Homeless souls: Addiction as adaptation to psychosocial dislocation

by Wayne Skinner
Published by Crosscurrents: The Journal of Addiction and Mental Health, 2010, Volume 14, Number 2.

It‘s been two years since Bruce Alexander’s The Globalization of Addiction first appeared. The release of the paperback version is a good time to reflect on the book and its impact. It has been praised in diverse quarters, including making it onto the British Medical Association’s Books of the Year list for 2009.

The book is not a new foray in this territory, but the summary of a lifetime of scholarly work that has been at odds with conventional addiction theory and science. Over the past two decades, advances in neuroscience have encouraged the belief that addiction can be fully understood and addressed as a disease that occurs in the brains of particular vulnerable people, making the biological sciences the primary domain for understanding and addressing addictive behaviours.

Read more: Homeless souls: Addiction as adaptation to psychosocial dislocation

Review: The answer to life, the universe and everything? A resounding call to link arms.

The best non-fiction book I have ever read!
by R. Eric Swanepoel

Canadian academic, psychologist Bruce K. Alexander has, in my opinion, written the definitive description of our present era, its problems, their cause, and, most significantly, their solution. The introduction sets the scene and whets the appetite, but I was truly gripped from the opening pages of Part 1 ("Roots of Addiction in Free-market Society"), a chapter anatomising a modern city (in this case, Vancouver), with all its tensions, "communities" (a key word) and problems, not least drug addiction. His description of the local particulars of colonisation, business interests, wealth, poverty and the impact of various developments, projects and schemes will resonate with any unblinkered city-dweller. It will most definitely ring loud bells with city planners, drugs workers, social workers, community arts workers, health workers and law enforcers. Convinced by his description and analysis, you are likely to read on…

Read more: Review: The answer to life, the universe and everything? A resounding call to link arms.

Review: Globalization of Addiction by Teodora Groshkova

Bruce Alexander is best known for the 'Park Rat' experiments he conducted in the 1970s, in which drug consumption increased dramatically when laboratory animals were dislocated from their natural group. The present book sets out to draw out the implications of Alexander's research for our understanding of addiction. Generally, the book challenges the construction of addiction as an individual, progressive, relapsing disease caused by drug use that can only be addressed by professional treatment. While this conventional perspective on addiction serves as a useful doctrine in some therapeutic situations, Alexander believes it is too focused on the individual—and is thus failing to cope with the rising flood of mass addiction that is enveloping the modern world.

Read more: Review: Globalization of Addiction by Teodora Groshkova

Review: Dislocation of the Spirit by David Lorimer

Dislocation of the Spirit

David Lorimer


Bruce Alexander

Review published in Network Review, Summer 2010


This immensely important and original book will completely reframe your understanding of the wider social, historical, economic and cultural context of addiction. We normally treat addiction as an individual or possibly a social issue, but Bruce Alexander from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver argues that this is much too narrow a framework of reference.  Addressing addiction as an individual problem with palliative medical measures or psychological interventions will not tackle the root of the problem, which Alexander analyses as social dislocation, now occurring on a worldwide scale. He pertinently asks why so many people are dangerously addicted in the globalising world of the 21st century where addiction ‘extends far beyond  drugs and alcohol to gambling, shopping, romantic love, video games, religious zealotry, television viewing, Internet surfing and even an emaciated body shape.’ The historical  perspective views addiction as a societal problem and the propensity to become addicted as a latent human potential appearing under certain circumstances in especially vulnerable individuals and communities. 

Read more: Review: Dislocation of the Spirit by David Lorimer

Review: Globalization of Addiction by Mike Jay

Bruce Alexander is best known - though deserves to be much better known - for the 'Rat Park' experiments he conducted in 1981. As an addiction psychologist, much of the data with which he worked was drawn from laboratory trials with rats and monkeys: the 'addictiveness' of drugs such as opiates and cocaine was established by observing how frequently caged animals would push levers to obtain doses. But Alexander's observations of addicts at the clinic where he worked in Vancouver suggested powerfully to him that the root cause of addiction was not so much the pharmacology of these particular drugs as the environmental stressors with which his addicts were trying to cope.

Read more: Review: Globalization of Addiction by Mike Jay

Review: Globalization of Addiction by Bruce Sewick

Bruce K. Alexander first achieved notoriety in the late 1970s with his "Rat Park" study debunking the prevailing addiction research, which focused on character flaws and "demon drugs" as the cause of addiction. His research showed that it was the rats' living conditions that prompted addictive behavior; stimulated rats in an enriched environment did not choose morphine the way that rats in an impoverished environment did.

Read more: Review: Globalization of Addiction by Bruce Sewick

Review: Globalization of Addiction by Akwatu Khenti

The Globalization of Addiction (GOA) is a well-researched account of prevailing forces of free market enterprise that are implicated in widespread patterns of addiction in western society. Alexander thoroughly documents the historical process whereby free markets dislocate people from sources of psychological, social and spiritual support, resulting in multiple forms of addiction. The book raises many questions, including implications for action arising from the analysis.

Read more: Review: Globalization of Addiction by Akwatu Khenti

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