The End of My Addiction

In recent decades, genetic research has supplied ample evidence to support the notion that alcoholism is not a moral failing but a disease of the brain -- a point of view that has had champions since at least the 18th century. But the general public -- and, surprisingly, many doctors -- largely persist in seeing addiction as a fundamental failure of willpower. As the French cardiologist Olivier Ameisen details in The End of My Addiction, moral judgments often interfere with doctors' ability to effectively treat addiction. "Treat" is the operative word, as conventional therapies offer support for the daily struggle to maintain abstinence rather than provide a cure. A habitué of AA meetings and rehab facilities, Ameisen often complained to his physicians that if they could treat his chronic anxiety disorder, his alcoholism would be cured. After years of frustration with conventional treatment, Ameisen began experimenting on himself with the muscle relaxant baclofen, which has successfully suppressed addiction to alcoholism, cocaine, and nicotine in laboratory rats. Ameisen was able to successfully treat his alcoholism -- as well as the underlying anxiety that led to his addiction -- and published a case study in a prominent medical journal. He was largely met with resistance from the entrenched medical community (though his work was later supported by the findings of other researchers), and in response he wrote this hybrid of a book. The result is part memoir, part critique of the medical establishment and drug industry. Most important, it's an argument for wider use of baclofen, made straight to the potential patient. This book will of course interest those who have suffered from addiction -- but it will also appeal to anyone curious about the science behind addiction's life-destroying power.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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