Newest-Articles & Speeches

Rise and Fall of the Official View of Addiction

The Rise and Fall of the Official View of Addiction
Bruce K. Alexander, Professor Emeritus
Simon Fraser University
Revised January 17 2014
Submission to the High Court in the Field of Addiction:
Herewith, I confess to the charge of attempted murder. My intended victim was – and still 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 expresses my plea to the High Court that ridding 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 attempted 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 language, was kidnapped in the 19th century by medical and moralistic interest groups, who gave it a new meaning. Despite the obvious failure of their treatment methods and their so-called War on Drugs, their approaches have coalesced in recent decades as a doctrine which is, I submit, properly called the "Official View of Addiction," which is usually couched in the language of high-tech neuroscience. 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.

Read more: Rise and Fall of the Official View of Addiction


Eco-Crisis, Spirituality, and Addiction

Eco-Crisis, Spirituality, and Addiction

Bruce K. Alexander

Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University,

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Workshop presented at "Healing Our World and Ourselves" Conference

Vero Beach, Florida, February 21, 2014

(I have received expert guidance on this project from several friends and colleagues who are recovering from addictions and also actively involved in environmental and social justice issues. Most of them are members of AA and/or other 12-step groups and are therefore anonymous. They do not necessarily all agree with all of the ideas stated here.)

In the twenty-first century, the miracles of modern technology and science are bringing forth a world civilization that encompasses virtually all peoples, cultures, and religions of the planet. This is a wondrous new stage in human progress, but it has brought deadly problems in its train. Right at the head of the deadly train, the new civilization appears to be well on the way to destroying the sustainability of the Earth’s intricate and fragile ecosystems. The ultimate nightmare is before us: Destruction of life itself may turn out to be a side effect of modern, globalized civilization. (McKibben, 2010; Kolbert, 2013).

Read more: Eco-Crisis, Spirituality, and Addiction


A Train Trip through Methland


2 February 2011                                                                                                                                               

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.

Read more: A Train Trip through Methland


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[1] 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,[2] 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".[3]

Read more: A Change of Venue for Addiction: From Medicine to Social Science


Addiction: The View from Rat Park

If you were a cute little white rat…

Figure 1 - White Rats

…you certainly wouldn’t want to live in a psychology laboratory.

Read more: Addiction: The View from Rat Park


Recovery from Addiction: The Role of Spirituality and the Planet Earth

Bruce Alexander

Presented (In shortened form) to A Community Aware, 

Longhouse Church

Vancouver, September 10 2013

Late in the 19th century, a young Harvard scholar named William James, dreamed that brain science could cure the psychological pain and suffering that he saw all around him, including his own (Richardson, 2007). More broadly, he envisioned brain science as the basis of a new, scientific approach to the entire field of psychology (James, 1890/1950). William James was not alone in these dreams, but was one of a scattered fraternity of brilliant European and American researchers who pursued similar visons (Boring, 1950; E. Taylor, 2011). 

William James was much more than a physiological psychologist, however. He was also a member of a brilliantly intellectual, but conflicted family; an encompassing, classical scholar who read the great philosophers in Latin, German, and French; a modern, pragmatic philosopher; and a man of deep personal friendships and universal compassion. His whole family was fervently opposed to slavery and two of his brothers risked their lives to fight it in the American Civil War (Richardson, 2007).

Read more: Recovery from Addiction: The Role of Spirituality and the Planet Earth


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.

Read more: Thinking More Deeply about Harm Reduction: An Open Letter to Margaret Wente

New Revision of
"The Rise and Fall
of the Official View
of Addiction"
Read Here
Newest Workshop by
Bruce Alexander:
Vero Beach Florida,
21 February 2014
(Healing Our Word and Ourselves Conference). "Eco-Crisis, Spirituality, and Addiction"
Read Now
Bruce Alexander addressing
The Royal Society of Arts
in London: 
What To Do
When Everything Else Fails"
Hear Podcast Now

"Connection" by the DockSreet Band, a song inspired by "The Globalization of Addiction"

New Podcast: Steve Paikin Interviews Bruce Alexander on TVOntario