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The Subject of Addiction

The Letter, Issue 25, Summer 2002, Pages 21 - 38


THE SUBJECT OF ADDICTION*

Rik Loose


Who will ever relate the

whole history of narcotica?

It is almost the history of

'culture', of our so-called

high culture.[1]

The earliest evidence of psychoactive drug use and knowledge of hallucinogenic plants dates back some 13,000 years.[2] Most early forms of religion used drugs in an attempt to gain divine knowledge. Drugs and drug use are an integral part of human culture. Yet, we hardly know anything about drugs, at least not the kind of knowledge that would help us to understand how drugs affect people and how people become addicted to drugs. This is most surprising in light of the vast amount of knowledge that has been accumulated in the sciences.

So, what should we expect from science concerning the effect of drugs and the pathology of addiction? Whilst science has devoted considerable time and resources to the question (for instance, the American National Institute of Drug Abuse [NIDA] allocates $600 million a year to research into drug abuse), we still do not have a satisfactory scientific basis for addiction. On the other hand, although psychoanalysis has yet to seriously and systematically address the problem of addiction, it is my contention that psychoanalysis has an unique contribution to make.

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