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From The CriticsReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D. (Cermak Health Services)
Description: This book discusses addictive behavior from a social and historical perspective as opposed to focusing on the individual. The author believes that the loss of social and spiritual connections results in lack of meaning in life and ultimately addictive behavior to fill the psychological void.
Purpose: According to the author, "A historical perspective affords an unhurried look at what addiction is, why it has always existed, why it appears to be spinning out of control just now, and what modern society can hope to do about it," adding, "Rather than an individual problem, the historical perspective views addiction as a societal problem."
Audience: Professionals working in the field of addictions, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, would benefit greatly from this book. In addition, public policy makers and researchers would find this of interest. The author, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University in Canada, has researched and published in the field of addictions since 1970.
Features: In the first part of the book, the author strives to define addiction and why it has ballooned all over the world. He says that traditional theories do not address the central problem, namely dislocation or social isolation. The author wonders why civilizations were able to overcome communicable diseases like smallpox but not alcohol and other drugs. He sees that free-market economics creates a breach in social cohesion of society and thus "dislocation or poverty of the spirit" causes addictions and other psychological difficulties. He gives examples in the history of the city of Vancouver, along with Canadian aboriginal peoples and China. The second part of the book describes the effects of dislocation and addiction with various historical examples including Adolf Eichmann, St. Augustine, and the writings of Socrates. There are numerous endnotes following each chapter so that readers can get a better understanding of the material and find sources to further explore. In addition, the author provides 61 pages of references.
Assessment: This fascinating and unique book explores the problem of addiction using a nontraditional approach. The book is replete with lessons from history, both in terms of civilizations and specific individuals. The author's simple message is that mankind has cured various diseases but has not offered any effective solutions to overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. Thus, he introduces dislocation theory as a crucial factor in understanding addiction. His book also expands the definition of addiction, both in terms of positive and negative addictions. In general, it is a refreshing look at an age-old problem.