What actually is addiction?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on March 6th, 2008 - Last updated: March 19th, 2024
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.


Further Reading

Dear Stanton:

I am a forty-four year old part-time student at a local University in Indiana and a full time minister in a local church. I have been working toward a degree in Behavioral Sciences with a concentration in Sociology. One of your books was required reading for the course this past semester.

In your book “The Meaning of Addiction,” you discussed in chapter three the theories of addiction. Reference was made to “genetic theories,” as well as “exposure theories” concerning biological and conditioning models. In your book “Love and Addiction,” the beginning of chapter three makes the statement, “With our new model of addiction in mind…” I am not sure that I fully comprehend how to construct a workable model of addiction.

My question is this; “What would be Stanton Peele’s Model of Addiction? Would this model be useable with all addictions?”

I have enjoyed reading your work and now that I have found your website, I plan to be a frequent visitor. I thank you sir for your time and hope that you can enlighten me more on this subject.

Again, thank you.

Dan Silvers

Dear Dan:

People can become addicted to any intense involvement. Something is an addiction when it increasingly circumscribes people’s lives and when, as a result, it detracts from these lives. An addiction is a relationship people have. This relationship is not caused by the relationship — a tautology created when people say people are genetically bound to be addicted. An addiction requires an understanding of the whole context of people’s lives (e.g., how much pain and discomfort they feel in their other dealings with the world) and of what they get from the addiction — it does something for them that they find essential. These essential benefits generally involve predictable feelings (like control and a sense of self-worth) which they derive from the addiction, even though these feelings are illusory and the addiction actually undercuts genuine feelings of control and self-worth in their lives. Some of the places you can read about what addictions are at my web site include “A general theory of addiction” from Love and Addiction, the Introduction to this site, and my article, “Redefining addiction II: The meaning of addiction in our lives,” Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, 11, 289-297, which I have not yet put up.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *