Addictions to iphones, painkillers, cupcakes, alcohol and sex are taking over our lives.
Our most casual daily habits can quickly become obsessions that move beyond our control. Damian Thompson, who has himself struggled with a range of addictions, argues that human desire is in the process of being reshaped. Shunning the concept of addiction as disease, he shows how manufacturers are producing substances like ipads, muffins and computer games that we learn to like too much and supplement tradition addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling. He argues that addictive behaviour is becoming a substitute for family and work bonds that are being swept away by globalisation and urbanisation.
This battle to control addiction will soon overshadow familiar ideological debates about how to run the economy, and as whole societies set about “fixing” themselves, the architecture of human relations will come under strain as never before.
The Fix offers a truly frightening glimpse of the future and is essential reading for fans of Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’, Oliver James’s ‘Affluenza’ and Francis Wheen’s ‘How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World’.
‘Blackly funny, intellectually serious and compellingly readable.’ FIVE STARS – MICHAEL GOVE, Mail on Sunday
‘Fleet-footed, frighteningly up-to-date … an argument with real force and substance’ – Washington Post
‘Thompson’s book is a tour de force, written with wit and élan, but more than that, it is a delicate dissection of what it means to be addicted to something; what it is to feel out of control and beholden to something to anaesthetise you from the realities of your life. It’s agonisingly honest and personal in parts but without ever seeming mawkish or self-pitying, drawing on his personal experiences of addiction to give texture and insight.’ FIVE STARS – MAX PEMBERTON, The Telegraph
‘Thompson’s key thesis is that addiction should be thought of as behaviour, not disease. I am a practicing clinical psychologist – professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool – and this is a philosophy with which I profoundly agree. Thompson has been able to put into words – to explain – not only why we tend to get addicted to harmful things, but also how we've got our collective thinking about these issues so wrong for so long. It's a book I wish I had been skilful enough to write. … The Fix is an excellent read. It’s bold and confident and, pretty much, right.’ PROFESSOR PETER KINDERMAN, Head of the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool
About the author
Damian Thompson is a recovering alcoholic who continues to wrestle with an addiction to collecting Classical CDs. He’s the editor of the Daily Telegraph blogs, a lead columnist in print in the Saturday Telegraph, used to be the director of the Catholic Herald and has been described by the Church Times as a ‘blood-crazed ferret’.
Drawing on his own experience as a binge drinker, as well as personal interviews with addicts and data from recent studies, Daily Telegraph editor Thompson (Counterknowledge) aims to show that, contrary to the teachings of popular 12-step programs, addiction is not a disease in any medical sense, but a "disorder of choice." The author demonstrates that addictions have as much to do with "disordered brain chemistry" as they do with social conditions, as when the sudden lifting of bans in 18th century London allowed anyone to distil spirits, leading to the "first recorded epidemic of drunkenness in history." Today the drugs of choice range from designer pills to sugar, social media ("by the end of 2011, Facebook was cited in a third of divorce cases in the U.K."), and the pursuit of increasingly exotic digital pornography. Thompson argues that the purveyors of these luxuries make us greedy beyond "our ability to cope with the psychological and social problems that are created as a result" of their use. Alarmist about the ubiquity of addictive behavior while remaining optimistic about the ability of vigilant individuals to keep it under control, Thompson compellingly presents addiction not as the problem of genetically unlucky individuals, but of Western culture as a whole.
A brilliant and life-changing book. I can never shop or eat in the same way again. Thank goodness I've never got into prescription drugs. What I learned about these, particularly with regard to children, was terrifying. I have never before read such an intelligent, scientific analysis of society's headlong rush to pan-addictiveness. I understand in a horrible new way my own lifelong addiction to sugar and am currently deciding whether or not I can bear to attempt to give it up, or if it is even worth the struggle.
I also understand the need for faith in a new way. Whatever the sins committed by people of religion and in the name of religion, surely it is better for a child to be brought up steeped in the life and teachings of a Church, synagogue, mosque or temple - and the restraints encouraged in all the faiths against the early sexualisation of children and excessive sexualisation generally - than in the ADHD chaos of prescription drugs or the worst excesses of amoral relativism.
I am profoundly grateful to Damian to opening my eyes to what is happening, and for doing it with such style as well. I wish I could write as well as this!
The one minor reservation I have concerns the minor inaccuracies about AA which does not preach 'officially' that alcoholism is a disease or that it is the only path to recovery - although some individual members may believe these things. Most members use the term 'disease' as meaning dis-ease, or ill at ease. The only absolute 'doctrine' of AA is this: 'The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.' A teaching that is perfectly in tune with Damian's last line!