NO WORD FOR ADDICTION.

I just discovered that, as far as I can tell (and of course I welcome correction), Russian does not have a word for ‘addiction.’ Dictionaries translate the English word by пристрастие ‘weakness (for); partiality (towards)’ or влечение ‘attraction (to),’ and the Wikipedia page is titled Вредные привычки ‘Harmful habits.’ Of course, this is not fodder for the usual words-for-snow nonsense, because Russia has as many addicts as anywhere else, and there are perfectly good words for drug addiction (наркомания) and alcohol addiction (алкоголизм). But the lack of a general word presumably keeps Russians from indulging in the American habit of accusing each other of being addicted to whatever pleasure or pastime they indulge in to a greater degree than the accuser would like.

Comments

  1. chemiazrit says:

    Not a native speaker, but the word “аддикция” does exist, turning up more than 15 thousand Google hits. Perhaps it’s a recent borrowing of a previously foreign concept…like the word “дедлайн.”
    However, I think Russians would actually tend to use “зависимость” (dependency) in the metaphoric context where English-speakers would say “addiction.”

  2. Commonly used is зависимость – dependency

  3. More precisely perhaps, though it’s not a single word: болезненная зависимость; – painful dependency.

  4. From what I hear on the streets of New York, russophones speaking English seem to prefer druggers to addicts. (Note that English addict implicatures ‘drugs’, whereas addiction does not.) Trying to find relevant ghits is too hard against the background of horse druggers and Druggers Lane in London.

  5. I once asked my mother why Danish didn’t have a word for weekend – besides “weekend”, that is.
    Boy, did I feel stupid when I realised how new the concept really is. On some level I knew, of course, but somehow I’d never made the connection.
    Of course, for a long time I pronounced “albeit” with two syllables in my head. And don’t make be bring up jelly.

  6. I’ve been reading The Patter, the book you recommended on Glasgow dialect; lots of words of French, Norse, Celtic, Cockney, U.S. and television origin as well as ones originating by the Clyde. But regarding the 87-words-for-snow non-phenomenon, not an alphabetical page seems to go by without four or more different words for alcohol and/or drunkenness. I may add up the total when I reach the end.

  7. I’ve been reading The Patter, the book you recommended on Glasgow dialect; lots of words of French, Norse, Celtic, Cockney, U.S. and television origin as well as ones originating by the Clyde. But regarding the 87-words-for-snow non-phenomenon, not an alphabetical page seems to go by without four or more different words for alcohol and/or drunkenness. I may add up the total when I reach the end.

  8. language hat @ “the American habit of accusing each other of being addicted to whatever pleasure or pastime they indulge in”
    Since when do unhealthy habits have a national identity?

  9. I am going to ask my writer friend who may have some insight on this, Caleb Danilof he may appreciate this one greatly!

  10. I’ve also heard зависимость quite a bit as well as злоупотребление, from the abuse angle.

  11. Зависимость is the term I’ve heard the most often, as well.

  12. Trond Engen says:

    I once asked my mother why Danish didn’t have a word for weekend – besides “weekend”, that is.
    Boy, did I feel stupid when I realised how new the concept really is. On some level I knew, of course, but somehow I’d never made the connection.

    I don’t think that’s the reason. There’s been days off and there’s been a name for them. Both Norwegian and Swedish use the word ‘helg’ n. f./c. “holiday”, pronounced [hæLj] ([L] for retroflex l) in Eastern Norwegian. When the weekly holiday was extended so was the word for it. The interesting question is why Danish didn’t follow.

  13. 1) Construction “Он пристрастился к алкоголю/наркотикам”
    2) Addiction is “Зависимость”. There is a word “зависимый” or “зависимый человек”, meaning a person addicted to some harmful habit (drugs or alcohol). On the Internet I also saw “алкоголезависимый” and “наркотикозависимый”, however, these words are not on the dictionary. Either a calc or a way to specify the word “зависимый”.

  14. mollymooly says:

    OED dates “weekend” to 1638.
    What is the Russian for “12 Step Progam”?

  15. Since when do unhealthy habits have a national identity?
    They don’t, of course, but conversational habits do, and my point was that it would be hard to say “You’re addicted to football/Pokemon/whatever!” if there’s no convenient linguistic hook (obviously saying “you have a habit/inclination” doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact).

  16. But it seems зависимость ‘dependency’ is a pretty good equivalent. Thanks, all!

  17. A 12-step pogrom is a bit of an oxymoron.

  18. A 12-step pogrom is a bit of an oxymoron.

  19. Зависимость is an equivalent of sorts, especially as it does take on many modifiers (наркозависимость, игрозависимость, алкогольная зависимость). Come to think of it, there’s no Russian term for ‘gambler’ either (Dostoyevsky’s efforts notwithstanding); “игрок” can be a completely innocuous word without any addictive flavor.
    Аддикция is gaining ground, and I, for one, welcome it.

  20. I don’t think that either Chinese or Japanese have terms that exactly equate to addiction, either, except as highly technical terms.
    For instance, Japanese uses the technical term 依存症 izonshō ‘dependence’, but in common use the term is 中毒 chūdoku, which means ‘poisoning’ (アルコール中毒 arukōru chūdoku, literally ‘alcohol poisoning’).
    Chinese Wikipedia uses the technical-sounding 成瘾性 chéngyǐngxìng. This contains the term 瘾 yǐng, which means ‘to be hooked on’. Alcoholism has its own term 酗酒 xùjiǔ, which is an everyday term for intemperate drinking/drunkenness. Technical terms for the same are 酒精滥用 and 酒精依赖 (‘abuse of’ and ‘dependence’ on alcohol respectively).
    This is just a brief roundup using Wikipedia. I think that a good look at the topic would find a lot more to show that there’s no really well-established traditional term that truly equates to ‘addiction’.

  21. One can say, «N. пристрастился к морфию», or, in the perfect, «N. [был, стал] пристрастен к морфию». Note that the word derives from «страсть», passion, and often sounds somewhat stronger than just partiality or weakness for.
    As said above, the participle «зависим» or substantive abstract «зависимость» is often used. «Аддикция» is not a recent borrowing, and has been used as a medical term for a few decades. «Злоупотребление» sounds like coming from the lawspeak, and should be translated [drug] abuse rather than addiction.
    Examples in the classics are many:
    «…в тот день долго жевала головки белого мака, к чему до того пристрастилась, так как в этом находила утешение от своей крайней тоски…» (Алданов). «И правителем России назначается мировой рекламист, истерик с манией величия и пристрастием к кокаину — Колчак!» (А. Н. Толстой). «С грустью таскаюсь днем по всем московским кабакам и кофейням и, к ужасу своему, пристрастился к курению табака» (Чаянов).
    It seems to me that «пристрастие», «пристраститься» were not used to refer to the physiological addiction until the very end of the XIX ct., used previously to mean only the psychological one. Interesting to note, however, that, according to Harper (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=addiction), addiction was first used with respect to narcotics as late as in 1906.
    I do not think it would be completely fair to say that the Russian language “does not have a word” for addiction. (Linguistically, my stance might seem a bit radical, but I do not think that words have any sense alone, out of context.) There indeed is a natural way to speak of drug addiction in Russian.
    To me it is rather puzzling how English (and Latin, and aome other languages) fare without a word for «сутки» (unit of time, equal to 24 hours).

  22. Would there be a correlation between a countries history of combatting “dependency” via treatment programs AA, NA et al and the cultural acceptance of the less than flattering idea of individual will being subordinate to a physical dependency? My guess is there’s no Gamblers Anonymous in Russia? And the arrival of AA in Japan was largely an American import?

