Johann Hari claims to have a mix of this, libertarian-driven legalization (also touted by Hart) and theories of two people in the addiction field to have "the answer" in his book.
First, as I've noted elsewhere, legalization is no guaranteed solution, or even a guaranteed partial solution.
Second, it's time to critique Hari's other two ideas and their sources.
Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hari's thesis, that one can mash up Gabor Mate's loneliness with Bruce Alexander's Rat Park, add a dash or two of Carl Hart's acculturalization, and voila, explain, or at times, explain away, addiction, is simplistic at best.
I've critiqued Hart's book here and on my blog, and some of Mate's and Alexander's ideas elsewhere.
Many people are lonely yet don't become addicted. Some are alone, but not necessarily lonely. Others embrace even some degree of loneliness in an existential way. To the degree that addiction is an emotional disease, it's a far more complex one than just about loneliness.
Alexander? Skeptical question No 1 is, "Which came first, the rat cage or the addiction"? Often, and especially to the partial degree loneliness is intertwined with addiction, the rat cage only comes after a certain point down the road of addiction and is caused by it.
Hart? His "dopamine" ideas are very simplistic. As with others of the "big four" neurotransmitters, our brain cells have several different types of dopamine receptors. Which cause addiction and why? Plus, there's about 100 total neurotransmitters, depending on how you count them.
Beyond that, Hart and Hari both strike me as a little bit of blowhards.
Finally, within the book, Hari contradicts himself.
He talks about US heroin addicts calling methadone bland mush, yet touts Portugal's use of methodone. And, beyond that, he doesn't look carefully at the issue of placebos at all.
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Also, the pompousness of someone who really thinks that, before the age of 25, the world really cares about his opinion on the Iraq War (he was wrong), and the higher pomposity of thinking that, when he changed his mind before 30, he needed to cover his tracks, is a bit — or more than a bit — off-putting.
Beyond that, which was my official Goodreads review plus two added paragraphs about Hari, none of this looks at a BUNCH of other addiction-related issues.
- Genetic heritability of a disposition to addiction;
- Epigenetic heritability of a disposition to addiction;
- Genetic heritability of tendencies toward high levels of certain emotional states, such as anxiety, which may contribute to a desire to control them by drug or alcohol use that eventually becomes addictive;
- Epigenetic heritability of tendencies toward high levels of certain emotional states, such as anxiety, which may contribute to a desire to control them by drug or alcohol use that eventually becomes addictive;
- Chronic emotional affect beyond loneliness, based on sociological family or cultural history, and distinct from genetic or epigenetic tendencies, that may contribute to addictive behavior, or, beyond that,
- Family or cultural social learning about addiction itself.
- More thoughts about physical addictiveness.
Genetic heritability, to the degree we can tell so far, not only by separating it from No. 5, cultural and familial tendencies, but No. 2, epigenetic tendencies, and steer away from simplistic "dopamine hypothesis" ideas, has some variability from drug to drug. That, in turn, may have some connection to No. 6, and the relative physical/physiological addictiveness of each. But, given the fact that we don't know a lot about epigenetics of addiction yet, and thus covering No. 2, this is hard to say with much precision.
No. 3 and 4, as paired, fairly parallel No. 1 and 2. How genetically heritable is a disposition to anxiety? The story of someone like Atlantic editor Scott Stossel, painful to read, especially if you have some struggles with anxiety yourself, sounds like it's tailor-made to prove genetic heritability.
But, is it? Epigenetic tags are also heritable, and something like anxiety seems ready-made to be passed along epigenetically. Plus, there's Point 5. If Scott Stossel learned that being a "true Stossel" was to be anxious over a lot of things, social learning has played some part. (I also reject the idea that anxiety, at anywhere near the level he has it, might have some "redemptive" value. I know that it's become a part of sociological human nature to look for such silver linings, but, you know, sometimes they simple don't exist.)
That, in turn, leads to Point 5 further. Is it possible to become "addicted" to depression, or to anxiety? That may sound harsh, but I don't think we should discount it.
Take Stossel, even if it's a bit harsh. If a fair amount of his own severe anxiety is generated by public speaking, then why doesn't he just quit public speaking? It's kind of drastic, but not THAT drastic. And, as editor at the Atlantic, I'm sure he's reasonably fixed financially without public speaking fees. He notes that he has many specific phobias, too. Nonetheless, if he could safety-proof his life more, it might help, I'd think. I don't think he's addicted to it himself, but, nonetheless, the idea of being a "true Stossel" maybe exactly the "redemptive value" he seeks and desires.
The truth is that anxiety is at once a function of biology and philosophy, body and mind, instinct and reason, personality and culture.
Beyond that, on major issues of emotional affect vs. addiction, it's often chicken-vs-egg and hard to determine which is which.
On physical addictiveness, it can be overblown by some, but underplayed by others.
Take nicotine, probably the most addictive drug in use today, whether legal or illegal.
Beloved, but edge-of-the-wire New York Times columnist David Carr died recently from cancer. He was still smoking less than two months before his death, and smoking regularly, not just "chipping." That's despite the fact that, due to previous cancer surgery, he had, to be blunt, just half a neck left.
On the governmental side, believing there is "one right answer" to drug use, if wrong, could be very wrong. Let's add in that the US is much, much larger on both size and population than the Netherlands or Portugal, and much, much more ethnically diverse. A "one-size" idea is less likely here.
As far as treating addiction? People who support options in sobriety support should remember that the 12-step movement touts "one answer." Enough said.