If nicotine is said to be one of the most addictive substances known to man, then how was I able to quit, suffer no withdrawal symptoms of any kind and never once crave a single drag ever again?
The Meaning of Addiction by Stanton Peele is a book that tries to provide the answers to questions like the one I have just raised. Peele argues that addiction is not purely a biological phenomenon and instead is a complicated development of our environmental influences. These sorts of opinions, which I wholly support, fly in the face of modern science and this is why books like this are so important in the fight against addiction.
Addiction is defined by tolerance, withdrawal, and craving. We recognise addiction by a persons’ heightened and habituated need for a substance; by the intense suffering that results from discontinuation of it’s use’ and by the person’s willingness to sacrifice all (to the point of self destructiveness) for drug taking – Stanton Peele
Taking the point of view that it is your environment, beliefs, values and convictions that drive your addictive behaviour, and not the biology of the human body, is a great thing for addicts to focus on. It allows you to retain a sense of control and to believe that you have the power to change these things, instead of being at the mercy of your mind, organs and your hormones.
Addiction is best understood as an individual’s adjustment, albeit a self-defeating one, to his or her environment. It represents a habitual style of coping, albeit one that the individual is capable of modifying with changing psychological and life circumstances – Stanton Peele
One great example that Peele refers to several times in this book is the use of opiates during the Vietnam War. He refers to a study of former narcotic addicts that served in Vietnam, of which only 14% became re-addicted when they returned to the USA, despite half of them continuing to use heroin. This is where Peele sparks a little controversy in addiction theory and ran across the theories that I myself have become accustomed to – controlled substance use.
Peele uses the argument that controlled users exist to intensify his belief that biological reasoning drowns in the waters of addiction theory. If people can drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and take drugs in a controlled and moderate fashion, without falling under the banner of ‘addicted’ then how can biology play a part? The individualistic flavour of addiction also pours out of Peele’s theories.
The Meaning of Addiction was a very tough read. It was more scholar than story, bigger words, not small and facts not fiction. It wasn’t easy keeping my eyes open during long periods of reading and so I only recommend it for those that are working in the addiction business.
If you are suffering from an addiction then I believe there are better books out there that can help you confront and manage your problem, such as Allen Carr’s books on alcohol and cigarettes. The Meaning of Addictions views on controlled substance use might muddy the waters of those that are looking for a clean break; yet if you want to go down the route of controlled substance use – not one I share – then you can do no worse than to study this great man.
Do you have a habit or addiction and are seeking help? Why not try the Lean Life Habit Change Program? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.