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Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I am a little boy rummaging, drawer after drawer. And there are drugs here. So many. Sure enough, drawers full of boxes, piled high, free samples. Must be. And ohhhh, there’s the Demerol. Multidose glass vial: 50 milligrams per millilitre! That’s the strong stuff. Almost full. Now, the apparatus. Drawer full of syringes and needles, each cozy in its wrapper. I am literally chuckling with glee. I am pretending to be Mr. Hyde, or I’m not pretending. You’re fucked, I tell myself. But I’m still smil I am a little boy rummaging, drawer after drawer. And there are drugs here. So many. Sure enough, drawers full of boxes, piled high, free samples. Must be. And ohhhh, there’s the Demerol. Multidose glass vial: 50 milligrams per millilitre! That’s the strong stuff. Almost full. Now, the apparatus. Drawer full of syringes and needles, each cozy in its wrapper. I am literally chuckling with glee. I am pretending to be Mr. Hyde, or I’m not pretending. You’re fucked, I tell myself. But I’m still smiling. The accusatory voice has no power now. No mother, no father, anywhere. And look, a nice folded plastic bag. I start to stuff it. Halloween in Drugland. My mood is off the charts. Intense excitement, glee, power, triumph, and anticipation of the… oh yeah… shooting Demerol is just so nice. There is nothing like it. I once read that if there’s anything nicer in the universe, God saved it for himself. *** That Marc Lewis is still alive, and has the remaining brain cells to accomplish all he has as a neuroscientist, is nothing short of a miracle. From his miserable teenage years interned in a New England boarding school, through university life during Berkley’s drug-addled 1970s, and crossing continents to Malay and Calcutta, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain is an engrossing first-hand examination of addiction—an account of its power, its ability to rewire the brain through perceived physical necessity, and its very unforgiving nature. Marc Lewis writes about drugs with a split personality; he approaches his life and his various travels into and out of the world of drugs with both a scientist’s respect for knowledge and fact, and a child’s wonderment and eagerness to experiment with everything he can get his hands on. His memoirs, as it were, are part psychedelic travelogue, part detailed-yet-accessible breakdown of each drug’s effect on the human body and mind. The appeal of drugs, as Lewis describes, is at once mythic and chemical. The dangerous proposition of removing oneself from the frustrations and difficulties of a less than ideal existence, spiking dopamine levels past risk and into reward, is effectively broken down and explained: Dopamine—the fuel of desire—is only one of four major neuromodulators. Each of the neuromodulators fuels the brain operations in its own particular way. But all four of them share two properties. First, they get released and used up all over the brain, not at specific locales. Second, each is produced by one specialized organ, a brain part designed to manufacture that one potent chemical. Instead of watering the flowers one by one, neuromodulator release is like a sprinkler system. That’s why neuromodulators initiate changes that are global, not local. Dopamine fuels attraction, focus, approach, and especially wanting and doing. Norepinephrine fuels perceptual alertness, arousal, excitement, and attention to sensory detail. Acetylcholine energizes all mental operations, consciousness, and thought itself. But the final neuromodulator, serotonin, is more complicated in its action. Serotonin does a lot of different things in a lot of different places, because there are many kinds of serotonin receptors, and they inhabit a great variety of neural nooks, staking out an intricate network. In four parts, chronicling his first steps into drug use and abuse, through world travel, failed relationships and marital missteps, and ultimately a minor (but still deplorable) life of crime to fuel his ever-expanding narcotics addiction, Lewis’ approach is honest and without apology. He acknowledges his failings without sugar coating them; instead, he offers insight and analysis few who have struggled with the same demons would ever find themselves in a position to provide. Memoirs of an Addicted Brain is an uncomfortable, but still captivating exploration into a life most of us would fear for reasons of health, safety, and the sake of family and friends. Experiencing Lewis’ life, knowing he comes out on top in the end, doesn’t negate the nervousness and uncertainty one feels reading his exploits and the risks taken for that one extra hit of whatever he was pumping into his veins at any given moment. His eventual success with career and family doesn’t make his breaking and entering and failing our of grad school any less disheartening, or the many times he falls off the wagon any less demoralizing. There’s an element of “taking one for the team” that permeates Lewis’ work—an almost indescribable fascination one feels reading the combination of science and gratification devoid of reason, and the knowledge that such an experience could only come from a mind wired for the darkest trips into self satisfaction and pleasure seeking. That he manages to walk away from his past with only a scarred brain, but still a high-functioning brain, is incredible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    Being a Gen Xer, I grew up politely listening to my narcissistic Baby Boomer elders prattle on ad nausem about the "good ol days" of the 60's and 70's. I can't tell you how many times I had to endure comments like "you missed it kid, back then the girls didn't even wear pants". Excuse me old man but OVER SHARE much? This book really seemed like it was headed in that direction in a big way. I was on full Boomer alert for about the first 3-4 chapters. It's a minor miracle that I persisted through Being a Gen Xer, I grew up politely listening to my narcissistic Baby Boomer elders prattle on ad nausem about the "good ol days" of the 60's and 70's. I can't tell you how many times I had to endure comments like "you missed it kid, back then the girls didn't even wear pants". Excuse me old man but OVER SHARE much? This book really seemed like it was headed in that direction in a big way. I was on full Boomer alert for about the first 3-4 chapters. It's a minor miracle that I persisted through my fear and loathing enough to read on. But I did. And then a funny thing happened. This book slowly but surely won me over. Although the book is set primarily in the 60s and 70s, the author did a pretty good job of rendering adolescent drug use, particularly psychedelics, in a way that was balanced, realistic and really resonated with my personal experience. My mom used to claim that there was "no generation gap between Boomers and Gen Xers. I used to cringe inside every time she said it. But viewing the sentiment from an (ostensibly) more mature perspective, with a better understanding of the difference in world view between her and her parents generation. I think she had an overstated but legitimate point. This book has helped me come around to this concession. Aside from being a pretty neat little primer on the neuroscience and psychopharmacology of drugs of abuse. It's also a decent little autobiography. Despite the authors (understandable) nostalgia for the Berkeley of 1968, the story and science writing manages to reach across the generations and speak to all of us former stoners gone bio-psych dorks. Good job bro! I can't help but compare this book to Dr. Carl Heart's stupendous High Price. Also a "no genre" mashup biography/social critique/neuroscience primer on the psychopharmacology of street drugs. But these books differ in an important way. Dr. Heart never was an honest to goodness druggie. Dr. Lewis (the author) was. While Dr. Lewis has his limitations as a creative writer (he is after all, a neuroscientist by training) he does his utmost to render each drug experience from the first person perspective, stylistically reminiscent of Nabokov's first person rendering of pedophile obsession. He contrasts these "wet" subjective accounts with the "dry" technical, objective third person perspective of neuroscience and psychopharm. The outcome is a part multicolor dream coat, part lab coat, tapestry poncho only a dirty ol Boomer could love enough to actually wear out of the house. And I have to admit. At times he actually pulls it off. Good job bro! In the same way any good memoir engenders empathy and theory of mind by allowing the reader to view the world from behind the eyes of the protagonist. This memoir has expanded my capacity to empathize with my substance dependent clients (I work as a therapist with opiate dependent populations) while also sharpening my understanding of the biological, psychological and social factors that lay outside of their subjective awareness. Again.......good job bro! Additionally, the herky jerky Mr. Toads Wild Ride through the various drug fueled mental states reminds me of the house of mirrors, maze like disoriented loss of self a poly-substance dependent person becomes trapped in. Multiple Personality Disorder may not be a legitimate medical diagnosis. But what a ploy-substance user experiences appears to be a close enough simulacrum. Is it any wonder books like Sybil (a memoir of a woman with circa 12 distinct personalities) were so in vogue in the late 1970s. The book culminates with an excruciating (near career ending) bottom. Replete with hella amphetamine binges, pharmacy break ins, jail time and even a stint on the front page of a Toronto news paper. And then a quick tour through the rebuilding (here's to second, third, fourth and more chances). A little advice. And we're done. Not so fast..........Dr. Lewis ends his saga with one last dirty note. He becomes a professor and begins dating his graduate student (price is right game show buzzer noise, wah wah wuh wooooow). And then he gets tenure. Wait what? Those G.D. Baby Boomers! God bless em right? Those dudes rode white privilege into the dirt didn't they. Any way he's a tenured professor now. And there ya go. Great, extremely flawed, but highly entertaining book. Great summer read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Leland

