The Urge: Our History of Addiction
- Glass, Guy
- Date of entry: May-02-2022
The Urge: Our History of Addiction, by Carl Erik Fisher, a psychiatrist, is really two books in one. It is a comprehensive history of addiction from ancient times to the present day. It is also a memoir of the author’s own struggle with addiction and an attempt “to understand how I went from being a newly minted physician in a psychiatry residency program…to a psychiatric patient” (p.ix).
Fisher has grown up with two alcoholic parents. Even as his mother’s drinking “suppresses her blood counts and causes her to miss the chemo sessions I have worked so hard to arrange” (p. 294), she does not stop. Fisher’s own first drink, in high school, is a revelation. He blows his interview for his first-choice college when he shows up late and hung over. His intelligence enables him to get by, but eventually the problem catches up with him as he begins to use Adderall and marijuana to counteract the effects of alcohol. After sleeping through and missing his residency orientation, he is under scrutiny. Finally, he has a drug-induced manic episode that results in his being tasered by the police, and he is forced into treatment.
In the historical sequences of the book, we discover that one of the oldest known examples of addiction is found as far back as the Rig Veda (1000 BC). From there we move through time, learning how Native American populations were devastated by alcohol, how Alcoholics Anonymous achieved prominence, and about the multiple challenges that persist to the present day.