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The Meaning of AddictionReview - The Meaning of Addiction
An Unconventional View
by Stanton Peele
Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1998
Review by Wendell Montney, Ph.D.
Oct 12th 1999 (Volume 3, Issue 41)

Professionals working with substance abuse populations will appreciate the return of a classic text. Originally published in 1985, this re-release makes available a single text encompassing a wide body of research literature. Common considerations and theoretical assumptions are identified and challenged with supportive relevant research. Peele draws strong contrast between competing ideologies and their foundations. Issues such as the disease concept of addiction, the biological basis of addiction and the genetics of addiction are poignant examples of Peele's effort to apply research to clarify theoretical assumptions.

Although many exciting advances have taken place within the addiction research, many of the research projects are based on core assumptions surrounding the biological basis of addiction. Peele reminds the reader not to forget the significance of the psychological components of addiction. These features according to Peele contribute significantly to the phenomenon and cannot be dismissed in a theoretical basis of addiction. While challenging contemporary views of alcoholism, Peele presents sociological influences contributing to potential misperceptions of alcoholism as a disease. Additionally, Peele identifies and reviews research suggesting the potential for controlled drinking therapies. This view has gained significant popularity internationally but has met with significant resistance in current treatment communities. It is a significant issue for clinicians to understand. Peele provides the information in quite an objective manner.

Colleagues join Peele in a significant overview of addiction theory including genetic, exposure-biological models, exposure-conditioning models and adaptation theories. Peele et al offer essential ingredients for a successful theory of addiction which includes a synthesis of pharmacological, experiential, cultural, situational, and personality components. Peele favors the qualitative difference in a theoretical formulation which include if not highlights experiential features.

Drawing from animal studies, Peele infers support for the significance of environment in theories of addiction. Peele postulates basic elements of the addictive experience as susceptibility factors. These factors form a comprehensive view of addiction. Particularly helpful is Peele's rendering of the addiction formula.

Peele offers helpful reflection on how society can measure the effectiveness of an addiction theory. It is simply to judge how the model ameliorates society's problems. In this discussion he raises several significant issues. However, with the complex nature of addiction the scope of discussion was particularly limited.

Professionals are supported in this text with a broad view. This classic offers excellent cross-references to support further study of addiction. Students preparing for work treating addictions should have exposure to information presented in this work.


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