    This book is a strange blend. Most of it is straightforward memoir, but it's interspersed with quite detailed scientific information about the brain's functioning and processes as related to addiction. Honestly, I began to skip most of the biology lessons because they seemed so jarringly out of place and distracted from the "story." The author's addiction was horrific, which he freely acknowledges, but he also seems unaware of some really disturbing ironies in his story: altho clearly very distu This book is a strange blend. Most of it is straightforward memoir, but it's interspersed with quite detailed scientific information about the brain's functioning and processes as related to addiction. Honestly, I began to skip most of the biology lessons because they seemed so jarringly out of place and distracted from the "story." The author's addiction was horrific, which he freely acknowledges, but he also seems unaware of some really disturbing ironies in his story: altho clearly very disturbed and probably clinically depressed as a young man, the author takes every conceivable drug in the universe EXCEPT an antidepressant that might have helped him. At the height of his addiction, when he's constantly high and acting crazy, he decides to become -- a psychologist. As his own self-destruction worsens, it becomes less and less clear WHY it developed in the first place. The scientific passages about brain function often imply that there's no free will at all involved in addiction. You don't have to be a psych major to figure out that the person being described here was mentally ill from a very young age, yet the author never really acknowledges that fact. That's a disturbing and strange omission in a book written by a neuroscientist and psychologist. I admire his courage in telling his story with such honesty and bravery, but it's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the benefits of psychotherapy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    I loved this book. Lewis is a wonderful writer who does a great job of explaining exactly how the brain responds to various substances. He stepped me through the most intricate feedback loops with patience and explanations I could understand. I was fascinated by the parts about the mechanics of the brain, as I expected to be. I was also riveted by Lewis' own addiction story, which he wove throughout. I want him to write more books about the brain, right away. Highly recommended, if you like this I loved this book. Lewis is a wonderful writer who does a great job of explaining exactly how the brain responds to various substances. He stepped me through the most intricate feedback loops with patience and explanations I could understand. I was fascinated by the parts about the mechanics of the brain, as I expected to be. I was also riveted by Lewis' own addiction story, which he wove throughout. I want him to write more books about the brain, right away. Highly recommended, if you like this sort of thing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Excellent biography about a former drug user who started on grass and alcohol and progressed to heroin and anything else he could steal. Amazing that he saw the light and was able to stop before causing irreparable damage to his body,