  23. My Greek’s out of date; while εθισμός does exist for “addiction”, both the clinical and the colloquial notions of “addiction” use μανία: mania, obsession. And the loans from French that Greek shares with Russian (τοξικομανής) have helped that. Of course, the meaning of μανία in Modern Greek, as with so many other Classical revivals, is more French than Hellenic anyway.
    So the convenient hook there for obsessive activity happens to be psychological rather than pharmaceutical. As indeed it used to be in English: witness the etymology of “fan”, and indeed the enduring use of “obsessed”.
    What’s more opaque to me—and I didn’t even know about it till recently—is the used of “tragic”, as in “cricket tragic”. Knowing self-lampooning? But it seems too quaint for that…

  24. Well, I’m kind of happy we live in diverse world. One should not expect one to one mapping between different relatively distant languages. For Russian or German lack of noun genders should look crazy.

  25. Swedish has “beroende”, which literally means both “dependence” and “depending” (it’s a present participle which can also function as a noun). This of course creates a certain ambiguity in phrases such as “Jag är beroende av min mobil” = “I’m dependent on my mobile/I’m addicted to my mobile”. I don’t think this limits the popularity of the phrase – on the contrary.

  26. I do not think it would be completely fair to say that the Russian language “does not have a word” for addiction.
    Certainly not, but if I were invariably fair, balanced, and reserved, nobody would bother commenting and it would be a boring blog. ALIENS LAND IN MORPHOSYNTAX! LATIN BORE ELVIS’S LOVE CHILD! That’s how you’ve got to grab ‘em. I’m going to start running photos of bathing beauties who speak endangered languages soon. Watch for the Languagehat calendar at your local gas station!

  27. Bathing Costume says:

    bathing beauties who speak endangered languages
    You are a genius Hat. Sounds like an excellent way to bring these languages back to life. Perhaps we could have a “Miss Endangered Languages” contest.

  28. I’d like to hear more about the Latin bore who was Elvis’s love child. Did Elvis himself ever sing or chant in Latin?

  29. I’d like to hear more about the Latin bore who was Elvis’s love child. Did Elvis himself ever sing or chant in Latin?

  30. The problem you discuss about the word for “addiction” in Russian is the problem one has with the translating of many English terms into Russian: English, which is much better suited to scientific discussion is much more direct and precise than Russian, which is much more suited to conveying nuances of emotional and feeling. The word “addict” nails it, without any ambiguity. “Зависимый” requires a context or modifiers to funnel the action to the addicting substance. That, in and of itself, softens and changes the effect of the word. It seems to me that Russians are in a situation very similar to the one they faced when Pushkin was writing in the early 1800’s when he preferred Russianizing French words because the Old Church Slavonic roots of the Russian words were too cumbersome and closed-minded to allow for the elegance of the concept that the French words carried.. There are so many new English words being introduced into Russian today for a similar reason. It isn’t that there was no drug addiction before, but I think that the looking at it squarely and calling a spade a spade is a particularly American form of consciousness. Do you agree?

  31. I think I do, and I thank you for a thought-provoking comment. (Pushkin, thou shouldst be with us at this hour!)

  32. ALIENS LAND IN MORPHOSYNTAX! LATIN BORE ELVIS’S LOVE CHILD!
    Ha! And that reminds me of a hilarious collection of linguistics-related fake tabloid headings, in Russian. Here is one contribution with links to other parts: http://uxus.livejournal.com/34958.html

  33. John Emerson says:

    Except for the Karelians, the Russians are a very temperate people and have no need for such a word. However, they do have 103 words for the various nuances of “temperate”, “sensible, “restrained”, “abstemious”, etc.

  34. John Emerson says:
  35. L. Fregimus: Thanks, that’s great (direct link)!
    ORIGINAL DISSERTATIONS IN SYNTAX IN 15 MINUTES

  36. Hmm, in the sense that you can use it to accuse people of unreasonable indulgence in things, I would say that Japanese “中毒” is highly equivalent to English “addiction” (in the non-technical sense). “Pokemon chudoku” gets almost 1000 Google hits, “Choco[late] chudoku” gets over 7000. Even “Paris chudoku” and “suika [watermelon] chudoku” get a few dozen each.
    Chudoku did originally mean specifically “poisoning”, but it has expanded — quite possibly via アルコール中毒 — the old term for “alcoholism” was “慢性アルコール中毒”, literally “chronic alcohol poisoning”, but definitely with the meaning “addicted to alcohol” (and therefore chronically poisoned by it).

  37. I agree that 中毒 has become equivalent to ‘addiction’ in Japanese. But the older meaning does still survive in expressions like 食中毒 shoku-chūdoku ‘food poisoning’.

  38. Just to clarify, I’m not disagreeing with Matt. My point is that the concept of ‘addiction’ in Japanese didn’t use to have a proper name for it, so a word with a different meaning had to be pressed into service. The new meaning has taken on a life of its own and we could possibly say that Japanese has been more successful than Russian in nativising the English concept. Still, the new usage has left behind messy remnants like the word 食中毒 (which is a pretty heavy term — mild cases are referred to as 食あたり). Since I now live in China, where 中毒 tends to be reserved for poisoning, the incongruity of the Japanese term perhaps strikes me more than if I were in Japan.

  39. The normal Chinese term for ‘being addicted’ is 上瘾 shàngyǐn (not yǐng as I wrote above). It’s used for both true addictions and also for ‘being hooked on’. Being hooked on a hobby, for instance, would be described as 上瘾了.
    Internet addiction is 网瘾 wǎngyǐn. The same thing in Japan is called ネット中毒 netto chūdoku, supporting Matt’s point above, or more formally インターネット依存症 intānetto izon-shō.

  40. Japanese has been more successful than Russian in nativising the English concept
    Is it an English concept? It’s funny, it never occurred to me that the concept of addiction was so culture-bound; now I’m wondering when and where it developed — how we got from “X does Y excessively” (with the implication that it’s a moral problem) to “X is addicted to Y” (with the implication that it’s a disease). Not wondering strongly enough to actually research it, mind you, just mildly curious.

  41. I’m wondering when and where it developed
    Bill W“, an American.

  42. John Emerson says:

    In th 40s through the 60s William Burroughs (an addict, recovering or otherwise) developed the addiction metaphor in all sorts of directions. His admirers picked up the metaphor and strewed it promiscuously here, there, and everywhere.

  43. One reason for the lack of a precise equivalent of “addiction” (passable translations exist, as has been pointed out here already – зависимость, пристрастие, злоупотребление, …) is that Russian has a device for creating specific addiction-related terms using a “ман” suffix (from “mania”?): наркоман/наркомания, кокаиноман/кокаиномания, токсикоман/токсикомания, etc. — all meaning addictions to specific substances. A notable exception is alcohol addiction, having a special — borrowed — word for it, of course: алкоголик/алкоголизм. It might be that using specific, rather than general, terms for addicts and addictions is somehow a prevalent pattern.

