Synopses & Reviews
A gripping, ultimately triumphant memoir that's also the most comprehensive and comprehensible study of the neuroscience of addiction written for the general public.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION:
We are prone to a cycle of craving what we don't have, finding it, using it up or losing it, and then craving it all the more. This cycle is at the root of all addictions, addictions to drugs, sex, love, cigarettes, soap operas, wealth, and wisdom itself. But why should this be so? Why are we desperate for what we don't have, or can't have, often at great cost to what we do have, thereby risking our peace and contentment, our safety, and even our lives?
The answer, says Dr. Marc Lewis, lies in the structure and function of the human brain.
Marc Lewis is a distinguished neuroscientist. And, for many years, he was a drug addict himself, dependent on a series of dangerous substances, from LSD to heroin. His narrative moves back and forth between the often dark, compellingly recounted story of his relationship with drugs and a revelatory analysis of what was going on in his brain.
He shows how drugs speak to the brain - which is designed to seek rewards and soothe pain - in its own language. He shows in detail the neural mechanics of a variety of powerful drugs and of the onset of addiction, itself a distortion of normal perception.
Dr. Lewis freed himself from addiction and ended up studying it. At the age of 30 he traded in his pharmaceutical supplies for the life of a graduate student, eventually becoming a professor of developmental psychology, and then of neuroscience --his field for the last 12 years. This is the story of his journey, seen from the inside out.
"In this meticulous, evocative memoir, Lewis, a neuroscientist and ex-junkie, explores how narcotics affect the brain and beguile the mind. His picaresque narrative recounts a lavish drug history: booze, cough syrup and pot at boarding school; LSD during his Vietnam-era college days at Berkeley; intermittent addictions to heroin and prescription opiates that led to pharmacy break-ins and arrest; a laughing-gas party in the Malaysian jungle. His odyssey frames a fascinating look at the mechanisms by which drugs disrupt brain chemistry, excite or sedate neurons, and trash perception, reasoning, and emotion. (A chapter on first love shows how sexual attraction stimulates the same dopamine reward system that hooks the brain on smack.) But Lewis also translates the neuroscience into luxuriant sensation with vivid depictions of the 'absurdist carnival' of an acid trip or the 'bright white pleasure' of a methamphetamine jag. His saga is as much trenchant psychology as it is hard neurology, as he probes the constant jangle of self-loathing and social awkwardness that drove him to drugs as an escape from reality. Lewis's unusual blend of scientific expertise, street cred, vivid subjectivity and searching introspection yields a compelling perspective on the perils and allure of addiction. Agent: Michael Levine, Westsood Artists (Canada).(Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
andldquo;Developmental neuroscientist Lewis examines his odyssey from minor stoner to helpless, full-blown addictandhellip;.as [he] unspools one pungent drug episode after another, he capably knits into the narrative an accessible explanation of the neural activity that guided his behavior. From opium pipe to orbitofrontal cortex, a smoothly entertaining interplay between lived experience and the particulars of brain activity.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;Meticulous, evocativeandhellip; Lewisandrsquo;s unusual blend of scientific expertise, street cred, vivid subjectivity and searching introspection yields a compelling perspective on the perils and allure of addiction.andrdquo;
Wall Street Journal
andquot;Compellingandhellip;for readers grappling with addiction, Mr. Lewis'sandhellip;approach might well be novel enough to inspire them to seek the happiness he now enjoys.andrdquo;
Chronicle of Higher Education
andldquo;He proceeds deftly from episodes of his drug years to neuroscientific explanations of his brain's response to drugs.andrdquo;
andldquo;A surprising and charming addition to this crowded genre. Yes, it embraces the classic redemption narrative - teenage experimentation, late-andrsquo;60s Berkeley, exotic forays into Malaysia and Calcutta, the inevitable slide into deception, crime, and desperation. But he ends up a professional neuropsychologist, able to enliven the tired streams of addled consciousness with metrical rapids of semi-hard science.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;Marc Lewis's brilliant andndash; if not wholly sympathetic andndash; account of his many mind-bludgeoning drug experiences wears its biological determinism on its sleeve andhellip; Lewis has certainly woven his experiences into an unusual and exciting bookandhellip; (Memoirs of an Addicted Brain) is as strange, immediate and artfully written as any Oliver Sacks case-study, with the added scintillation of having been composed by its subject.andrdquo;
andldquo;The most original and illuminating addiction memoir since Thomas De Quincey'sand#160;seminal Confessions of an Opium Eaterandhellip;[an] electrifying debut.andrdquo;
Midwest Book Review
andldquo;A powerful survey recounting the authorandrsquo;s powerful addiction and how he broke an intense hold on drugsandhellip; This will appeal to a range of collections, from those strong in autobiographies to science and health holdings alike.andrdquo;
BBC Focus Magazine
andldquo;(W)hile the narrative of Marcandrsquo;s life is a real-page turner, what makes this such an interesting and unusual book is that it also contains detailed descriptions of the neuro-chemical changes that are going on inside Marcandrsquo;s brain as he takes the different drugs, and later as he wrestles to come off them. After reading the book, I felt that I understood for the first time what addiction is like at both the personal and the chemical level.andrdquo;
The Independent (UK)andldquo;Fascinatingandrdquo;
In a vivid, candid memoir of his own addiction, a renowned neuroscientist articulates exactly how drugs speak to the brain, illuminating both the science of craving and the human condition
Marc Lewisand#8217;s relationship with drugs began in a New England boarding school where, as a bullied and homesick fifteen-year-old, he made brief escapes from reality by way of cough medicine, alcohol, and marijuana. In Berkeley, California, in its hippie heyday, he found methamphetamine and LSD and heroin; he sniffed nitrous oxide in Malaysia; and frequented Calcuttaand#8217;s opium dens. Ultimately, though, his journey took him where it takes most addicts: into a life of desperation, deception, and crime.
But unlike most addicts, Lewis recovered to become a developmental psychologist and researcher in neuroscience. In Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, he applies his professional expertise to a study of his former self, using the story of his own journey through addiction to tell the universal story of addictions of every kind.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Lewis is a developmental neuroscientist and professor of human development and applied psychology at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. He is the author of over fifty journal publications in neuroscience and developmental psychology and coeditor of Emotion, Development, and Self-Organization: Dynamic Systems Approaches to Emotional Development.