  6. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Mauck

    This book is like two books in one. The first is an extremely well-written, gripping narrative of the author's struggle with drug addiction. At various points in the story, the author stops to describe what is happening neurologically, explaining from a biological standpoint his psychological experiences. I found both parts of the book to be extremely compelling. The scientific part is detailed and thorough, but written so that a lay person can understand. It sheds a big light on his experiences This book is like two books in one. The first is an extremely well-written, gripping narrative of the author's struggle with drug addiction. At various points in the story, the author stops to describe what is happening neurologically, explaining from a biological standpoint his psychological experiences. I found both parts of the book to be extremely compelling. The scientific part is detailed and thorough, but written so that a lay person can understand. It sheds a big light on his experiences and those of other addicts. The information can be broadly applied to other addictions, not simply opiates, which were the author's drug of choice. I enjoyed this book so much I blew through it in three days, and I think I have to go back over it more slowly to absorb it fully, especially the scientific information. I would highly recommend this book to anybody interested in addiction or brain science.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ceyrone

    I really enjoyed this book, Marc Lewis had me gripped, going from his miserable childhood in a boarding school, to University life in the 1970’s and crossing continents to Malay and Calcutta. He explores the beginning of his drug addiction and how that manifested into more dangerous drugs and why he became addicted. He also details what the affects of these drugs has on the brain, approaching this book from a split personality, an addict and a neuroscientist. This memoir is an uncomfortable but I really enjoyed this book, Marc Lewis had me gripped, going from his miserable childhood in a boarding school, to University life in the 1970’s and crossing continents to Malay and Calcutta. He explores the beginning of his drug addiction and how that manifested into more dangerous drugs and why he became addicted. He also details what the affects of these drugs has on the brain, approaching this book from a split personality, an addict and a neuroscientist. This memoir is an uncomfortable but highly captivating and while you know he survives and gets a handle on his addiction, you can’t help but feel tense, will he survive, will this shot be his last, there is a nervousness and a sense of risk. But also one can’t help but see the white privilege in all of this, breaking and entering, stealing drugs from hospitals and pharmacies, goes on to become a professor, dates his graduate student and ends up getting tenure, it is deeply flawed but highly entertaining and informative. ‘Even when they're not stoned, adolescents live in a world of ideation of their own making and follow trains of thought to extreme conclusions, despite overwhelming evidence that they're just plain wrong.’

