The Points Interview: Gene Heyman

The eighth installment of the Points Interview is a timely one, in light of guest blogger Eoin Cannon’s recent post discussing a classroom visit by Gene Heyman.  Today, we are pleased to have Gene discussing his recent book, Addiction: A Disorder of Choice (Harvard University Press, 2009).  Since it first appeared, the book’s provocative reconsideration of the nature of addiction and the disease paradigm has generated considerable interest (readers wanting to get a flavor of the varied responses are invited to examine this essay in The New Republic and this interesting exchange in Times Higher Education) in both academic and policy circles.

Describe your book in terms your mother (or the average mother-in-the-street) could understand.

While writing the book, I had several goals in mind as well as several audiences, includingAddiction: A Disorder of Choice mothers. What I hoped the reader would come away with was an understanding of the nature of addiction–and an understanding of what addiction told us about ourselves, particularly how we make choices. I included key research findings so that readers could see for themselves how addicts behave and the nature of the support for the book’s conclusions. For example, although psychiatric texts, clinicians, researchers and the National Institute on Drug Abuse bulletins routinely refer to addiction as a “chronic relapsing disease,” the epidemiological chapter reveals that addiction is the psychiatric disorder with the highest remission rate. Most individuals who meet the official criteria for addiction are ex-addicts by age thirty. Every major, scientific epidemiological survey has obtained this result, yet it has gone unmentioned, even by experts. Thus, the book reveals “new” but well established research that is fundamental to the understanding addiction.

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