Warring Cultural Icons? Addiction and Mental Illness as Brain Diseases

Points readers packing for the big Alcohol and Drugs History Conference next week will want to take a break from stuffing their toiletries into quart-size ziploc bags in order to welcome Guest Blogger Stanton Peele, psychologist, author, and principled opponent of the addiction-is-disease industry.  Peele is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Addiction and Recovery, The Diseasing of America and Addiction-Proof Your Child; he blogs at Stanton’s Blog. Below, he trains his incisive gaze on two recent print media discussions of brain chemistry, mental illness, and addiction.

The two primary (New York) intellectual organs, the New York Review of Books and New York Times, have recently featured two powerful cultural icons saying exactly opposite things about  prescription pharmaceuticals and “brain disease.”

The New York Media Wants a Piece of Points' Action

In an ongoing two-part series in the NYRB (part 1 is in the June 23rd issue), Marcia Angell, the first woman editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and now at the Harvard Medical School, argues against the firmly ensconced American view that mental illness can be–it has been–resolved to brain functioning.  The Times, for its part, once again supports the slightly-more-come-lately view of addiction as a brain disease with a profile of Nora Volkow, the visionary director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Angell has fought her way to cultural icon status by combating the medical-pharmaceutical-industrial complex,

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