  8. 4 out of 5

    Derek Frasure

    The neuroscience of addiction is the useful part of this book. Lewis has an interesting, though hardly relatable narrative (he seemingly spend many years of his life scarcely working while traveling and doing a mountain of drugs, yet he's never even slightly touched with poverty, always living somewhere luxurious, and his arrests carry no material consequences). He acknowledges his privilege a few times, so I can forgive that. But his descriptions of the mentally ill are grotesque and completely The neuroscience of addiction is the useful part of this book. Lewis has an interesting, though hardly relatable narrative (he seemingly spend many years of his life scarcely working while traveling and doing a mountain of drugs, yet he's never even slightly touched with poverty, always living somewhere luxurious, and his arrests carry no material consequences). He acknowledges his privilege a few times, so I can forgive that. But his descriptions of the mentally ill are grotesque and completely uncritiqued (it seems to be an assumed bias that fear is a natural and acceptable response to someone with Down's Syndrome, for example). His writing improves in the Biology of Desire. This book is overwritten. Every opportunity for a florid turn of phrase is used. No book should be this stuffed with adjectives and metaphors. Not every thought needs to skitter like foxes into the forrest, nor every truth be "a steel monolith [. . .] irrevocably assembled with the cement of logic [. . .] as monuments to my razor-like mind" (281).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karmelle

    Loved this book. Sometimes could really sense that I was reading the words of an older white man. Scattered sexism/racism in the telling of certain events make the author feel distant to a young or cutting-edge reader. Otherwise fantastic.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jørgen Weidemann

    + Written by an actual drug addict, now a professor in psychology + Interesting to read about addiction from the addicts point of view mixed with theory - The theory is rather complex - I get the feeling that some of the proposed facts are his own views and might be conclusions based on own research and convictions Notes in its content: The story shows how fragile teens are and how people can seem to do perfectly well for a long time, before falling off the cliff with few escape options. The author s + Written by an actual drug addict, now a professor in psychology + Interesting to read about addiction from the addicts point of view mixed with theory - The theory is rather complex - I get the feeling that some of the proposed facts are his own views and might be conclusions based on own research and convictions Notes in its content: The story shows how fragile teens are and how people can seem to do perfectly well for a long time, before falling off the cliff with few escape options. The author seems to believe depression, and gloomy environments and self-images is the predominant factor, arguing with the experiment with social rats choosing less heroin than unsosial rats, when given the choice. It was also surprising to read how sociable and functioning a drug addict can be, working by day and doing drugs by night, for years at a time. The brain beeing malleable learns by changing synaptic transfers, hence associating situations and feelings with imprinted responses. Drugs are especially addictive habits due to their extra induced release of neural stimulants, making the brain connections more rapidly and vigorously than without superficial substanses. Since neural stimulants like dopamine, inducing the feeling of pleasure, arrives in quantities far beyond any natural level, there are no alternatives to reaching the desired state without substance abuse. For these reasons the author labels substance abuse as a habit rather than a sickness. There is no fatal cure. The only response is to try changing habits and environments, though the urge and temptation will never fully subside. The reason for it beeing so difficult to quit is the fact that saying no once is insufficient. By staying away for a year, one still has to make conscious decisions every time the urge arises. The author paints a picture where willpower and the willingness to abide from the abuse, diminish in periods where life gets rough, making the act of quitting a life long quest, where the only solution is to find good reasons to stay away even in the darkest valleys.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Solid storytelling with intermittent pauses to explain all the chemical and addiction processes the brain goes through with each. Though the formula could get a bit repetitive, the stance on the brain's ability to change unhealthy habits is encouraging. Solid storytelling with intermittent pauses to explain all the chemical and addiction processes the brain goes through with each. Though the formula could get a bit repetitive, the stance on the brain's ability to change unhealthy habits is encouraging.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    Not many scientists are able to integrate science and lived experience/narrative writing in a way that doesn't either patronizingly oversimplify or assault you with jargon, but I think here it's very well done. Not many scientists are able to integrate science and lived experience/narrative writing in a way that doesn't either patronizingly oversimplify or assault you with jargon, but I think here it's very well done.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate Laws