  44. it never occurred to me that the concept of addiction was so culture-bound … how [did we get] from “X does Y excessively” (with the implication that it’s a moral problem) to “X is addicted to Y” (with the implication that it’s a disease)
    It’s often called “medicalization”. Very many books and articles about this have been published in the last 30-40 years. I think I first learned the concept from Szasz, most of whose books I read in the early seventies. Other things that spring to mind are “Prozac nation” and the whole debate about giving Ritalin to “hyperactive” kids.
    The Wikipedia article on Medicalization is marked as being a cut-and-paste job, but is readable – except for the lack of editing. The main section starts with this strange sentence: The term medicalization entered academic and medical publications in the 1970s in the work of Thomas Szasz, Emile Zola, and Peter Conrad.. Three sentences further on: … now-classic works such as Conrad’s “The discovery of hyperkinesis: notes on medicalization of deviance,” published in 1973 … and immediately illiciting a round of commentary.
    I think I once wrote about this in a comment in a Hat thread. Back in 2000, I was trying to get Micha, an alcoholic friend of mine about 40 years old, to talk with someone, see a doctor, whatever – about his alcoholism. It was then I discovered that this “medicalization” process, which I had highhandedly scorned for so long, has favorable aspects.
    Remember how, in America in the 50s, everbody was ashamed to talk about alcoholism – if they even acknowledged its existence? That’s Germany today. In the meantime in America, narrative systems (Foucault: “discourses”) have sprung up that make it possible to think and talk about “alcoholism”, “co-dependency”, “the shame that binds”, “the adult children of alcoholics”. Note that doesn’t imply that everything thought and said is true or makes sense.
    In a trivial sense, of course, you certainly can talk about these things in Germany, say by using the word Alkoholiker, but you can’t *address* them. They have no fixed discursive residence. They don’t live in a neighborhood of concepts, practices, familiar institutions like AA and so on. There isn’t any comprehension of what you’re talking about, only a restricted “understanding” in the sense that you understand “phlogiston” when you look it up in an encyclopedia. It doesn’t empower you to biff the ball of conversation with historians of ideas.
    I remember telling my sister about this. She herself had been in AA for over 10 years, along with her husband. But she said I was crazy, of course you can talk about alcoholism, co-dependency etc. “even in Germany”. All you have to do is talk about it, what was I afraid of etc. So natural have these discourses become in America, she couldn’t begin to imagine I was talking about.
    My friend died of liver cirrhosis at 42. Words failed me.

  45. The concept of addiction is culture-bound only in the sense that it has to be cultivated in individual cultures. You can’t grow tomatoes or concepts in the mid-Atlantic. Also, there are different varieties of “concept of addiction”, just like tomatoes. Only the running dogs of the grand narrative want to standardize them.

  46. Thus the OED, showing how recent (except for that one 1779 outlier, which may properly be 2a) the sense of addiction we are talking about really is: just a little over a century old.
    1. Rom. Law. A formal giving over or delivery by sentence of court. Hence, A surrender, or dedication, of any one to a master.
    1625 T. GODWIN Rom. Antiq. 170 The forme of Addiction was thus..the party which preuailed, laid his hand on the thing or the person against which sentence was pronounced vsing this forme of words, Hunc ego hominem siue hanc rem ex iure Quiritium meam esse dico. 1735 BP. PATRICK On Exodus xx. 6 Look upon it only as a solemn Addiction of him to his Master’s Service. 1751 CHAMBERS Cycl., Adjudication is more particularly used for the addiction, or consigning a thing sold by auction, or the like, to the highest bidder. 1880 MUIRHEAD Gaius iii. §189 Whether this addiction made him a slave..was a point of controversy with the old lawyers.
    2. a. The state of being (self-)addicted or given to a habit or pursuit; devotion.
    1641 Vind. Smectym. ii. 43 The peoples..more willing addiction to hearing. 1675 E. PHILLIPS in Shaks. Cent. Praise 360 His own proper Industry and Addiction to Books. 1789 T. JEFFERSON Writings (1859) II. 585 Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. 1858 GLADSTONE Stud. Homer I. 237 Their addiction to agricultural pursuits. 1859 MILL Liberty 146 A man who causes grief to his family by addiction to bad habits.
    b. The, or a, state of being addicted to a drug (see ADDICTED ppl. a. 3b); a compulsion and need to continue taking a drug as a result of taking it in the past. Cf. drug-addiction s.v. DRUG n.1 1b.
    [1779 JOHNSON L.P., Philips Wks. II. 291 His addiction to tobacco is mentioned by one of his biographers.] 1906 Jrnl. Amer. Med. Assoc. 3 Mar. 643/2 It matters little whether one speaks of the opium habit, the opium disease or the opium addiction. 1951 A. GROLLMAN Pharmacol. & Therapeutics iv. 97 Addiction refers to that condition induced by a drug which necessitates the continuation of the drug and without which physical and mental derangements result. 1960 P. GOODMAN Growing up Absurd ix. 180 In taking drugs for the new experience, they largely steer clear of being hooked by an addiction. 1965 New Statesman 3 Dec. 868/1 Addiction units tend not to be aware of the addict’s tremendous need for moral support when the drug is taken from him. 1975 Nature 18 Sept. 188/2 Most people consider opiate addiction to comprise three major elements: tolerance, physical dependence, and compulsive craving.
    3. The way in which one is addicted; inclination, bent, leaning, penchant. Also in pl. Obs.
    1604 SHAKES. Oth. II. ii. 6 Each man to what sport and revels his addiction leads him. 1634 PEACHAM Compl. Gentlem. iv. 34/2 For every man to search into the addiction of his Genius, and not to wrest nature. 1675 in Phil. Trans. X. 255 The genius, faculties, addictions, and humors of men of all ages.
    Presumably when this word is reached in a decade or two we’ll hear about sex addiction and chocolate addiction by then.

  47. Originally a solemn transference of ownership, then. Now, you carelessly give yourself over to the drug.
    I have already seen both sex addiction and chocolate addiction hyped up. The latter in Germany, the former I think in the Sunday Times, in that column by (Olivia ?) Knight – also maybe in William Burroughs (must have been Naked Lunch), whose devotees, as John pointed out, have a lot to answer for.

  48. De Quincey described himself as a regular and confirmed opium-eater. Is less “addiction blame” assigned to the opium than to the person? I haven’t read the Confessions.

  49. Grumbly, when you write about the Sunday Times is it the New York one you’re talking about? I never know (it might be the London one).
    I think the non-discussion of alcoholism is the same in Norway, and I wonder if it’s a Lutheran thing, or if (and this is what I think) the phenomenon you’re talking about is the American one where once people get interested in a subject, they REALLY research it, discuss it, become knowledgeable, regulate, much more so than in other countries I’ve lived in. Thus Americans tend to know either nothing or everything. On the one hand, food & feminism would be two of my examples and on the other I’m waiting for them to start taking an interest in gardens. Despite Michael Pollen I don’t feel that’s really taken off yet.
    Sorry to digress, ha ha.

  50. John Emerson says:

    Hat, I think that Mlle. Crown is othering us.
    The folk practice among Lutherans and Catholics here seems to be to publicly ignore drinking problems while gossiping discreetly, saying things like “Ed went a little overboard the othern night”. The official response is to mind your own business until a guy can’t do his job any more, or starts to have felony legal problems, or his wife leaves him.
    It’s hard to be sure where customs come from because Lutherans and Catholics are equal in numbers and the community standard is hybrid. Teetotallers around here are Lutheran not Catholic.
    At the same time, therapeutic anti-alcoholism programs are well-established here, though people scoff at them as long as they’re able to. German Catholics are the most adamantly anti-therapeutic.

  51. language hat, I’d say the “impact”, particularly, the harshness, of the term ‘addiction’ (and its zillion cognates and compounds) is decidedly diluted by the frequency of its use in the US.
    “Addiction to being addicted,” one could say.
    To me, “an addictive personality” means ‘a personality attached to a body’, and “genetic predilection to addiction” sure sounds like ‘genes constituted by mammalian DNA’.
    Which universalization is, as Grumbly Stu suggests in his sad anecdote, an (ironic) indulgence and a terrible shame, because lives are ruined by, in his friend’s case, something which might be a Dionysiac portal, rather than a swirl down the drain.
    -
    Isn’t it so that, with or without a comprehensive translatomen for “addiction”, every Russian, Japanese, and-so-on person knows what “drunk-ass foo’” and “thieving junky fuck” is and ‘means’?

