In Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, neuroscientist Marc Lewis explored his experience with drugs, and the difficulties of dependence. His latest offering, The Biology of Desire, takes a closer look at the physiology of addiction; debunking the oft-held theory that it's a brain disease.
Lewis uses in-depth case studies of five former addicts - including Johnny, an ex-alcoholic who lost his career and family; Natalie, who ended up in high-security jail addicted to heroin, and Brian, who spiralled into crystal meth addiction. The Biology of Desire combines each of their stories with scientific explanations of what is happening in the brain at each stage of addiction and recovery.
In the book, Lewis puts forward a new science-based theory of addiction as a behavioural problem which can be overcome through a deeper understanding of the real cause of addiction, and by harnessing willpower and motivation to change. He argues that the disease model has actually become an obstacle to healing and this is why treatment so often fails.
"Addicts aren't diseased", Lewis writes, "and they don't need medical intervention in order to change their lives. What they need is sensitive, intelligent social scaffolding to hold the pieces of their imagined future in place‚ while they reach toward it."
The Biology of Desire is a fascinating read for both those interested in neuroscience and behavioural psychology, and anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding into the workings of the brain. It's also important reading for those whose lives have been affected by addiction.