    This was a fascinating read. The author was as honest as he could be about his years of intense drug addiction, and the lows to which he sank chasing the high. When he finally kicked the drugs for good he turned his focus to learning everything he could about the brain, and it was interesting to read about what each of the many different drugs he experimented with over the years did to his brain.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ashlynn Faulkner

    Amazing memoir with scientific facts about the brain processes surrounding addiction that the author makes easy to understand!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    This is an interesting read. The science is fairly easy to grasp and his story of addiction and depression is relatable.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elari

    4 stars: the story is human, the neuro facts are accurate. 2 stars: being an addict doesn't make you a writer, being a scientist doesn't make you a writer. I wanted to add something positive or kind, but I'm in want of words. *Here*, something positive and kind. 4 stars: the story is human, the neuro facts are accurate. 2 stars: being an addict doesn't make you a writer, being a scientist doesn't make you a writer. I wanted to add something positive or kind, but I'm in want of words. *Here*, something positive and kind.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lexie

    My brain *loves* this book! Marc Lewis parallels his own experience of addiction with hard neuroscience that didn't scare me off! He makes the mechanics, the 'inside' aspects of brain function read like marvelous, magical realism ... and then he gets specific: '*This* drug fires up *these* processes'. His trips on everything from alcohol to heroin to his own neurochemicals of craving dash between the present and past tenses, only to tear off into futures of wanting, scheming, chasing and taking. My brain *loves* this book! Marc Lewis parallels his own experience of addiction with hard neuroscience that didn't scare me off! He makes the mechanics, the 'inside' aspects of brain function read like marvelous, magical realism ... and then he gets specific: '*This* drug fires up *these* processes'. His trips on everything from alcohol to heroin to his own neurochemicals of craving dash between the present and past tenses, only to tear off into futures of wanting, scheming, chasing and taking. His stories immerse the reader into the visceral immediacy of drugs' effects and addiction's choke hold ... The whole book is a great story -- of one man's experiences, and of our common human vulnerability to addiction. Lewis speculates that the makeup of our nervous system *is* the vulnerability ... some of it being that our brain already contains neuroreceptors for specific substances we can ingest (i.e., cannibanoids), and that our brain also produces certain 'drug-like' substances (i.e., opioids) on its own. What is a person after when s/he continually takes in a certain substance? -- A certain *feeling* ... a desired state of being. Drugs forcibly move our consciousness into extraordinary, amped-up and/or toned-down places ... Here are some phrases that describe Lewis' own perceptions while under the influence: 'this crisp, clear sheen of mental anaesthesia.' (alcohol) 'I am thinking very clearly about almost nothing.' (alcohol) 'Reality stops getting through to the brain. And that's the essence of dissociation.' (ketamine) 'My senses are wide open, and yet I am propelled down one cognitive spillway after another, fascinated by each bend in the road of rumination.' (cannabis) 'This is not a drug; it's a switch. Reality breaks apart. Nothing can be ignored ... I am overwhelmed by the acceleration ... sensory meltdown ... a pounding undertow of sensory profusion ...' (LSD) Of a friend who took acid: 'It was [her] look of awestruck realization: the horror of coming back to reality and *realizing* just how completely she'd left it.' '... it's a nexus of bodily comfort and emotional wellbeing. A warm syrup ... the stuff of mother love multiplied a thousandfold ... I am ... disappearing, but at the same time coalescing ...' (heroin) Bottom line of substance use and abuse? -- We are changing our state of being, our consciousness, our brain's ability to function and regulate the body's organs and systems ... and we want to change how we *feel*. How does moderate / occasional use of a substance become a ravaging addiction? Lewis suggests that a 'loss of belonging' -- and our desire to belong to someone, something, *anything* -- is pivotal; 'the kinds of drugs we seek stand in for the kinds of needs that have gone unfulfilled.' Lewis briefly details his own emergence from addiction in the last two chapters. I'd love to see him write a second book that fleshes out the neurologic story of emergence and restoration ...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Franks V.