  52. Isn’t it so that, with or without a comprehensive translatomen for “addiction”, every Russian, Japanese, and-so-on person knows what “drunk-ass foo’” and “thieving junky fuck” is and ‘means’?
    Does your comment imply that all cultures basically make the same judgements?

  53. Bathrobe, it might to others, but, as expressed, it doesn’t to me.
    I’m not convinced that “cultures [...] MAKE [...] judgements”, though surely a ‘culture’ is the, or a, condition for the possibility of ‘judgement’.
    I do think that post-WWII ‘Russia’, Japan, and America are similar enough culturally that the disappointment- sometimes the tragedy- of alcohol and drug addiction/dependency/mania/obsession/fanaticism/devotion/biocommitment/psychological need/thanatodrive are transculturally recognizable enough to be, not merely familiAR, but knowably familiAL.
    Is that what you mean by ‘basically the same’?

  54. To me, “an addictive personality” means ‘a personality attached to a body’, and “genetic predilection to addiction” sure sounds like ‘genes constituted by mammalian DNA’.
    You really don’t believe that there is a difference between alcoholics and others, between those who can have an afternoon of fun at a horse race or casino and those who gamble away their savings and houses? Everybody’s just pretending, it’s a cultural construction or something? I’ve been around addicts, and I can tell you it seemed real to me.

  55. Is that what you mean by ‘basically the same’?
    I was merely asking for clarification. I didn’t ‘mean’ anything.
    In the case of alcoholism, which has its own word separate from ‘addiction’, I think the case may be reasonably clear (although cultural attitudes to consumption/heavy consumption of alcohol probably vary more than your characterisation would suggest).
    But in the case of Internet addiction, my understanding is that not all people are agreed that this even exists. Another one is sexual addiction, which I’ve yet to find a satisfactory definition for. Without a word for ‘addiction’, would these ‘addictions’ exist?

  56. No, language hat, you misunderstand me!
    When I hear “addictive personality”, I hear an excuse that I just don’t accept.
    I mean that EVERYBODY has an addictive personality; every body could become that of an alcoholic.
    The difference between having a drink, being a drinker, and being a drunk is one of behavior- these are three behaviors that every person COULD commit, sliding from enjoyment to helplessness.
    Doesn’t everything else I wrote here also go in this direction, rather than the one you sensed??

  57. “Without a word for ‘addiction’, would these ‘addictions’ exist?”
    Yes, Bathrobe, I think they would.
    As I understand both its constructive and mediate generacies, language BOTH leads AND follows, in the Stevensian senses of “imposition” and “discovery”.

  58. To me, addiction is a state in which the rest of the world dims as you develop a drive as powerful as hunger for either drugs or the feeling you get when you place a bet or (I can even imagine) your computer screen. (I’m not sure how well sex fits into the picture; food seems a question of degree.) The state is recognizable and certainly real; the interesting question is whether or not it’s accurate (or helpful) to describe people who’ve entered the state as having a disease. On the one hand, it’s obviously unsatisfying to say that everyone who once suffered an addiction but now leads a normal life, indulging in the once all-consuming to a reasonable degree, didn’t “really” have the disease; on the other hand, it might be true! Who am I to say, just because I’ve gotten my shit together, that other don’t have it worse — really can’t have just one, ever? That said, I do think the word is overused, at least in America.
    Oh, and hi Ma!

  59. Doesn’t everything else I wrote here also go in this direction, rather than the one you sensed??

    Sure does for me. Off the cuff, I couldn’t describe my own thinking more concisely:

    When I hear “addictive personality”, I hear an excuse that I just don’t accept.

    I mean that EVERYBODY has an addictive personality; every body could become that of an alcoholic.

    The difference between having a drink, being a drinker, and being a drunk is one of behavior- these are three behaviors that every person COULD commit, sliding from enjoyment to helplessness.

    Also, “language BOTH leads AND follows” was exactly the point of my story about Micha. Words failed me / him. I didn’t expect they might have “saved him”, but as it happened there was neither leading nor following, but only a marching in place, as time ticked.

  60. language BOTH leads AND follows
    So changes in language reflect changes in human behaviour? Before the term ‘addiction’ was adopted in its current sense, presumably this means that ‘addiction’ didn’t exist. Or am I completely failing to understand.

  61. For what it’s worth, here is my current, non-earthshaking checklist for dealing with drug-related problems (as well as other kinds):
    1) To see things better, you have to descend from your high-horse
    2) People are not all the same, nor are they all different
    3) People are habitual creatures
    4) Practice makes habits, and breaks them
    5) Stop interfering
    6) Keep interacting
    7) There is a time to shut up, but you never know when
    8) You don’t always get what you want
    Hi Jim! Your book was a great help, even if it was not specifically intended to help.

  62. John Emerson says:

    We’re wandering far from our core competencies, but that’s OK.
    What I don’t like about addiction and -ism talk is that it seems to shotgun everywhere, and at the same time to be an umbrella term covering many different behaviors. First, nnot only is it trivialized in a jokey way, but it is also seriously expanded far beyond it’s original definite meaning of physiological dependency to opiates and a few regulated drugs.
    But beyond that, “alcoholism” is used to cover any drinking behavior of which the speaker disapproves, without any agreed-upon public definition.
    Finally when you get to explanations and scientific descriptions of alcoholism, they pile up without resolution. For example, the genetic physiological explanation of alcoholism is directly contradictory to the “addictive personality” explanation, which doesn’t require alcohol to be specifically involved at all. Yet people in the biz switch back and forth freely between them.
    “The Natural History of Alcoholism”, the best analysis I’ve seen — in my layman’s opinion — distinguished alcoholics proper, problem drinkers (who had problems when drinking becuae their bad judgement and personal anger became uncontrolled) and heavy normal drinkers (who drink a lot, too much by some standards, while remaining functional).
    I have a friend whose normal pattern for decades was to drink constantly for 48 hours on weekends during 11 months of the year, and not at all during January or during the week. He kept too to, he was not “out of control”, but his drinking on the weekends was classic drunkard. After 10-20 years he started coming into work Mondays drunk, and he was threatened with firing so he quit.

  63. Before the term ‘addiction’ was adopted in its current sense, presumably this means that ‘addiction’ didn’t exist.
    Bathrobe, I think the crux of the matter is how you think the word “exist” functions (notice how I avoid writing “what the word means”). When you peek under the edge of the carpet in your bachelor son’s apartment (say), you discover dirt. Did the dirt “exist” before you discovered it? Of course it did, in an uncontroversial sense – because dirt is something that exists independently of bachelor carpet practice.
    But what about the events that took place starting in the second half of the 19th century (say), leading to the “discovery” of bacteria, then viruses. Did they “exist” before they were “discovered”? Well, in a sense you could say that, and in a sense not. You can’t “discover” something you don’t have a name for, nor have never seen, nor even know how to delimit or “fix” (staining techniques, and their interpretation). And, after all, nobody ever “saw” a microbe, neither then nor now. What you “see” are stains on a glass slide, or “artist’s conceptions” in Scientific American – all very complicated mixtures of procedures, technologies and words, i.e. discourses (!), and they’re all in process. There are lots of modern histories of science that might surprise you when you read them. Rheinberger, “Experimental systems and epistemic thingies” (I translate freely).
    In my anecdote about Micha, I was trying to convey this: I had a construing notion (discourse) of “addiction”, which helped me to organize the phenomena in my imagination. My sister has a similar one – we’re both Americans – but Micha didn’t, and “German society” has a different one, which more or less amounts to saying: “well, it takes all kinds”. If few people here in Germany can interpret the stained slides as I do, what point is there in insisting on “existence”. Alcoholism as I understand it might as well be non-existent here in Germany.

