnose more and more behaviours by the day, it was a breath of fresh air to read this book. I notice an earlier comment linking this to compassionate mindfulness and I am inclined to agree that there are similarities in how both this book and compassionate mindfulness view human behaviours. What I like about both is their view that behaviours such as addiction and some mental health problems are as a result of a brain which is functioning in the way that it was designed to. This view is non-pathologising, non-stigmatising and with the emphasis on neuroplasticity it is hope inducing and empathy building. I couldn't put this book down and will soon be re-reading it with a view to promoting it to my colleagues and sharing some of the views within it. It also coincided nicely with the release of A Cat called Bob at the cinema which served to consolidate it's messages. Thank you so much for the free copy. It has been eye opening to consider addiction in the context of normal cognitive and neurobiological processing.

dannydog1 Fri 11-Nov-16 09:54:33

I do not have any links with this subject professionally or even any links in my personal life. However I thought it would be interesting and give me some understanding and empathy with those that do. I haven't read much of the book yet but it is readable for non professionals and gives a great insight. I might gloss over the more technical parts.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 14-Nov-16 11:53:40

Thanks so much for the feedback and it's great to hear so many of you have found this such an interesting and helpful book. We're closing the giveaway today and will send over the questions for Marc Lewis and post them up next week when we get the answers back. Marc is also writing a guest blog for Mumsnet so we'll post up a link so you can read as soon as it's live.

pigsney Wed 07-Dec-16 22:35:47

Thank you for sending me the book. This book immediately appealed to me because it chimes with what I have suspected for a long time about addiction. It is nice to see it verified by neuroscience. I have always lean towards the view that addiction is to some extent a choice however this book provides a more nuanced view which is that it is neither a hopeless disease know a moral failing or a choice more that it is just a terrible habit, And one which it is possible to stop if one changes one's outlook on life. This book should be required Reading for all people working in the field of addiction and indeed for all addicts. The book looks at the effects of addiction on the brain and how the brain is changed by patterns of addictive behaviour. I found the first part of the book quite hard going and it got a lot easier to read and more interesting when it went into the fascinating individual case studies of addicts. The personal stories of the addicts backed up the science and I also found them to be authentic in that some of the stories were very similar to the stories of addicts I have met or know personally. My only criticism of the book is that it seemed to repeat itself quite a lot to try and hammer the point home that addiction is not a disease and it could perhaps have been a little shorter.
I have also read Dr Carl hart's book on a similar topic which is referenced at one point by Mark Lewis and it is useful to read the two books together.

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