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The Letter, Issue 16, Summer 1999, Pages 1 - 8


Charles Melman

I am going to tell you things, both classical and original, having consequences for the treatment of addicts. As you know, neither Freud nor Lacan directly interested themselves in the area of addiction. Nevertheless, they have left us with a certain number of elements which will allow us to have an orientation and also to arrive at conclusions with respect to this very difficult question. I am going to start with some of the theses that Freud tackles in his famous work Mourning and Melancholia. These theses are going to tell us that we are all dependent and that we are all in a state of addiction. Secondly, I am going to try to show you the role of addiction in the field of toxicomania. And then in the third part of my presentation I am going to give you the exact name for the drug that is used by toxicomaniacs.

So the first part of the question: What does Freud teach us in Mourning and Melancholia? He shows us that there are two different types of loss. First of all there is bereavement or mourning which normally provokes a state of sadness, but which also, paradoxically, in some cases can produce phenomena of happiness, gaiety and joy. And there is another type of loss, which for its part produces a destruction of the personality, of identity, and which is called melancholia. And Freud explains for us very accurately the difference between the two. We know, thanks to psychoanalysis, that the mechanism of desire is set up in the human subject starting with a fundamental loss. For example, with what the theory calls the Oedipus complex, the child must lose the being that for him has been the closest and dearest, in order to gain access to desire and sexual maturity. The paradox, therefore, in the human being is that desire is set up starting from a fundamental and foundational loss. And it is on the foundation constituted by the loss of this fundamental object that there will be set up in reality the objects that are cathected or invested, the beloved/cherished persons who are going to be the support for desire. But these objects or these people are never more than the substitute for the fundamental object, which was initially lost. So you can see that there are two kinds of loss that can take place. I may happen to lose, on the occasion of a break-up or of a bereavement, a beloved person and I am in a state of bereavement or mourning.

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