Addiction traps us in a recurrent pursuit that leads to boredom at best and self-destruction at worst. Addiction also corresponds with measurable brain changes that fasten our attention to a narrow set of rewards.
One way to make sense of addiction is to label it a disease and have done with it. But Marc Lewis views addiction as an exaggerated outcome of normal learning. The brain changes in addiction cause over-focusing on current opportunities (“let’s get high — tonight!”) at the expense of future opportunities (the chance to feel better by next week). The appeal of right-now blocks out the sense of time that normally underpins self-narrative, our sense of ourselves. We get stuck in a recurrent present-tense, lose track of who we might really be, and that’s why it’s so hard to find our way out. Lewis illustrates this model of addiction with biographical sketches of several former addicts, himself included.
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Marc Lewis, PhD, is a neuroscientist and professor of developmental psychology. He was born in Canada, and taught and researched for more than 20 years at the University of Toronto. Lewis is currently at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 journal articles in neuroscience and developmental psychology. 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. His most recent book is The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease.