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To conclude the topic of addiction, the “Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow” team asked psychologist Inna Panchkovskaya to write reviews of books that will help to understand, and maybe even overcome, this pernicious problem.

Inna Panchkovskaya, psychologist

Addiction (or use disorder) is an extremely complex disorder. On the one hand, it is a disorder that causes a large number of physiological and psychological effects that are not very pleasant: be it anxiety, social isolation, loss of control over consumption or a sense of global loss of control over life.  On the other hand, addiction is only the tip of the iceberg, hiding underneath the many troubles that accompany our existence.

If this material has caught your interest, then I venture to guess that you are not unfamiliar with addiction. And, perhaps, you are seeking solutions for yourself or someone close to you.

I am a psychologist who knows the problem from the inside out. In this article, I present a review of books on chemical dependency that address this issue from various perspectives. Each of these books offers a unique understanding of addiction, its causes and consequences, as well as paths to recovery and cure. I hope this review will help better understand this complex problem and may even serve as a source of inspiration for those dealing with substance use disorder in their own lives or in the lives of their loved ones.

Gabor Maté “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Close Encounters with Addiction”

Gabor Maté “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Close Encounters with Addiction”

This book is invaluable for those who have encountered addiction in its various forms – whether it be addiction to psychoactive substances, addiction to relationships, or even compulsive scrolling through social media feeds. It helps understand the roots of such behaviour and offers solutions.

Gabor Maté is a Canadian psychotherapist who has devoted his career to working with addiction issues. In his book, he shares years of experience working with people addicted to psychoactive substances. The author immerses the reader in the inner world of his patients, revealing the intricacies and complexities of this condition.

Through real patient stories, Gabor Maté reveals the nature of addiction, focusing on the mechanisms of its formation and its impact on individuals. He also emphasises the role of factors influencing the development of addiction, such as childhood, stress, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The entire book is filled with references to contemporary scientific research, revealing the neurobiological processes underlying this phenomenon.

Dr. Maté generously shares his ideas on organising treatment and support for those seeking to overcome addiction. Although the book is addressed to professionals, it is written in simple and understandable language, making it accessible to a wide range of readers. I recommend this book to anyone who has encountered addiction in their own experience or in the experience of their loved ones. And, just as importantly, the author expresses his thoughts with respect for those struggling with this disease.

Carl Erik Fisher “The Urge. Our history of addiction”

Carl Erik Fisher “The Urge. Our history of addiction”

This book is dedicated to two stories – the history of addiction, treatment, and recovery from ancient times to the present day. The second story is the story of the experience of a doctor and a patient overcoming addiction.

Carl Erik Fisher is a psychiatrist-narcologist and a former patient of a psychiatric clinic who personally faced the problem of addiction. It often happens that a specialist’s own ailment fuels professional interest in studying the problem.

Having gone through his own long journey and difficult treatment in public healthcare institutions, Dr. Fisher decided to specialise in addiction treatment. To gain a deeper understanding of the problem and explore all possible therapies, he engaged in a multifaceted study of addiction, immersing himself in history, bioethics, philosophy, sociology, and religion.

Fisher talks about stigma and promotes the idea of compassion for those facing addiction. He is ethical in his statements – in the book, it feels like personality matters more than his illness. I often miss such an attitude in books by Russian-speaking authors exploring and describing addictive behaviour.

The book is intended for a wide range of readers and includes notes and references to research for professionals.

Vasiliy Shurov “Over the Abyss, Don’t Neigh”

Vasiliy Shurov “Over the Abyss, Don’t Neigh”

I admit that at first glance, many things in this book confused me. For example, the praising inscription on the cover claiming that the author is a regular participant of a Russian television show on a state channel “Let Them Talk”. However, I decided to give this book a chance, and for good reason.

This book helps find answers to the following questions: What is addiction? What factors influence the formation of dependencies? How to recognise addictive behaviour? What to do if you encounter addiction? How to help a loved one, and what to do if you are in codependent relationships with an addict?

Vasiliy Shurov is a Russian narcologist, so the context and statistics described in the book will be understandable to Russian-speaking readers.

The chapters of the book are dedicated to various forms of addiction, describing their specifics, and using accessible examples.

The book is written in a very simple language, while neurobiological processes related to the development and course of dependencies are described correctly and accessible. The book is suitable for anyone interested in the problem of addiction and seeking ways to help themselves or their loved ones.

But! Until the end of the book, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the author uses stigmatising terms in the text. For example, words like “drug addict” and “alcoholic” grate on my ears and eyes. The modern approach suggests abandoning the identification of a person with their illness (person-first language). However, many Russian-speaking authors are guilty of this. If we put this aside, I consider the content of the book worthy of attention.

Maria Karekla, Megan M. Kelly “Cravings and Addictions”

Maria Karekla, Megan M. Kelly “Cravings and Addictions”

This book will be useful for those who have encountered various forms of addictive behaviour. It focuses on studying the concept of “cravings” – a key factor sustaining any addiction.

The authors of the book are clinical psychologists specialising in addiction work. In the book, you will find an explanation of the mechanism of addiction from the perspective of neurobiology and scientifically based methods of overcoming addictive behaviours.

In each chapter, the authors present specific steps and exercises aimed at controlling and reducing cravings. These practical exercises are based on the principles of acceptance and responsibility therapy. For better understanding, the authors use examples from their experience and practice.

The chapters in the book are interconnected, but they can be read independently of each other depending on interests and needs. This provides the reader with flexibility in adapting recommendations to their own situation.

The book is written in simple language and is not overloaded with complex terminology, making it accessible to a wide audience, including those without specialised knowledge of addictions.

You should not expect instant change after reading it. This book rather serves as a guide for those who are already ready to take concrete steps. However, with persistence and action, it will provide you with the opportunity: to recognise signals that contribute to addictive behaviour; learn to redirect attention and energy to more productive activities until the craving weakens.

Valentina Moskalenko. “Addiction: A Family Disease”

Valentina Moskalenko. “Addiction: A Family Disease”

The book explores the topic of addiction and codependency in the spirit of a family systemic approach. The author sheds light not only on the problem of addiction but also on its connection with family relationships.

The book highlights the functioning of addiction and co-dependency within family relationships, focusing on the mutual influence of all family members and their ability to form co-dependent bonds. The dependency of one member affects all others. While other family members may involuntarily support their loved one’s dependency.

The author thoroughly explores the psychological aspects of addiction and its influence on the individual, as well as the various manifestations of codependency, which can often be complex and destructive.

Dr. Moskalenko calls for changes that should affect not only those living with addiction but also their loved ones. She emphasises the need to realise that changes are necessary for both the codependent and that the goal is not to “fix” the addict but for the codependents to also undergo changes. The book is filled with examples and real stories that vividly illustrate various aspects of this problem.

Readers will find in-depth analyses of their own family relationships, as well as reflections on the impact of one generation’s wounds and problems on the next.

The final chapters of the book are aimed at professionals and psychotherapists, providing a programme for working with co-dependents. Nevertheless, everyone will find here many valuable tips and practical recommendations.

The article was created within the framework of the scholarship program of the Free Belarus Center.