Non-fiction book of the month: October

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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. 

What the critics said

"Lewis has interviewed countless current and former addicts. Their struggles with alcohol, heroin, meth, prescription pain killers, and food are relayed with unblinking clarity, and with compassion." - The Globe and Mail 

"The Biology of Desire is less autobiographical but no less personal. Lewis is still the former addict, but in this book the neuroscientist takes charge, and the stories of other addicts provide the narrative drama." - The Washington Post

"An insightful take on the interaction of mind and brain against the backdrop of the addict's life circumstances." - The Wall Street Journal

About the author

Dr Marc Lewis is a neuroscientist and professor of developmental psychology, now teaching at Radboud University in the Netherlands after more than twenty years on faculty at the University of Toronto. He has authored or co-authored more than fifty journal articles in neuroscience and developmental psychology. Presently, he speaks and blogs on topics in addiction science, and his critically acclaimed book, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: a neuroscientist examines his former life on drugs, is the first to blend memoir and science in addiction studies.

Book giveaway

We have 50 copies of The Biology of Desire to give away to Mumsnetters. To apply for your copy, fill in the form below. This giveaway ends on 10 October.

It would be great to hear your thoughts about the book on our discussion thread, where you can also leave questions for Dr Marc Lewis. We'll close the Q&A at the end of October and post his answers in early November.

You don't have to win a copy to take part in the discussion - everyone is welcome to come and talk about the book. If you're not lucky enough to bag one, you can always buy a copy.

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Last updated: over 1 year ago