Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong

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What causes addiction? Easy, right? Drugs cause addiction. But maybe it is not that simple. This video is adapted from Johann Hari's New York Times best-sell...

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  • Thanks, Mat. Looks interesting. If you get time and feel inspired, do put up a blog post about it when you get back. Very good topic for us to have some space for on this site. What is The Way of the Rose - sounds like medieval romance :-)

  • Yes, it is a different conversation, but an important one. Both processes (and others) distort translation. Most of them are related to the translators understandable wish to make the text as relevant as possible to his own audience, but that audience is not the audience that the original teacher (Buddha or whoever) was talking to. Eco-spirituality is a good example. Psychologisation, ecoologisation, ontologisation, etc. Then there is the matter of traditional Western concerns that monopolise attention - thus duality, justice and justification, democracy, mercy, forgiveness are all important Western concepts that have a history is Western thought and this muddles things when translators, often unconsciously, read these meanings into a Buddhist text that was composed in a quite different social context that has a completely different history and different concerns. Then, again, a translator has to consider "pitch". Buddha was often talking to common people. When he spoke to Ambapali he was probably not using sophisticated language whereas the translator is probably writing for other holders of PhDs and so the vocabulary he or she chooses may be from a quite different register of language. And so on. Many pitfalls.

    I think on of the most misleading ones is the way that the skandhas get translated as neutral psychological terms like feeling, perception, consciousness etc. Given that the Buddha is advocating getting rid of these things this produces quite nonsensical passages with a strongly extinctionist feel to them which I do not believe was the original message. Namo Buddhaya !

  • Yes, thanks, Mat, I agree. I think that there is a general problem in translating Buddhism into English that people tend to use general neutral psychological terms where the Buddha's language is more emotive and polemical. So attachment, for instance, refers to every kind, good and bad, but the Buddha is not, i think, saying do not be attached to the Dharma, indeed, he is saying take refuge in it. So there are attachments and attachments and they are not all the same.

  • Thanks, Mat. Yes, it seems to suggest that humans will be attached to something and if it is not a creative enthusiasm or relationships with other people or pets, then it may well be a drug, pornography or almost anything else that fills the void. In a way, i think it is saying that there is nothing one can do about being attached per se, but one can choose what one attaches to and some hings are a lot more wholesome and constructive than others.

  • The son of a close friend of mine came by for a visit recently. He has had many problems with addiction including crack cocaine and, most recently, Lorazepam. I mentioned the experiments with rats, done many years ago, where the rats given free access to some drug (cocaine or heroin I think) would push a lever endlessly, forgoing even food. Left long enough they would die. My friend's son told me about a much more recent study in which rats were given the same access to drugs but were placed in a completely enriched environment with other rats to relate to, room to exercise, and lots of toys to play with. These rats made completely different choices and did not become addicted. I think this fits in exactly with what Dharmavidya has said. I wonder about the correlation of addiction with our modern impoverished industrial environments and the ongoing breakdown of true social connection.
  • We can often see addiction as a form of self-medication. Unfortunately all medicines are also poisons and taken in excess do damage. However, once a person is strongly into a habit it seems to be very difficult for them to give up even if their social circumstances improve - think of smoking, for example. I think it needs not just an improvement in circumstance but also something that gives one a positive push in the right direction. Generally speaking, just trying to abandon a compulsion seems to be exceedingly difficult. What more often works is the adopting of some new enthusiasm or commitment that is incompatible with the old habit. The GIs coming back from Vietnam in the film gave up heroin because they immediately became committed to a different sytle of life in which the drug had no place.

  • Today evening a Young man came to my clinic for a first Talk about his gambling addiction -( gambling machines). After 15 minutes it was clear that this addiction was one of many ( alcohol, benzodiazepin, Marihuana, have been the other one in the past)and 30 minutes later, S. Talked about havy depressiv episodes and panic attacks 14 years before. It is obvious that the addiction to variable objects and substances is a strategy of his mind to find some comfort and alleviation from a tremendous pain. Last but not least the treatment of the Depression will have primacy.
  • Yes, the film is very clear and persuasive.

  • Thank You David, very true! Not the substance or the object of addiction is the cause but the state of mind and the life circumstances we get stuck in. I will come back to chat about it - a very important topic today!

    best wishes to You!


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