  64. Nice list and bacteria analogy, Grumbly! (And thanks about my book!) I’m less sure about this:
    EVERYBODY has an addictive personality; every body could become that of an alcoholic.
    These are discrete propositions (I agree with the second, not the first), whose conflation seems only to assume some free will, inject some morality. Me, I’m less keen to judge.
    For example, the genetic physiological explanation of alcoholism is directly contradictory to the “addictive personality” explanation, which doesn’t require alcohol to be specifically involved at all. Yet people in the biz switch back and forth freely between them.
    Two other contradictory (or at least too convenient) truisms you’ll hear in AA circles: “It can happen to anyone”; “Real alcoholics never recover.”

  65. marie-lucie says:

    I recently read a new book on addiction: In the realm of the hungry ghosts, by Canadian doctor Gabor Maté, who writes from two perspectives: as a doctor practicing among drug addicts in the notorious Lower East Side of Vancouver (BC), and as a person who was himself “addicted” to a compulsive, financially destructive behaviour. The book has some extremely moving, sometimes horrifying descriptions of the past and present lives of individual addicts, and also goes into the special brain chemistry which is associated with any kind of addiction, as well as the destructive effects of the legal prohibition of the use of certain drugs.
    According to this book, the “addictive personality” is not just a psychological term, and not “everyone could become an addict”: as an example, he cites the fact that of the many American soldiers who took hard drugs in Viet-Nam, only a small percentage continued the practice once they were back home, and that percentage was about the same as that of addicts in the general population.
    Definitely worth reading, whatever the source of your interest on the subject.

  66. I’m less sure about this: EVERYBODY has an addictive personality
    @jamessal: I was taking that in the sense that deadgod gave it:
    To me, “an addictive personality” means ‘a personality attached to a body’, and “genetic predilection to addiction” sure sounds like ‘genes constituted by mammalian DNA’.
    In other words, no mammal, with or without a personality, is exempt from the dangers of physiological disaster from alcohol, bacteria, you name it. I don’t see there any imputation or denial of free will or morality.
    But remember also that alcohol is useful as a disinfectant, and bacteria (and alcohols) are essential to metabolism.
    Although I’m sure nobody would accuse me of being sentimental (well, melodramatic a bit, yes …), there’s an animal documentary I once saw on German TV that struck me as a real tear-jerker – although it’s supposed to be amusing. In Africa there are groves of trees with some kind of suger-charged fruit which falls off in great quantities. As it rots, equally greate quantities of alcohol develop (I’m not sure about the chemistry here). At this season, animals of all kinds come from far away to gorge on the sugar and alcohol. The film shows elephants falling slowly to their knees, birds falling off their perches, monkeys leaping and staggering about, falling over each other etc. The message is unmistakeably: “isn’t that cute and funny, monkeys behaving like men on a Saturday night out!” But my immediate, gut reaction was: jesus christ, it hadn’t occurred to me that men on a Saturday night out are clueless animals screwed up by alcohol.

  67. marie-lucie: on Radio 4 two nights ago I heard a program on “The young gangsters in Vancouver who are building a multi-billion dollar drugs industry”. It presented the development of new “business gangsters”, 18-27 years of age (they don’t live much longer). They don’t do “turf wars”, but actually cooperate with each other, while competing on the market. The incentive for the recruits, the street-level dealers (“dial-a-dopes”), is the desire to make a lot of money for display, not to consume drugs. Recruitment is becoming less and less necessary, since kids are so hyped by the media glorification of “gangstas” and bling that they come of their own accord. Those are assessments by the policemen and social workers who try to get it all under control.

  68. no mammal, with or without a personality, is exempt from the dangers of physiological disaster from alcohol, bacteria, you name it.
    Well, sure; but especially in the context of what deadgod said (“When I hear ‘addictive personality,’ I hear an excuse that I just don’t accept) EVERYBODY has an addictive personality means a lot more — namely, that NOBODY has a *particularly* addictive personality (we’re all in the same boat) and that people who do develop crippling addictions…well, this is where I thought the morality entered (I don’t see any other reason for denying people a special susceptibility), but I could be all wrong.

  69. ML: I remember Richard Davenport-Hines using similar Vietnam data in his excellent (though dense) The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics, though I forget exactly to what end. (I’ll look it up later — and check out The Hungry Ghosts.)

  70. Doesn’t everything else I wrote here also go in this direction, rather than the one you sensed??
    Well, but I’m still confused, because as jamessal says, “When I hear ‘addictive personality,’ I hear an excuse that I just don’t accept) EVERYBODY has an addictive personality” seems to imply that “NOBODY has a *particularly* addictive personality (we’re all in the same boat),” and that does not mesh with my personal experience, in that I hung out with some heavy drinkers in New Haven many years ago and got drunk right along with them, and did this for months on end, and as I often say, “if I could become alcoholic, I would have—I certainly tried!” But I developed no actual dependency, whereas they wound up joining AA and fighting their addiction for years. It seems to me there’s a clear difference there, and thus that we’re not “all in the same boat.”
    None of which is to say that people don’t use the concept of “addiction” or “disease” as an all-purpose excuse and shouldn’t get away with it, but I do think there’s a reality to the concept.

  71. But what about the events that took place starting in the second half of the 19th century (say), leading to the “discovery” of bacteria, then viruses. Did they “exist” before they were “discovered”? Well, in a sense you could say that, and in a sense not.
    I have a low tolerance for arguments of the type “microbes (or extraterrestrial planets or whatever) didn’t exist until they were discovered” (or, if you prefer, “discovered”). Bishop Berkeley is not, let us say, one of my personal heroes.

  72. low tolerance for arguments of the type …
    Then by all means avoid them, you might get hooked! :-)
    Seriously, Hat, do you think of reality as being “out there”, like Milwaukee? If that were the case, where are we, and how could we know this “out there” (in the case of Milwaukee, at least we could take a train)? Berkeley thought such views led to scepticism, which he was dead against. There is a brief explanation of Berkeley’s position at my site, by a writer named Forrest Baird.
    I suspect what riles you is the idea that “arguments of the type” are claiming that we construct the world out of whole cloth, at will and arbitrarily. That’s what I used to think argumenters of the type were saying, and I thought they were all silly or crazy. But that is not at all what this is about. What I meant is that we and our perceptions are intricately involved in what we perceive, and there is no contemplative eye of the storm. In other words, no epistemic free ride. That’s pretty uncontentious, don’t you think, when put like that?
    Berkeley’s thinking is still caught in the dichotomy of objective, over-there reality and subjective, right-here access to it. His importance in the history of ideas, as I have understood it, was to have contributed to a reorganization of how we can best think about such matters without getting tied up in new knots. Philosophically and physiologically we are like sailing tackle, functional conglomerations of knots and ropes. We can’t untie and retie them all at once, nor do we have more than partial control over knot technique at any time. But we didn’t create the ropes, and we didn’t build the ship, so they’re not going to vanish suddenly, at least we can’t make them vanish. We are in full sail, and that looks like Milwaukee off to starboard!

  73. But I developed no actual dependency, whereas they wound up joining AA and fighting their addiction for years.
    Is “personality” the only explanation for that? Suppose there just not enough physiological tolerance in your body/mind conglomerate to put up with it over time, or get something from it over time. I know that alcohol befuddles me and makes me tired more often than not, that’s why I don’t drink (in gross contrast to when I was 16 to 19 years old, more or less). Even though I am given to intense (obsessive?) behavior, I have no physical tolerance to alcohol. The whole physical side of it just doesn’t play along.
    Another contradiction in these views about alcoholism: is there a craving, or a tolerance? Make up your mind! In any case, what does that have to do with personality? And WTF is “personality”? I thought that was something that got you a well-paying job on TV.