    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 wh 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. From the Hardcover edition. **

  19. 5 out of 5

    Edward Taylor

    Wow. As a recovering addict, I have been looking for something that I can wrap my mind around in regard to the addicted brain and how it comes into being. We all have the same drugs in our systems that people add to themselves and become addicted to, this is what causes the addiction to things like illicit and prescribed medications. We get an extreme boost to these chemicals and our body receives a positive response of the drugs and craves more. When we don't give that to it, the mind and the b Wow. As a recovering addict, I have been looking for something that I can wrap my mind around in regard to the addicted brain and how it comes into being. We all have the same drugs in our systems that people add to themselves and become addicted to, this is what causes the addiction to things like illicit and prescribed medications. We get an extreme boost to these chemicals and our body receives a positive response of the drugs and craves more. When we don't give that to it, the mind and the body makes you pay for the lack of stimulation (or depressant) and we keep "chasing the dragon" to keep the systems running. It is a book that talks about a former junkie from the sixties and seventies who takes part in as many illegal and legal drugs as possible and then finally finds himself at the end of his rope and hits what is called rock bottom. This happens a few times, as the addict's brain will welcome just a taste, even after years of none connectivity. Just that sip of rum, that opiate was given to recover from an operation (that is how I became addicted, 14 years of spinal operations), etc. and you are right back to where you were. If you know someone who is going through this or are in the deep end yourself, this book will help you understand that it is not you; it is a war against your brain and body that you can win. It's not a disease, it's an illness and there is a cure (a way out) - Willpower is not the key (it helps) but giving in to those who want and can help before it is too late.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Giang Nguyen

    This book is a brilliant memoir, both in Lewis' crazy and diverse drug adventures and his attempts to make neuroscientific pieces of knowledge more accessible to the public. However, I let my subjective view downrate the book. As much as I respected the author, an immense feeling of despise for that teenager, that young adult arose. The more chapters I read, the more intolerant I felt toward him, though I should have known the brain of an addict better. Coming from the country that was only ment This book is a brilliant memoir, both in Lewis' crazy and diverse drug adventures and his attempts to make neuroscientific pieces of knowledge more accessible to the public. However, I let my subjective view downrate the book. As much as I respected the author, an immense feeling of despise for that teenager, that young adult arose. The more chapters I read, the more intolerant I felt toward him, though I should have known the brain of an addict better. Coming from the country that was only mentioned as "Vietnam War", having heard so many lives destroyed by drug addiction, I found his life full of luxury. He was fortunate; he came so close to those poor South East Asian and South Asian countries, yet never realized how blessed he was. With my bias activated, I started to see his descriptions of drugs and the brain as rambling, a way to get rid of responsibility. I appreciated that he didn't blatantly victimize himself, however, he did subtly hint at all those environmental factors affecting the onset and relapse of his addiction. He took full credit for the offset though, at least that's what I interpreted from the last chapter. If someone asks me whether I recommend Lewis' book, it will be an "absolute yes" as long as they are interested in the topic. Of course, after that, they will have to hear me complain about all those conflicts I had. I disliked the main character, but I hated myself more for the lack of empathy. Such an irritating feeling!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Oscar

    Halfway through this book, I would have given it 5 stars. Marc's anecdotes are not fascinating, but they are fairly well related and compelling. His neuroscience explanations following each trip are interesting--at first. After a while, it becomes repetitive, and he doesn't add much to the narrative. I feel the science could either be less or more--he's pitched it just wrong, although I admit this is tough to judge when targeting a popular audience. Fundamentally, I am disappointed. I was expectin Halfway through this book, I would have given it 5 stars. Marc's anecdotes are not fascinating, but they are fairly well related and compelling. His neuroscience explanations following each trip are interesting--at first. After a while, it becomes repetitive, and he doesn't add much to the narrative. I feel the science could either be less or more--he's pitched it just wrong, although I admit this is tough to judge when targeting a popular audience. Fundamentally, I am disappointed. I was expecting some serious revelations at the end. His conclusion is hardly more than "Just Say No", and he offers no clues to his recovery (and astounding success). Although there is no hint of boasting of his achievements, Marc's trajectory as described reveals him to be extraordinarily intelligent, determined, and resourceful (albeit not a great writer). I understand this is a memoir, not a self-help book, but many readers will be or know someone entangled with drugs, and expectation of some novel insight is inevitable. It is ultimately disheartening to realize his experiences have little relevance to the average addict, and the number of second chances and opportunities he receives is almost insulting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Toby Mustill

