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Biology of Desire: A review

blog Neuroscience

I read Marc’s first book, memoirs of an addicted brain, several years ago and was so impressed by it that I immediately made contact with him and we have been friends ever since. He has a wonderful ability to take complex neurological processes and turn them into a kind of prose that makes them easily understood and this, his new book, follows in the same way. It walks that fine line between the rational objectivity of science and the sometimes irrational subjectivity from the rich narrative of the lived experience. In his first book he took us through his own journey into and out of addiction, describing in quite graphic detail how different chemicals worked in his brain and how the brain deals with repetitive exposure and dependency. In his new book he takes us even further into some of the arguments he raised, in his first book, and begins to form a hypotheses that suggests that the brain in addiction is simply doing what it has evolved to do and isn’t, as much of the scientific world would have us believe, becoming diseased.

He uses four very different personal narratives to help us to understand his position. One person who became alcohol dependent, one who became dependent on crystal meth, an opiate dependent and someone with an eating disorder. He has obviously spent many hours meticulously interviewing these people and has managed to weave this material into, what is very often, a wonderful narrative with some beautifully descriptive prose. Such was the gripping nature of this page turner that I read it in one sitting and loved almost every word. For much of my personal recovery I have subscribed to the disease model of addiction but since reading Marc’s first book I have completely changed. By the end of the biology of desire I really cannot see addiction as a disease and, furthermore, find it very difficult to understand how I did in the first place. I believe that this book is right up there with the works of Bruce Alexander, Carl Hart, Stanton Peele, John McKnight and Gabor Mate. It should be a mandatory read for anyone who has anything to do with addiction and will, I am absolutely certain, become part of the evidence that will bring about the much needed changes we need in our field.


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