  74. do you think of reality as being “out there”, like Milwaukee?
    Yes. I’m sure you can make respectable philosophical arguments proving it’s not, but I’ve never been particularly interested in philosophy of the more recondite type. When the bishop shows up to harangue me, I kick the stone, and if that doesn’t work I throw it at him. He usually goes away.
    In any case, what does that have to do with personality? And WTF is “personality”?
    Beats me, I was quoting others. I don’t care what you call it, but I’m pretty sure some people have a capacity to become addicts and others don’t.

  75. Bademantel says:

    Alcoholism as I understand it might as well be non-existent here in Germany
    So I guess there’s no German word for ‘addiction’, either.

  76. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. correction: I am reading too much American stuff: the main addicts’ hangout in Vancouver is the “Downtown East Side”, not the “Lower East Side”.

  77. “So changes in language reflect changes in human behaviour?”
    Yes, I think so, Bathrobe, but, given the meaning of the “both … and …” structure you quote, my commitment would be that constructing our experience of reality linguistically is only PART of that experience. There could easily be things that one hasn’t experienced or heard about, or doesn’t know that she or he’s experienced/ing, and so has no ‘words’ for. Isn’t this a large aspect of the history of science?: putting into language perceptions of things which only SEEM new, because previously they hadn’t been knowingly experienced.
    Changes in language “lead”, in the sense of opening the mind to conceptual (even perceptual) novelty. (Imagine Aristotle’s thinking about “disease” after getting his first microscope.) Changes in language “follow”, in the sense that the mind is startled into a new way of thinking about something actually familiar. (Imagine Aristotle’s thinking about “motion” after a chat with Newton about the innards of a clock; in this case, Aristotle’s already got enough words, right?.)

  78. “‘EVERYBODY has an addictive personality” means [...] that NOBODY has a *particularly* addictive personality[.]”
    jamessal, while I agree with your hesitancy ‘to judge’ (whether on epistemic or compassionate grounds, or both), the entailment I’ve just quoted is inaccurate.
    I think everybody’s on a spectrum of proneness to addiction to some particular substance or activity. (I think the brain changes when one does something habitually, and that addiction might be less metaphoric and more physiological, with respect to, say, watching tv or exercising, than some skeptics of American pop-therapy might think.)
    Let’s take language hat’s example: lots of people have gone through periods of lots of boozing and other times of almost none. But is the point that people who drink a lot for a few years without becoming alcoholics actually CAN’T become alcoholics?? Are there people who CAN’T become heroin addicts? I’ll bet that many, perhaps most, experimenters with heroin DON’T become junkies, but they ALL know they COULD, right?
    It’s the addictive-personality racketeers (if I could be unkind to the exploiters of terribly difficult lives) who are the binarists in this: “X has an addictive personality, which, by itself, explains his/her drinking, gambling, and cheating turmoil.” There was a time when X had a choice, and a time when she or he didn’t, and I think every person is always somewhere on that spectrum.

  79. language hat, the Berkeleyan position ‘to be is to be perceived’ is, as I understand it, recklessly skeptical, because it’s inconsistent with respect to what it accepts as evidence.
    Look at the ‘tree-falls-in-a-forest’ chestnut. The question isn’t whether the tree in an earless forest falls SOUNDLESSLY; the question is whether the tree can fall noisily but UNHEARD.
    Likewise, look at the wall in front of you. Now turn around; the wall has disappeared from your senses. Back up a bit– oops, there it is again.
    Berkeley’s argument is that perception accounts for the wall; there’s nothing silent and odorless any distance behind you. How, then, is any particular perception coherently related to any other, given the nothingness ‘between’ perceptions?
    Do you see what I mean by ‘consistency’? Berkeleyan ‘perception’ doesn’t account for even one event of perception.

  80. the Berkeleyan position ‘to be is to be perceived’ is, as I understand it, recklessly skeptical
    Just as Hume pointed out:
    most of the writings of that very ingenious author [Berkeley] form the best lessons of scepticism which are to be found either among the ancient or modern philosophers, Bayle not excepted.
    Of course it was the reckless skepticism of Hume himself that woke up poor old Kant.
    “There is no epistemic free ride”, as I wrote, was intended merely to say that there is no privileged position from which one can claim to have settled the world’s business, once and for all. It’s hard even to say something like that without sounding as if I believed I’ve found a privileged (meta-)position from which to settle everybody’s business indirectly.
    I think the value of much of what seems to be crazy epistemology can be better seen by taking it to be expressing ethical, argumentative and political beliefs about the need for caution. “You can’t be the dictator of reality and The Good, so you might as well stop trying”. Scientists may like to pretend to be the Real estate agents of Mr. Universe, but you should still look closely at the mortXgage rates. Religionists may like to pretend to be the Good Shepherds of Mr. God, but you should still have those sheep inspected for scrapie.
    I regard many crazy epistemologies as discourses of common sense and decency, tarted up with Hollywood effects. You just can’t market those things nowadays in their conventional forms – people would think you were naive.

  81. The “X” in “mortXgage” circumvents Hat’s naive spam filters. I myself like naive. It is so easy to convince that there’s nothing wrong with coming over to my place to look at the etchings.

  82. Deadgod: Glad you clarified. I think I’m actually sympathetic to your view.

  83. I’m not very good at abstruse thought or language. The phenomenon deadgod speaks of (“language BOTH leads AND follows”) is not controversial or revolutionary, and I probably agree with it. What we have is a concept of addiction, which arose in a medical sense, being applied to similar types of behaviour. I would suggest that alcohol use has always been controlled and channelled by society, and excessive consumption has caused both medical and social problems. Thus the problems of addiction to alcohol did not need to wait for society to come up with a word for “addiction”. However, the concept of treating alcoholism presumably came about as a result of the new view of alcoholism as an addiction, thus something that could be objectified, isolated, and treated.
    The use of “addiction” to other aspects of life I’m not so sure of. It would be interesting to know how society characterised “addictive” behaviours before the word “addiction” became available to describe them.
    The adoption of new vocabulary as a result of/catalyst for new ways of looking at things is not unusual historically. In the case of Chinese/Japanese, there was a well-known period in history when a whole new vocabulary had to be invented to accommodate the concepts of Western intellectual thought. One is the word for “society”. The genesis of the Japanese term has been covered in some depth by Japanese intellectuals. Japanese had words for “society” before Western thought arrived, and these words were considered as possible translation equivalents. One is the word 世間 seken meaning ‘the world’ or ‘people’ (as in “What will people say?”). This word was not adopted. In the end a new term was created (or perhaps an old term adapted) to describe the concept of “society”: 社会 shakai. This was then borrowed by the Chinese as 社會 shèhuì. Thus these cultures and languages developed new ways of talking about the world that may have existed before, but not as the totality expressed by the word “society”.
    There are many other examples. One is the word “public”, which in my view has never properly entered into the vocabularies of Chinese or Japanese. Of course, translated terms exist and are used, but the concept of “public” does not seem to have taken root as deeply as the concept of “society”. Google Translate gives 9 different Japanese adjectives and 6 different Chinese adjectives as a translation for “public”, suggesting a fragmented perception of what we take as a single concept. This has led people to write tracts on the lack of a “public” dimension in Chinese society. (Sorry, no sources for any of these; just speaking off the top of my head).

