291: Maia Szalavitz on Addiction - Re-Release


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Maia Szalavitz is an American reporter and author who has focused much of her work on the topic of addiction. She is the co-author of Born for Love and The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, both with Dr. Bruce D. Perry. Her latest book is Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

In this paradigm-shifting interview, Maia Szalavitz explains that addiction is a learning disorder, a developmental disorder, which is a different way of thinking of addiction than it being a disease or a moral failing.

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In This Interview, Maia Szalavitz and I Discuss…

  • Her book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction
  • That your brain becomes what it does – that the more you repeat an activity, the easier it becomes
  • How addiction is a developmental disorder and how learning is critical to addiction
  • The problems with discussion about addiction as a disease
  • Arguing that addiction is a disease and then treating it like a moral failing
  • Addiction resets your priorities and causes one to make different decisions
  • Addiction = compulsive behavior that continues despite negative consequences
  • How illogical it is then to try and address addiction by focusing on implementing additional negative consequences
  • The complexity of addiction, genes + culture + timing
  • The developmental history that gets you to addiction
  • How the drug isn’t the problem and our efforts to get rid of it isn’t a helpful solution
  • Addiction as a learning disorder that is characterized by a resistance to punishment
  • The problem with “rock bottom” is it’s not helpful scientifically, and it implies a moral component of having to reach a point of extreme degradation before you can stop.
  • What the motivation is that turns people to recovery
  • How addicts keep using because they can’t see how they can survive any other way
  • Recovery begins when you start to see that there are other options
  • People with addiction are living at a point of learned helplessness
  • The role of hope and other ways of managing their life
  • Addiction as a coping mechanism
  • The pleasures of the hunt vs the pleasures of the feast
  • Wanting vs Liking
  • Different motivational states
  • Addiction as escalating wanting
  • Stimulants and chasing that satisfaction
  • The effectiveness and usefulness of 12 Step Programs
  • The role of medicine in a developmental disorder
  • Looking at addicts as students who need to learn better coping skills rather than sinners who need to be forced to repent.

Maia Szalavitz Links:



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