Flourishing After Addiction with Carl Erik Fisher

Why We Can’t Therapize Our Way Out of Addiction, with Dr. Bruce Alexander

March 05, 2024 Carl Erik Fisher Season 1 Episode 33
Flourishing After Addiction with Carl Erik Fisher
Why We Can’t Therapize Our Way Out of Addiction, with Dr. Bruce Alexander
Show Notes

In this episode of Flourishing After Addiction, I had the honor of speaking with Bruce Alexander, a towering figure in the field of addiction theory. As regular Rat Park readers will know, I named this newsletter after Bruce’s iconic experiment in the 1970s, honoring not just that experiment, but also the decades of contributions he’s made since to the broader understanding of addiction as a deeply human phenomenon.

Now that Bruce is in his 80s, he’s said he won’t be doing much more writing and public speaking, so I’m especially grateful to have the chance to talk about the most important lessons of his work. We focus on his recent publication, "My Final Academic Article on Addiction," in which he distills his over fifty years of insights.

We discuss what Bruce identifies as the greatest threats addiction poses to modern society. We explore the theoretical stagnation in understanding addiction, the limitations of medicalizing addiction, and the subtle yet pervasive remnants of irrational thinking that hinder our approach to addressing mass addiction. Alexander argues against the notion that we can simply 'therapize' our way out of the problem, urging for a deeper examination of how society contributes to and can help resolve the crisis. Listen to the end for his take on what professionals and clinicians can do—and cannot do—to help us with the current crisis.

Bruce Alexander has explored many corners of the addiction field for almost half a century. Beginning in 1970, he has counselled people with heroin addiction, conducted psychopharmacological research (the “Rat Park” experiments); ran field research on cocaine use for the World Health Organization; critically analyzed theories of addiction by ancient philosophers and modern researchers; and served on the Boards of Directors of NGOs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He has published three books, Peaceful Measures: Canada’s Way Out of the War on Drugs (University of Toronto Press, 1990), The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit (Oxford University Press, 2008), and A History of Psychology in Western Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2015, co-author Curt Shelton). Since retiring from the university as Professor Emeritus in 2005, Alexander has spoken frequently in Canada, Europe, and the United States. He posts many of his recent speeches on his website, www.brucekalexander.com. He was awarded the Sterling Prize for Controversy in 2007.

In this episode:
 - Bruce’s "My Final Academic Article on Addiction"
- Naomi Klein, Doppelganger
- Conspirituality: How New Age Conspiracy Theories Became a Health Threat

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