  84. John Emerson says:

    I’ve always thought that some things should be skeptified more than others. Physical objects seem to be the least appropriate for skeptification, though of course some apparent physical objects (constellations of stars) really are illusory artifacts of perception.
    Things like justice, freedom, and virtue seem much less to be “out there” and much more a matter of consensus, negotiation, and raw power. Plato wished otherwise, and caused thousands of years of confusion by that. Plato also despised “mere opinion”, as did Descartes, and between them they provided the tools for skeptics to use to destroy all principles grounded on social consensus with*. What a couple of jerks.
    We do have a social consesnus that physical objects exist, but that’s in large part that there are very good reasons to believe that they’re “really out there.”
    LINGUISTIC QUESTION: Why did I feel the need to add the word “with” to the end of this sentence? Is it correct this way? Would it be equally correct (and intelligible) without the “with?

  85. Not my area of competence, but my brother worked with seriously mentally ill people for years and would argue strenuously that there is such a thing as an addictive personality. You get them off one thing and they become addicted to something else. They’re off heroin, they’re on alcohol. They’re off alcohol, they’re smoking 3 packs a day. They’re off cigarettes and they’re drinking 12 cups of coffee a day. They cut back on coffee and take up betting on the horses. He thinks it’s bio-chemical. They really can’t stop on their own, and even with help they usually can’t stop. He says it’s the hardest personality disorder to get under control.
    That’s very different than someone eating too much chocolate and insisting that “it’s an addiction and I can’t help it.”
    For what it’s worth — Russian drunks are usually binge drinkers. They can not drink for weeks or months, and then go on a bender — like 2 weeks non-stop drinking. I could never figure out how they did it.

  86. … an addictive personality. You get them off one thing and they become addicted to something else.
    mab: I don’t understand the way “addictive” is being used here. Addiction(1) is (was?) primarily used to refer to a physiological “craving for” or “dependence on” a substance such as heroin, grass, alcohol. What your brother describes sounds like “addiction(2) to addiction(1)”, except that there’s no addiction(1) any more. On the usual understanding, a person can’t be addicted(1) to something when he/she can give it up so easily – even if only to “replace” it by another addiction(1).
    Also, the idea that this behavior pattern could have “biochemical” causes makes it seem to me even less appropriate to call it addiction. Addiction(1) is always biochemical, whatever it may be in addition to that. If there are biochemical factors in what your brother observed – and I wouldn’t even think of challenging that idea – then they must surely be considerably different from those involved in addiction(1).

  87. I know drug-takers who switch from one thing to another – a little coke here, a little brown there – or even mix and match them to suit their mood (jamessal’s book describes this well). But this is a very consumer-preference, pick-and-choosey kind of drug-taking. It’s about alternating between thrills and being zonked out. But it does give you something to do.
    Just as important as the physiological effects of the really hard stuff like heroin is that addiction structures your life. It concentrates the mind wonderfully – you’ve got 3-4 hours till you’ll need another hit, so you’ve got to hustle. Over and over again. (It’s withdrawal avoidance that provides the drive.) In a sense, the life of an addict is more stultified, more of a 9-to-5 grind than the lives of “squares” are – since in fact it’s 6-to-24, assuming you get some sleep. In my view, that’s the main reason why heroin addicts stay with their drugs and their life. All that uncertainty and panic when you’re clean and have no job, no money and not a clue as to what to do next.
    Perhaps a special kind of “obsession” with “inappropriate structures” plays a role in what your brother describes. But we all need behavioral structures, whether do-it-yourself, inherited or mortXgage-financed.

  88. LINGUISTIC QUESTION: Why did I feel the need to add the word “with” to the end of this sentence? Is it correct this way? Would it be equally correct (and intelligible) without the “with?
    1) What sentence??
    2) Yes.
    3) The sentence “Would it be equally correct (and intelligible) without the ‘with’?” would not be equally correct (and intelligible) without the ‘with’; it would in fact be completely unintelligible.
    4) So would that one.

  89. Actually, you added ‘with’ based on the structure “skeptics destroy all principles grounded on social consensus with the tools they provided”. However, the actual structure you used was (when straightened out) “skeptics use the tools they provided to destroy all principles grounded on social consensus”. The ‘with’ is probably better omitted.

  90. Stu, from what he told me, I understood that it wasn’t at all easy to break the addiction to whatever. These were people who were on heroin for years, then went in and out of programs to quit. While quitting, they started drinking. Another three years went to quitting that. And so on. This isn’t the laymen’s “addictive personality.” This is someone who is always hooked on something. The bio-chemical problem was not the physical dependence on crack or heroin or alcohol or nicotine, but rather — as you say — “addiction to addiction.” They HAD to be dependent on some substance or behavior. They felt physically incomplete without an addiction. I can’t remember what mix of drugs they used to treat these people, but vaguely recall (could be very wrong) something about seratonin levels.
    But these people are a very small percentage of the population. They’re the folks who have never really held onto a job, who go from group home to hospital to half-way house. I think these folks are different from the garden-variety alcoholic, who would never switch to heroin. And that person, in my humble, uneducated opinion, is different from the person who can control behavior, even if it’s an effort and requires assistance.

  91. 1) What sentence??
    Never mind, I figured it out. I agree with Grumbly that “with” can simply be omitted.
    I think these folks are different from the garden-variety alcoholic, who would never switch to heroin. And that person, in my humble, uneducated opinion, is different from the person who can control behavior, even if it’s an effort and requires assistance.
    I agree. Even though they are “a very small percentage of the population” and a lot of people use loose talk about “addictive personalities” to justify self-indulgence, it’s still a mistake to ignore the existence of true addiction.

  92. marie-lucie says:

    Brain chemistry is strongly affected by nutrition. Although metabolism varies with individuals (who assimilate nutrients in different ways), people who do not eat properly or who replace food with alcohol and/or drugs are not only affected by the substance, but without proper food they are at even greater risk of messing up their brain chemistry, so they are even less able to control their impulses and cravings. People who are ‘addicted to chocolate’, for instance, will eat a whole bar or more, almost without noticing it, because some ingredient in it turns off their satiety control.
    I noticed something similar in myself in recent months: I had to stop buying bread, because if I do have bread around at home I can’t just stop at a couple of slices but pretty soon most of the loaf is gone and I am uncomfortably overfull. This did not happen when I was younger, and it does not happen with other foods (I can ration chocolate with no problem). I don’t crave bread when it is not around, but something happens to me when I have it.

  93. What a coincidence, marie-lucie! I was just on the way to the kitchen to cut an unnecessary slice of bread, when I thought I’d first check this comment thread on my notebook.
    I’ve also stopped buying bread on a regular basis, for the reasons you describe. I’ve stopped buying anything much in advance of cooking it.
    I don’t even need a refrigerator, as it turns out. After my move at the end of last year, I kept putting off going to get it, because I wasn’t sure I would stay here. The weather in Germany was so cold and wet this summer that I didn’t “need” it even then.
    I am surprised to find I am not unhappy when I get up in the middle of the night to eat something, only to find the cupboard bare and no coke in the fridge. I just drink a glass of water, and go back to bed. I am also surprised to find that I feel better, and look 50 years younger.
    This eating and drinking of stuff all the time turns out to be a habit I can do without. It is a long way away from addiction, that’s for sure, but even in addiction there is an element of habituation, and of availability.

  94. John Emerson says:

    This sentence (one asterisk was misplaced: “Plato also despised “mere opinion”, as did Descartes, and between them they provided the tools for skeptics to use to destroy all principles grounded on social consensus with*”.

