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Saturday, 08 December 2012 08:16

The Globalization of Addiction

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In his third book, The Globalization of Addiction: a study in poverty of the spirit, Bruce Alexander proposes a radical rethink of addiction. Alexander’s book, released in Canada this September, is particularly relevant in today’s economically volatile climate.

The Simon Fraser University psychologist explains how hypercapitalism is generating a rising tide of addiction to many destructive habits, such as compulsive shopping, gambling, sexuality, and video gaming, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

“Drug and alcohol addictions account for only 20 percent of serious addiction problems,” notes Alexander.

Alexander argues that the primary cause of rising addiction is the loss of long standing cultural traditions and values. This in turn, he says, causes whole societies to lose their identity and suffer a psychosocial dislocation that makes people vulnerable to addiction.

Alexander, a professor emeritus and 2007 winner of the SFU Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in support of controversy, draws historical examples from diverse cultures in Canada, Europe, and China.

Alexander believes unregulated capitalism or hypercapitalism spurs the globalization of addiction in financially turbulent times. He says stressors, such as market crashes, unaffordable housing and unemployment, exacerbate the relentless competition and self-seeking that already stress people in less troubled times.

“We think of these as economic problems, and they are,” says Alexander, “but think of the psychological impact that economic volatility has on families, marriages, young people’s hopes for the future. This dislocating impact makes people who live in free-market societies even more vulnerable to addiction.”

In The Globalization of Addiction, Alexander criticizes electioneering politicians in Canada and the United States for promoting tougher drug laws and the abolition of safe needle injection sites. He maintains that such harsh measures never have, and never can, halt the globalization of addiction.

“Controlling addiction requires structural changes in society,” says Alexander. “There are many straightforward initiatives that can gradually bring addiction under control, as we get wiser about its causes.” A couple of examples of the initiatives that Alexander envisions:  Better regulation of the housing market and less emphasis on teaching children to be competitive and self-centered.  He notes there are hundreds more.

 

Last modified on Monday, 10 December 2012 06:57
Greg Wilson

Ask Gregory

A progressive advice column must deal with at least two areas of life. One is the interaction of relationships, the every day moving about of families and couples, individual growth and the struggles we all go through as we pass through time. The second area is how culture, laws, religion, and social constructs affect our daily living. For example, “How do I deal with my Christian fundamentalist brother?” or “How do I introduce my family to my partner of four years knowing they supported Amendment Two?” Some of the issues we deal with are unique and I hope in this column our community finds a place to deal with that uniqueness. There have been moments in my life where a word, a comment from some one at the right time made a difference in how I saw a situation and the decisions I made. The older I become the more I realize the wisdom in listening. Decisions that seem important, or seem unimportant, can influence years of a persons life.

Dr. Gregory Wilson’s D. Min. is in Pastoral Psychotherapy

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