What can psychoanalysis contribute to an understanding of the etiology, treatment, and prevention of substance abuse? Here, Louis Berger contests both the orthodox view of substance abuse as a disease explicable within the medical model, and the fashionable dissenting view that substance abuse is a habit controllable through the willpower fostered by superficial treatment approaches. According to Berger, substance abuse is first and foremost a symptom. He argues that it is only by grasping this fact that we can understand why standard approaches to treatment and prevention have failed. Berger invokes a wide spectrum of recent analytic insights about infant and child development, the psychology of narcissism, and primitive character disorders in making the case that substance abuse masks serious preoedipal (or midrange ) psychopathology. Such psychopathology, operating at both cultural and person levels, explains why certain individuals become dependent on illicit drugs; it is equally revelatory of why the substance abuse establishment -- and society at large -- continues to misconstrue the nature of the problem and to proffer ill-conceived and ineffective remedies. After thoroughly examining the motives, conscious and unconscious, that maintain mainstream myths about substance abuse, Berger points the way to alternative approaches to prevention and treatment.
Louis S. Berger's rich professional life spans the fields of electrical engineering (B.S.), physics (M.S.), music (M.M.), and clinical psychology (Ph.D.). Formerly on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Louisville School of Medicine, he is now Staff Psychologist at Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Berger is the author of Introductory Statistics: A New Approach for the Behavioral Sciences (1981) and Psychoanalytic Theory and Clinical Relevance: What Makes a Theory Consequential for Practice? (Analytic Press, 1985).