  95. I have an addiction to Language Hat.

  96. I have an addiction to Language Hat.

  97. People who are ‘addicted to chocolate’, for instance, will eat a whole bar or more, almost without noticing it, because some ingredient in it turns off their satiety control.
    I read somewhere recently, I forget where, that chocolate contains some chemical that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood. A similar phenomenon can be seen in pregnancy when the increased nutritional needs of the expectant mother can make her crave pickles, etc. until a regular regimen of vitamin C stops the cravings. Some research into alcoholism has focused on neurotransmitters–there is speculation that the metabolism of alcoholics may not respond physiologically to neurotransmitters in the same way as ordinary people and that alcoholic consumption is an attempt to compensate for this by self-medicating for pain.

  98. marie-lucie says:

    Well, Grumbly, what a coincidence! I do have a fridge but since I live close to a store I only get what I need for a day or two. But I should also follow your advice of only drinking water at night instead of eating something.

  99. I wouldn’t follow Grumbly’s advice, he feels and looks like a ten-year-old.

  100. I wouldn’t follow Grumbly’s advice, he feels and looks like a ten-year-old.

  101. Fasting in the Orthodox Church does the same sort of thing. The Great Lenten Fast is essentially a vegan diet. The first week you’re at a loss, and then you get used to it. After awhile you discover you don’t miss half the junk you were eating and you take great pleasure in, say, a peach.

  102. The first week you’re at a loss, and then you get used to it.
    I fasted yesterday (Ramadan), then at sunset broke the fast with dates and water before going to taraweeya at a mosque for the first time. The first week of the fast can be exciting, with traditional pastries and so forth, but today I’m just exhausted.
    I rather like the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition of fasting with their vegetarian dishes on Wednesday and Friday year round. When I had a flight canceled and was put up in a hotel by the Ethiopian airline on a fast day, they tried to give me special western food even though my Ethiopian companion was automatically given the fasting menu. She was able to convince them where I was not, and I enjoyed a very healthful meal that left me with plenty of energy for a hike in the surrounding hills later.

  103. The “addictive personality” idea doesn’t have much credence as a real theory of alcoholism, at least within the medical establishment. But the study of alcoholism has really been driven by the alcoholics themselves and their families who are desperate for answers and solutions. So while the medical establishment can talk about the very real physiological stuff like liver failure, ascites, fetal alcohol syndrome, and chemical dependency (unlike heroin withdrawal, alcohol withdrawal is life-threatening and best done under medical supervision), it is left to the popular culture, and now some more research-driven groups like Adult Children of Alcoholics, to define the problem socially and develop treatment. Even though AA has some valid criticisms leveled at it–it’s based on 19th century Protestant theology, it’s more effective with men than women, with Protestants than Catholics, etc–it’s still the single most effective way to reverse a destructive disease process. That’s probably why the disease model/twelve-step program keeps getting cloned for other groups.
    “Addictive personality” might imply a person has a predilection for drinking based on some character flaw, but I have also seen it used to describe the type of personal interactions surrounding the problem drinker, it being unclear whether they are a predictor or a result of the drinking. The typical behavior patterns (inasmuch as there is a “typical” alcoholic) would include 1) dominating and controlling behavior, often using anger or violence but sometimes an equally disruptive passive-aggressive approach, until the mere threat of getting out of hand is enough for the overriding family goal to become keeping the alcoholic placated; 2) selecting an individual to be labeled as a persecutor, and therefore an excuse to drink–usually the person selected to be the villain in the drinker’s life story is the one who would have the hardest time getting out of the relationship, a spouse or family member–if the boss is selected there will be problems on the job; even when the alcoholic has gone through all their friends and family, care is given not to alienate the “connection” or bartender; 3) family collusion in concealing the drinking behavior, even from each other, and keeping silent about the drinker’s behavior, sometimes referred to as “the elephant in the room”. So here come more unique American word usages that AFAIK are twelve-step spin-offs, dysfunctional and codependent, that I have not heard used in Europe or elsewhere.
    (The above observations come from among other things, years spent working in psych (I once worked in a Ken Kesey-type Cuckoo’s Nest job), as well as medical and social services settings. )
    How much of this is cultural is an interesting question. When I lived in Jordan, I looked for AA groups after an acquaintance was hospitalized twice in two years for liver problems. The only groups I found were English-speaking Americans. My friend’s English was good enough but he was not interested. In the end, his family was resolving the question by rearranging the family business where he worked (a bar) by redecorating so he could do the off-sale business in one area while a nephew would pour the drinks elsewhere. A similar problem with a Jordanian in the U.S. was also solved by the family. After he started dabbling in heroin and having money problems, he was brought back to his home country where probably the opportunities for control by the family are much greater, being assisted by the (non-drinking and Moslem) culture, as well as the fact that is it a place where it is difficult if not impossible to survive without the approval of the extended family and its head. This is one huge cultural difference I have noticed, that the American culture relies more on individuality, and therefore internal individual control, than on obedience to an external patriarchal structure. Maybe this American emphasis on individuality is also the answer to why the concept of “addiction” is such an American phenomenon.

  104. John Emerson says:

    I have no opinion on the “addictive personality”, but I do have a friend who, when he quit drinking, almost bankrupted himself gambling. He also is addicted to getting married, often to inappropriate matches — four times so far at age 63, plus a couple of very serious near misses.

  105. There you go!

  106. Now that I’ve stopped eating bread in the middle of the night, I hope that my bachelor status is not endangered? Perhaps I should keep a package of Matzoh on hand, for emergencies.

  107. Okay, I’m groggy, but why can’t I understand this sentence?
    “Now that I’ve stopped eating bread in the middle of the night, I hope that my bachelor status is not endangered?”
    As many have noted here, all these addictions seem to be caused by many factors and ways to deal with it depend on the culture. I wanted to say way back when that “ïðèñòðàñòèå” is “passion” in the sense of The Passions — those earthbound, after-the-Fall human cravings and failings. Russians don’t like alcoholics — they don’t work, they beat their spouses, they steal, they are usually filthy, etc. But heavy drinking, on the right occassion, is a Good Thing, and in fact they are mistrustful of people who don’t join in (as if they had something to hide — which would come out in a drunken state — or as if they’d spy on the drunks and use their behavior against them. They generally don’t like non-drinkers, and non-drinking foreigners are advised to claim a medical reason for abstaining, because that’s about the only “excuse” people will accept. Drinking too much can be a test — to see if you can hold it and/or to see how you act when drunk. I used to be put through this all the time when I was interviewing people for documentary films. It wasn’t exactly that they thought they’d get me drunk and see if I blurted out that I was really working for the CIA (but I think in the 90s that was part of it). They just needed to see what they thought was “the real person,” uninhibited. It was a real pain.

  108. They just needed to see what they thought was “the real person,” uninhibited.
    But were they in a fit state to judge?

  109. why can’t I understand this sentence?
    mab: it was based on what John wrote:
    I do have a friend who, when he quit drinking, almost bankrupted himself gambling. He also is addicted to getting married, often to inappropriate matches
    after I had written farther up about breaking my bread habit.

  110. Okay, I’m groggy, but why can’t I understand this sentence?
    “Now that I’ve stopped eating bread in the middle of the night, I hope that my bachelor status is not endangered?”
    I believe that was a response to JE’s “I do have a friend who, when he quit drinking, almost bankrupted himself gambling. He also is addicted to getting married.”

  111. Thank you. Got it.
    Mr Crown — don’t know if they’re in a fit state to assess, although there are drunks who remember every humilitating second. But they’d remember if you turned out to be a surly drunk, or a cheap drunk, or a nasty drunk. Or blurted out: “I’m working on a film that will be horrible propaganda against the fine Russian people.”

  112. Contemporaty America is well on its way to being a Passionlessly correct society.

  113. Seriously, Hat, do you think of reality as being “out there”
    Epistemology by Richard Wilbur
    I.
    Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:
    But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.
    II.
    We milk the cow of the world, and as we do
    We whisper in her ear, “You are not true.”

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