Tag Archives: addiction

New NBN Podcast: Governing Habits: Treating Alcoholism in the Post-Soviet Clinic

The New Books Network (NBN) has just released an interview with anthropologist Eugene Raikhel on his recently released monograph Governing Habits: Treating Alcoholism in the Post-Soviet ClinicAs NBN describes,

Alcoholism is a strange thing. That it exists, no one seriously doubts. But it’s not entirely clear (diagnostically speaking) what it is, who has it, how they get it, or how to treat it. The answers to these questions depend, apparently, on where you are, which is to say what culture you were born and raise in. Alcoholism and treatments for it in Country A might be very different from alcoholism and treatments for it in countries B, C, and D. Alcoholism is, well, relative.

This is one of the many thing I learned from reading Eugene Raikhel‘s fascinating book Governing Habits: Treating Alcoholism in the Post-Soviet Clinic (Cornell University Press, 2016). An anthropologist, Raikhel tells us the tale of how the Soviet discipline of “narcology”–the diagnosis and treatment of addiction– evolved during Soviet times and how it adapted after the USSR fell. I won’t spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say that Russians treated and continue to treat alcoholism quite differently that we do in the U.S., though that’s changing (AA has arrived in Russia, something we also discuss).

Listen to the full interview here.

Cornell University Press describes Raikhel’s book on its site follows: Continue reading New NBN Podcast: Governing Habits: Treating Alcoholism in the Post-Soviet Clinic

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“I’ve been to Dwight” 2016

51obiAJOTML._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Lancaster University, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, and the Wellcome Trust have organized a conference in Dwight, Illinois for “transnational perspectives addiction, temperance, and treatment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

The “I’ve been to Dwight” meeting (July 14-17), is being held at the home of the Keeley Company, the history of which serves as a unique lens to approach the topic:

Though nearly forgotten today, the Keeley Company, based in Dwight, Illinois, distributed its “gold cure” for the alcohol, tobacco and drug habits by post and from franchised clinics across North America, Europe and Australia between 1880 and 1966. The company’s popular, international success ensured that its founder, Dr. Leslie E. Keeley, was among the world’s most famous physicians at the turn of the twentieth century. Keeley however, faced constant accusations of quackery from the forces of professional biomedicine, particularly the BMA and the AMA. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of satisfied patients from around the globe were convinced that his “gold cure” had rid them of their alcohol and drug habits and “I’ve Been to Dwight” was a catchphrase they used to explain their sobriety. After Keeley’s death in 1900, the company worked to conform to shifting standards of biomedical practice, but competition from state-run sanitaria led to its closure in 1966.

Because of its global presence, its difficult relationship with the medical mainstream and its tenacious popularity among ordinary people, marking the closure of the Keeley Company begs many historical questions and it urges us to answer them in broadly critical, comparative and/or transnational terms.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Sarah Tracy, historian of medicine from the Department of the History of Science at the University of Oklahoma.

The conference program can be found here.

The village of Dwight, Illinois is directly in between Chicago and Bloomington, and is a short train ride from the city.

Some further online resources about the Keeley Cure:

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New JHBS: The Visual Cliff, POW Stress, Models of Addiction, & More

The Spring 2015 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the forgotten animals of the visual cliff experiment, stress research and the POW experience, the use of animal models in addiction research, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The visual cliff’s forgotten menagerie: Rats, goats, babies, and myth-making in the history of psychology,” by Elissa N. Rodkey. The abstract reads,

Eleanor Gibson and Richard Walk’s famous visual cliff experiment is one of psychology’s classic studies, included in most introductory textbooks. Yet the famous version which centers on babies is actually a simplification, the result of disciplinary myth-making. In fact the visual cliff’s first subjects were rats, and a wide range of animals were tested on the cliff, including chicks, turtles, lambs, kid goats, pigs, kittens, dogs, and monkeys. The visual cliff experiment was more accurately a series of experiments, employing varying methods and a changing apparatus, modified to test different species. This paper focuses on the initial, nonhuman subjects of the visual cliff, resituating the study in its original experimental logic, connecting it to the history of comparative psychology, Gibson’s interest in comparative psychology, as well as gender-based discrimination. Recovering the visual cliff’s forgotten menagerie helps to counter the romanticization of experimentation by focusing on the role of extrascientific factors, chance, complexity, and uncertainty in the experimental process.

“Understanding the POW Experience: Stress research and the implementation of the 1955 U.S. Armed Forces code of conduct,” by Robert Genter. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: The Visual Cliff, POW Stress, Models of Addiction, & More

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New History of the Human Sciences: Psychopathy, Catholic Psych, & More

The December 2014 issue of History of the Human Sciences, the final one under the editorship of James Good, is now available. Articles in this issue include ones on the history of psychopathy, Catholic psychology and psychoanalysis, early physiological psychology in Britain, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Valedictory editorial,” by James M.M. Good. No abstract.

