Preface to the Second Edition
|The Myth of Addiction
© 1992, 1997 by OPA
(Overseas Publishers Association), Amsterdam B.V.
Harwood Academic Publishers
The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group
The above selected chapters appear
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The first edition of The Myth of Addiction appeared in 1992, and expressed my conviction that the view taken of the state we describe as 'addicted' is too mechanistic and too remote from the realm of human desires and purposes, too often. Instead of a view of addiction problems as deriving from the interaction of a substance, a setting, and the aims and goals of those who use the substance (i.e. a view that sees addiction as something that people do), the prevailing notions tend to see addiction as something that happens to people; that is, as something imposed from outside by the inescapable pharmacological properties of an alien substance, rather than as a state negotiated through the more understandable channels of human desire and intention. Central to this argument were certain observed facts concerning attribution theory, and the ways in which people explain their actions. From the standpoint of functional attribution, the reasons people give for their drug use are not, and never can be, hard or so-called 'objective' data on why drug use happens. Consequently, the use of such statements as criteria against which to validate physiological or other measures, or as factual statements from which to derive diagnostic criteria, is probably misconceived. The Myth of Addiction argues that such explanations are primarily functional. Explaining one's behaviour as either within, or outwith, one's control has either positive or negative consequences according to the situation and in a climate of moral and legal censure it makes sense to choose the latter.
Not everyone agrees with these propositions. However, whenever I meet someone who has read the first edition, I usually find that it has provoked a reaction; sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes somewhere in-between. And on odd occasions, people have even found it necessary to make unsolicited statements about the book in order to let others know how much they agreed, or disagreed with it. However, regardless of outcome, I thank everyone who bothered to comment for their views and for having spent time in thinking about the issues raised. If The Myth ... provoked any reaction, I am well pleased whenever someone has been sufficiently energetic and interested to read it.
I am particularly pleased that a second edition is now considered desirable. Since the first edition, the application of attribution theory to addiction problems has developed somewhat, so there have been a few minor revisions. The intention remains the same, however; simply to put back some humanity and comprehensibility into a process too often seen as arising from the magical power of drugs to change the very bases of human behaviour, regardless of the goals and purposes of the user.