Memoirs of an addicted Brain.

Memoirs of an addicted Brain. A neuroscientist examines his former life on drugs. Marc Lewis PHD.

I have been reading a lot about addiction since I decided to start blogging again and this book was fascinating. It is certainly not a self-help book and was never intended to be. It is a journey through addiction which takes place over many years in different places and under a variety of circumstances, with a wide range of substances being used. In more or less every chapter, there is an examination of what happens to the brain when it meets a substance, that triggers a chemical reaction.

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I have become interested in how the brain works over the past few years after going through a period of self-examination and studying mindfulness. I became interested in feedback loops and how they affect craving and have read about this before so was naturally interested in this book. Having said that I have to say that it would be a good read for people who have or are experiencing cravings as it really explains the scientific process in a way that somebody like myself can relate to.

There are many stories of close shaves as a result of the crazy lifestyle that the addict lives, which add a lot of realism to the descriptions and circumstances of taking various drugs.

He also explains what the differerent chemicals and parts of our brains actually do. I was surprised to learn that serotonin actually works like a braking system and dampens and regulates neuronal firing, in a way that allows us to filter input from the outside world without being overwhelmed. LSD takes over receptor sites normally activated by serotonin and this results in no regulation, and the doors of the mind are really opened wide. I had thought of serotonin as some kind of “happy” molecule at one time, but this is not the case.

Marc has done a great job of contrasting the inner workings of the brain with the outside world in a way that is personal, which is very unusual, as most books by neuroscientists would not have this type of perspective. He provides a great explanation for the workings of an addicted mind which is so different from the ineffective disease theory model that is often pushed by those in the 12 step traditional recovery world. This whole debate has become controversial over the past few years as many still cling on to old out of date ideas, rather than accept that progress has been made in understanding how brains react to stimulation of various types, including drugs.

I hope this book will be read by many and that they will be provoked to question the traditional explanations that have not helped people find effective solutions. It certainly provides a more interesting and rational explanation than those I have heard from many in the”recovery” industry. I did not live quite as wild a lifestyle as Marc,(I did not break into drug stores etc) but I have tried most of the substances a few times and can certainly relate to power of cravings. It was great to have an explanation of what was taking place in the soft fleshy computer between my ears! The book is very well written and certainly unique. I will certainly be reading more about how my brain functions in the future!

He has a great blog which often provokes good discussion here


Commenting area

  1. AA members like to humiliate members who relapse, instead of helping them find the professional help they really need. I believe (from experience) that anxiety causes most relapses and they could be managed successfully if treated. But of course this is wishful thinking when it comes to the gurus of AA, because they refuse to believe that anything other than AA can help.

    “5. The things you do to avoid or try to cope with feeling negative emotions may be more counterproductive than the emotions themselves. You may turn to alcohol, marijuana, or excess use of prescription drugs to escape feeling bad. These substances can have long-term negative effects on mood and motivation and have addictive properties. Turning to food excessively can lead to overweight or obesity and low self-esteem associated with weight gain. Getting angry and blaming others for your negative emotions can strain your relationships. Retail therapy can lead to debt.”

  2. There are certainly some grouops that do behave in a very poor way while others are much more moderate. i used to go to a meeting that has had alot of bad exposure, where taking medication etc was looked down upon. A lot of the members of this group were very evangelical about AA and certainly had an influence on other groups in the area which went downhill. Other groups are quite small and are just a bunch of people looking out for each other. It depends where you are but in my experience big city meetings had the most problems.
    I think the point you are making about emotions is true. I was interested to see that mindfulness is mentioned in the article, which is one of the things that helped me. I think there is a problem with people shifting from one type of addiction to another and many people do end up doing that. I think some people get addicted to AA after stopping drinking and some can get addicted to the internet which is not always a great way to spend all your time, especially if you are mixing with other dysfunctional types.
    The book that I was talking about is an amaxing journey through various stages of addiction and what happens to the brain of an addicted person. It really goes against the old disease theory.

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