    An excellent book overall. Marc takes us through his life of academics and addiction. He explains his own experiences from a unique perspective of insight that no one else could possibly have. I have certainly learned more about addiction having read this book! Two, fairly small objections/negative thoughts on this one: 1. The book lacks a particular vigor, there’s no real enlightenment moment which I guess not all books must have. 2. This book is flawed when looking at the greater realm of addic An excellent book overall. Marc takes us through his life of academics and addiction. He explains his own experiences from a unique perspective of insight that no one else could possibly have. I have certainly learned more about addiction having read this book! Two, fairly small objections/negative thoughts on this one: 1. The book lacks a particular vigor, there’s no real enlightenment moment which I guess not all books must have. 2. This book is flawed when looking at the greater realm of addiction: the author (no disrespect to him) is clearly a middle class individual who has a lot of backing. There are very few people in this world who can experience addiction to this extent without having their world crushed. It ties into other work about addiction: it’s not always about the addiction itself, it’s also about the support systems you have in place to support you recover. While Marc went through his fair share of relationships as a result of his addiction, I believe he likely was able to recover with fairly substantial financial backing from parents or other supports. Many working class individuals would likely not be so lucky.

  23. 4 out of 5

    China Darrington

    This is the estimable Dr. Marc Lewis, who's book "Memoirs of an Addicted Brain" is scheduled for US release tomorrow. I've had the good fortune to read an early copy of the manuscript and I find it brilliant both for Dr. Lewis's ability to capture the cavalier antics of his life as an active addict and at the same time explain the neuroscience behind that cavalier attitude. Suddenly addiction and all its crazy behaviors make *sense*. Heading south… | Memoirs of an Addicted Brain www.memoirsofanad This is the estimable Dr. Marc Lewis, who's book "Memoirs of an Addicted Brain" is scheduled for US release tomorrow. I've had the good fortune to read an early copy of the manuscript and I find it brilliant both for Dr. Lewis's ability to capture the cavalier antics of his life as an active addict and at the same time explain the neuroscience behind that cavalier attitude. Suddenly addiction and all its crazy behaviors make *sense*. Heading south… | Memoirs of an Addicted Brain www.memoirsofanaddictedbrain.com The official web site of the book, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, by Marc Lewis. A gripping, ultimately triumphant memoir that’s also the most comprehensive and comprehensible study of the neuroscience of addiction written for the general public.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erica Basnicki

    3.5 stars. Well written and I loved the science component. It is a memoir, but I still feel there are elements missing: primarily more about recovery. After all, there are far more people who know about addiction than who know about successfully getting out of addiction. Lewis’ epiphany of “just say no” is an over simplification that flies in the face of all the science laid out in previous chapters. But by his own admission there isn’t much science to explain why that worked, for him, and that 3.5 stars. Well written and I loved the science component. It is a memoir, but I still feel there are elements missing: primarily more about recovery. After all, there are far more people who know about addiction than who know about successfully getting out of addiction. Lewis’ epiphany of “just say no” is an over simplification that flies in the face of all the science laid out in previous chapters. But by his own admission there isn’t much science to explain why that worked, for him, and that specific time (and not the countless times before). Still, a theory or even an educated guess would’ve been nice.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Baker

