Newest-Articles & Speeches
A Train Trip through Methland
Nick Reding’s book, Methland, is a fascinating, new study of addiction. It focuses on the town of Olewein, Iowa, which has been stricken by methamphetamine addiction in the past few decades. Methamphetamine is an infamous stimulant drug with many aliases. It is also known as “meth” “crank” “crystal,” and, most ominously, “ice.”
Beyond Olewein, the book tells the story of a huge area of the rural United States, which Reding christens “Methland”. As Nick Reding defines it, “Methland,” is the rural center of the US -- the 28 landlocked American states. Obviously, Methland has more familiar names too, such as “Middle America,” but Reding renames it Methland because at the end of the 20th century it became notorious for its rampant meth use, meth addiction, and amateur meth manufacturing or “cooking”. Reding was determined to figure out why.
Rise and Fall of the Official View of Addiction
(Revised 23 December 2010)
Bruce K. Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University
To the High Court in the Field of Addiction:
Herewith, I confess to the charge of attempted murder. My intended victim was – and is – the Official View of Addiction, sometimes known in the field by its alias, "The NIDA paradigm". The presentation below contains irrefutable evidence of my guilt. However, it also contains my plea to the High Court that any attempt to rid the world of the Official View of Addiction is justifiable and that its useful aspects can be preserved in a different framework.
I understand that a plea of justifiable homicide will require meticulous examination by the Court. The structure of my plea is as follows. I show that the word "addiction", which has a long history in the English and Latin languages, was kidnapped in the 19th century by medical and moralistic interest groups, who gave it a new meaning. Their medical and moralistic approaches to defining and eliminating the problem of addiction failed abysmally. Despite obvious failure, their approaches have coalesced in recent decades as a doctrine which is, I submit, properly called the "Official View of Addiction." The Official View dominates discussion of addiction in the United States to this day. Although it is not as powerful elsewhere, it exerts its counterproductive influence in many other countries of the world.
A Change of Venue for Addiction: From Medicine to Social Science
(Revised 26 December 2010)
Bruce K. Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Psychology Department, Simon Fraser University
Global society has failed to control a devastating flood of addiction to drug use and innumerable other habits. A century of scientific research has not produced a durable consensus on what addiction is, what causes it, and how it can be remedied. Physicians, addiction counselors, social workers, and psychologists only succeed with a minority of addicted clients. Police and soldiers find themselves drafted into a cruel and futile "war on drugs". Hi-tech neuroscience, education, harm reduction, and spirituality cannot control today's flood of addiction either.
The only real hope of controlling the flood of addiction comes from the social sciences, which are uniquely suited to replace society's worn-out formulas with a more productive paradigm. Although many social scientists have analysed the cause of addiction in specific historical circumstances, this short article will focus on more general analyses by Karl Polanyi and a few more recent scholars. This overview shows that society's cardinal error in confronting addiction has been ignoring what Polanyi called "dislocation".
Thinking More Deeply about Harm Reduction: An Open Letter to Margaret Wente
This is an updated form of a letter I sent to Margaret Wente in response to her attacks on Vancouver's harm reduction program. Her first four columns on this topic appeared in the Globe and Mail in July 2008. I originally wrote her on 10 October 2008 and re-sent the letter on 15 October. She acknowledged receipt, but did not respond to my critique. She then published another attack on harm reduction in November, 2008. This open letter, published in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives for February 2009, addresses all five of her columns.
Towards Controlling the Drugs and Alcohol Problem in Scotland: Going Up the Down Staircase
|Bruce Alexander addressing
The Royal Society of Arts
What To Do
When Everything Else Fails"
|Hear Podcast Now|
New Podcast: Steve Paikin Interviews Bruce Alexander on TVOntario