“From phrenology to the laboratory: Physiological psychology and the institution of science in Britain (c.1830–80),” by Tom Quick. The abstract reads,

The claim that mind is an epiphenomenon of the nervous system became academically respectable during the 19th century. The same period saw the establishment of an ideal of science as institutionalized endeavour conducted in laboratories. This article identifies three ways in which the ‘physiological psychology’ movement in Britain contributed to the latter process: first, via an appeal to the authority of difficult-to-access sites in the analysis of nerves; second, through the constitution of a discourse internal to it that privileged epistemology over ontology; and third, in its articulation of a set of rhetorical tools that identified laboratories as economically productive institutions. Acknowledging the integral place of physiological psychology in the institution of science, it is claimed, has the potential to alter our understanding of the significance of current neurological science for historical scholarship.

“Imprimi potest: Roman Catholic censoring of psychology and psychoanalysis in the early 20th century,” by Robert Kugelmann. The abstract reads, Continue reading New History of the Human Sciences: Psychopathy, Catholic Psych, & More

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Rat Park, A Comic on (the History of) the Psychology of Addiction

A new comic by Stuart McMillen graphically illustrates the history of psychological research into the role of the social environment on drug use. In Rat Park, the second of two comics McMillen has created on illegal drugs, he describes the work of psychologist Bruce Alexander of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. In Alexander’s Rat Park studies, conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, he explored the significance of the social environment for drug addiction.

Contrary to the prevailing belief that certain classes of drugs are near instantly addictive, Alexander found that environmental conditions largely determine drug use. Although rats housed alone in Skinner boxes would consume large amounts of morphine, those housed in “Rat Park,” a large, stimulating enclosure shared with other rats,  did not. This led Alexander to argue that drug addiction is largely a social issue, rather than a physiological one.

Alexander discusses his views on addiction in more detail in a TV Ontario interview with Steve Paikin here. The process of researching, writing, and illustrating Rat Park is discussed by McMillen in a blog post on his website. A number of photographs of the original Rat Park experiment (right) are also featured in this post.

Columbia University Professor Carl Hart, recently featured in the New York Times, has extended work on the non-physiological determinants of drug use in studies of crack cocaine and methamphetamines with human populations. Like Alexander, Hart has found that addiction does not necessarily follow from the use of illegal drugs. Even for those who do become regular drug users, social and environmental variables can significantly influence use. In his recent book, High Price (left), Hart argues that addicts make rational decisions when it comes to drug use. When given the choice between drugs now or a monetary reward weeks in the future, both meth and crack users chose the cash, provided the sum was large enough (in this case, $20). As Hart, quoted in the New York Times, says: “If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure.” Ultimately, “The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats.”

The full Rat Park comic can be read online here.

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June Issue of History of Psychiatry Now Online

The June 2012 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Include in this issue are articles on R.D. Laing’s (right) theological influences, psychiatric diagnosis at Maudsley Hospital during the interwar years, addiction and criminal responsibility in Germany, phenomenological and community psychiatry, the psychology of Antarctic exploration, and Russian forensic psychiatry. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“R.D. Laing’s theological hinterland: The contrast between mysticism and communion,” by Gavin Miller. The abstract reads,

Contrasting elements in R.D. Laing’s psychiatry can be traced to two kinds of Christian theology: mystical theology and corporate theology. On one hand, Laing’s mystical theology combined with psychoanalytic theory, to provide a New Age psychotherapeutic account of the recovery of authentic selfhood via metanoia. On the other, his incarnational, corporate theology promoted social inclusion of the mentally ill, particularly via therapeutic communities. For Laing, as for other post-war British Christians, a turn inwards, to mysticism and the sacralization of the self, and a turn outwards, to social and political activism, were ways of negotiating with the decline of traditional Christianity.

“Psychiatric case notes: Symptoms of mental illness and their attribution at the Maudsley Hospital, 1924–35,” by Edgar Jones, Shahina Rahman, and Brian Everitt. The abstract reads,

Case notes of patients treated at the Maudsley Hospital during the interwar period provided data about diagnosis, symptoms and beliefs about mental illness. Continue reading June Issue of History of Psychiatry Now Online

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Historical Forms of Addiction

Man smoking hookahMind Hacks recently drew my attention to a rather unusual article entitled “Some Unusual Forms of Addiction.” The piece, first published in 1933, appeared in the British Journal of Inebriety, which started back in 1884 and continues to this day, under a title more in tune with modern sensibilities, British Journal of Addiction. All drug use appears to have been regarded as “addiction” by the article’s author, E. W. Adams. Adams was an official with the British Ministry of Health who had, a year earlier, been appointed to a government committee to decide the advisability of using mandatory sterilization to deal with “mental defectives” in Britain. (The committee included among its members the famed disciple of Francis Galton, Ronald A. Fisher.) Continue reading Historical Forms of Addiction

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