    I have a feeling this would be a rather different read, depending on your own experiences and outlook. I have known a number of dealers and addicts and still found myself thinking, a few times, "MAN, did that guy do a lot of drugs!" Really makes you wonder what he'd be like, professionally, now, without that experience. Overall I really liked the format. As he told his story and described the experiences of the drugs he took and other "adventures", he'd explain the science behind it. What this dr I have a feeling this would be a rather different read, depending on your own experiences and outlook. I have known a number of dealers and addicts and still found myself thinking, a few times, "MAN, did that guy do a lot of drugs!" Really makes you wonder what he'd be like, professionally, now, without that experience. Overall I really liked the format. As he told his story and described the experiences of the drugs he took and other "adventures", he'd explain the science behind it. What this drug does, what happens when you're stressed out, etc.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Pond

    In Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, Marc Lewis brilliantly blends a compelling narrative with an introductory course on neurobiology to show us how the mind and brain of an addict operates. Lewis’ neuroscience expertise and addiction experience gives his voice unique authority. Thank you Mark for helping me make sense of my life, but more importantly, thank you for helping non-addicts understand what happens to us. Your work helps de-stigmatize a wretched illness. Michael Pond, MSW, RSW (Alcoholic P In Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, Marc Lewis brilliantly blends a compelling narrative with an introductory course on neurobiology to show us how the mind and brain of an addict operates. Lewis’ neuroscience expertise and addiction experience gives his voice unique authority. Thank you Mark for helping me make sense of my life, but more importantly, thank you for helping non-addicts understand what happens to us. Your work helps de-stigmatize a wretched illness. Michael Pond, MSW, RSW (Alcoholic Psychotherapist)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nzfiend

    Very good combination of readable personal story and the newly proven science of the neurology involved in behaviours of this nature. Really appreciate the effort of an obviously very knowledgeable author bringing the subject into the realm of the layman. Thank you. And others around me have learnt from this book. In my dealings with all walks of life, I find myself quoting little bits of this publication. Sit there quietly at an N.A meeting after reading this and see for yourself.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Harrison Rip

    I've never read a book I thought was dangerous until this one. His descriptions of drug use make even non-addicts want to try heroin, but the whole book is about how horrible drug addiction is. I can't think of ANYONE who should read this, because it makes you want to use dangerous addictive drugs, while reminding you why you shouldn't. I've never read a book I thought was dangerous until this one. His descriptions of drug use make even non-addicts want to try heroin, but the whole book is about how horrible drug addiction is. I can't think of ANYONE who should read this, because it makes you want to use dangerous addictive drugs, while reminding you why you shouldn't.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Grady

    Absolutely loved this book. It was both thrilling and educational. This book made me want to study science and here I am 4 years later studying science. Marc Lewis' story is truly inspirational, from a drug addict who could barely hold down a job or maintain a relationship to now one of the leading neuroscientists in drug rehabilitation. Absolutely loved this book. It was both thrilling and educational. This book made me want to study science and here I am 4 years later studying science. Marc Lewis' story is truly inspirational, from a drug addict who could barely hold down a job or maintain a relationship to now one of the leading neuroscientists in drug rehabilitation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Marc Lewis has the unusual experience of having sampled many different kinds of drugs, become a heroin addict who was driven to criminal activities and arrested for it, was able to continue his interest in neuroscience to an advanced degree in spite of all that and then have years of research experience in neuroscience to give a unique perspective looking back on his earlier life. The teacher in him comes out when at any opportunity in this memoir, he gives scientific explanations for what is ha Marc Lewis has the unusual experience of having sampled many different kinds of drugs, become a heroin addict who was driven to criminal activities and arrested for it, was able to continue his interest in neuroscience to an advanced degree in spite of all that and then have years of research experience in neuroscience to give a unique perspective looking back on his earlier life. The teacher in him comes out when at any opportunity in this memoir, he gives scientific explanations for what is happening in the brain when the drug is used and addiction happens. His experience in this memoir is interesting, but I was continually struck with the privileged circumstances that allowed him to have many second chances, along with many people who supported him until he said his addiction just went away. I don't think that is a common occurrence, but it is not unheard of. I feel like these experiences may have skewed his interpretation of others struggling with addiction. He is controversial for stating that addiction is not a disease, but he is willing to state that it is a disorder, pathological and that rewiring of neuronal pathways happen. (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2...) In the end it may be a matter of semantics and, on his part, a desire to empower those who want to quit. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, enjoyed the science additions and feel the book is a valuable addition to the body of literature on the topic.

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