Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs

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Overview


Marc Lewis’s relationship with drugs began in a New England boarding school where, as a bullied and homesick fifteen-year-old, he made brief escapes from reality by way of cough medicine, alcohol, and marijuana. In Berkeley, California, in its hippie heyday, he found methamphetamine and LSD and heroin; he sniffed nitrous oxide in Malaysia; and frequented Calcutta’s opium dens. Ultimately, though, his journey took him where it takes most addicts: into a life of desperation, ...
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Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs

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Overview


Marc Lewis’s relationship with drugs began in a New England boarding school where, as a bullied and homesick fifteen-year-old, he made brief escapes from reality by way of cough medicine, alcohol, and marijuana. In Berkeley, California, in its hippie heyday, he found methamphetamine and LSD and heroin; he sniffed nitrous oxide in Malaysia; and frequented Calcutta’s opium dens. Ultimately, though, his journey took him where it takes most addicts: into a life of desperation, deception, and crime.

But unlike most addicts, Lewis recovered to become a developmental psychologist and researcher in neuroscience. In Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, he applies his professional expertise to a study of his former self, using the story of his own journey through addiction to tell the universal story of addictions of every kind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Kirkus
“Developmental neuroscientist Lewis examines his odyssey from minor stoner to helpless, full-blown addict….as [he] unspools one pungent drug episode after another, he capably knits into the narrative an accessible explanation of the neural activity that guided his behavior. From opium pipe to orbitofrontal cortex, a smoothly entertaining interplay between lived experience and the particulars of brain activity.” 

Publishers Weekly
“Meticulous, evocative… Lewis’s unusual blend of scientific expertise, street cred, vivid subjectivity and searching introspection yields a compelling perspective on the perils and allure of addiction.”

Wall Street Journal
"Compelling…for readers grappling with addiction, Mr. Lewis's…approach might well be novel enough to inspire them to seek the happiness he now enjoys.”

Chronicle of Higher Education
“He proceeds deftly from episodes of his drug years to neuroscientific explanations of his brain's response to drugs.”

Boston Globe
“A surprising and charming addition to this crowded genre. Yes, it embraces the classic redemption narrative - teenage experimentation, late-’60s Berkeley, exotic forays into Malaysia and Calcutta, the inevitable slide into deception, crime, and desperation. But he ends up a professional neuropsychologist, able to enliven the tired streams of addled consciousness with metrical rapids of semi-hard science.” 

Guardian
“Marc Lewis's brilliant – if not wholly sympathetic – account of his many mind-bludgeoning drug experiences wears its biological determinism on its sleeve … Lewis has certainly woven his experiences into an unusual and exciting book… (Memoirs of an Addicted Brain) is as strange, immediate and artfully written as any Oliver Sacks case-study, with the added scintillation of having been composed by its subject.”

The Fix
“The most original and illuminating addiction memoir since Thomas De Quincey's seminal Confessions of an Opium Eater…[an] electrifying debut.”

Midwest Book Review
“A powerful survey recounting the author’s powerful addiction and how he broke an intense hold on drugs… This will appeal to a range of collections, from those strong in autobiographies to science and health holdings alike.”

BBC Focus Magazine
“(W)hile the narrative of Marc’s life is a real-page turner, what makes this such an interesting and unusual book is that it also contains detailed descriptions of the neuro-chemical changes that are going on inside Marc’s brain as he takes the different drugs, and later as he wrestles to come off them. After reading the book, I felt that I understood for the first time what addiction is like at both the personal and the chemical level.”

The Independent (UK)
“Fascinating”

Publishers Weekly
In this meticulous, evocative memoir, Lewis, a neuroscientist and ex-junkie, explores how narcotics affect the brain and beguile the mind. His picaresque narrative recounts a lavish drug history: booze, cough syrup and pot at boarding school; LSD during his Vietnam-era college days at Berkeley; intermittent addictions to heroin and prescription opiates that led to pharmacy break-ins and arrest; a laughing-gas party in the Malaysian jungle. His odyssey frames a fascinating look at the mechanisms by which drugs disrupt brain chemistry, excite or sedate neurons, and trash perception, reasoning, and emotion. (A chapter on first love shows how sexual attraction stimulates the same dopamine reward system that hooks the brain on smack.) But Lewis also translates the neuroscience into luxuriant sensation with vivid depictions of the “absurdist carnival” of an acid trip or the “bright white pleasure” of a methamphetamine jag. His saga is as much trenchant psychology as it is hard neurology, as he probes the constant jangle of self-loathing and social awkwardness that drove him to drugs as an escape from reality. Lewis’s unusual blend of scientific expertise, street cred, vivid subjectivity and searching introspection yields a compelling perspective on the perils and allure of addiction. Agent: Michael Levine, Westsood Artists (Canada).(Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Developmental neuroscientist Lewis (Human Development and Applied Psychology/Radboud Univ., Netherlands) examines his odyssey from minor stoner to helpless, full-blown addict. It all started when he was sent to boarding school in New England, where each student had their own host of problems and despair. But it was when he attended UC-Berkeley that he began to explore the world of drugs beyond the occasional bottle of cough syrup, to smoke marijuana and hash throughout the day and pop psychedelics a few times a week. As he now understands it, the drugs were talking to his brain "in the language of dopamine and peptides, neuromodulators and receptors," tricking the brain into releasing the neurochemicals of reward. As Lewis unspools one pungent drug episode after another, he capably knits into the narrative an accessible explanation of the neural activity that guided his behavior. Lewis chronicles his drug life shuffling from California to Malaysia to Calcutta to Canada, and he provides sharp place portraits intermixed with cringingly prismatic descriptions of intoxication and the bite of boredom, loneliness and shame. "I saw myself as a pathetic creature," he writes, "a fool, completely obsessed with a stupid drug that I was impervious to the riot of life, the celebration of everyday sensation, that even the poorest people on earth were enjoying all around me." And though it is cheering that Lewis was finally able to shake the monkey off his back, it's a shame that neuroscience couldn't give him an answer about why: "I don't actually know the answer. I believe that further research in the neuroscience of addiction will help me get closer to finding it." From opium pipe to orbitofrontal cortex, a smoothly entertaining interplay between lived experience and the particulars of brain activity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610392334
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 237,130
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Dr. Marc Lewis is a developmental neuroscientist and professor of human development and applied psychology at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. He is the author of over fifty journal publications in neuroscience and developmental psychology and coeditor of Emotion, Development, and Self-Organization: Dynamic Systems Approaches to Emotional Development.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2013

    Truly the best book I have read in regard to understanding addic

    Truly the best book I have read in regard to understanding addiction.
    My son died from drug overdose and I now work to help others fight this ugly disease...this book made understanding the dynamics of addiction possible....for anyone. This is a must read for anyone that has been touched by addiction and wondered, "why can't he/she just stop?" I am grateful to Marc Lewis for having the courage to tell his story so that others can begin to understand this heinous disease.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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