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Understanding Addiction

Understanding Addiction

By Elizabeth Connell Henderson
Series: Understanding Health and Sickness Series

Paperback : 9781578062409, 209 pages, January 2001

A concise overview of this complex affliction for all those affected by addiction— addicts, family members, and even employers


At least one of every four people in America has had some experience with addiction--either personally or through a family member. Addiction and its consequences cost billions of dollars each year in direct medical costs, lost productivity, accidents, crime, and corruption. Yet as a disease, addiction is still largely misunderstood.

Starting with the question "what is addiction?" Elizabeth Connell Henderson takes the reader through the many facets of this disorder. She examines the effects of addictive substances on the brain and reviews each of the major classes of substances. In the development of addiction, she looks at the genetic, social, and psychological factors.

Henderson shows the effects of addiction on the family and guides the reader on a journey through the course of the illness and the process of recovery. Additional chapters deal with the problems associated with dual diagnosis--when addiction is accompanied by other psychiatric illnesses. Also chapters cover behavioral addictions such as compulsive overeating, pathological gambling, and sexual addiction.

Covered are: Who becomes addicted and why? What are the properties of the major addictive drugs? What is the course of addiction? How does addiction affect the family? What constitutes recovery? What are the current trends in research? What organizations are available for help and how are they contacted?

For the addict in recovery and for the family of the afflicted, Understanding Addiction provides crucial information to demystify this disease and provide clear guidance toward recovery. For human resource workers, attorneys, social workers, nurses, corrections officers, school counselors, and teachers, the book provides a framework of practical information for aiding individual sufferers and coping with their unique struggles.


"Clinical psychiatrist Henderson, a specialist on addiction, writes clearly and informatively on how addictions develop, how the addicted brain works, and what the different effects of the major addictive drugs are, and on genetic, psychological, and behavioral factors involved in addiction. Her experience is that most drugs are “gateways”: start with one—marijuana, for example—and you very likely will go on to another. Marijuana is not harmless, she says, but is a serious drug that has no medical use that can't be matched by other treatments. About alcohol, Henderson says that, although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, psychiatry's bible, doesn't see alcoholism as a disease, it is in fact a “brain disorder” to which the will strongly contributes, for the “I-can-quit-anytime” response is mere denial. Henderson also explores addicts' problems with recovery, having more than one psychological disorder, and relapses."

- William Beatty, Booklist