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The Spike & the Moon: re-thinking addictions treatments

From the preface to The Spike & The Moon by Gary Winship

"Marcuse’s and Leary’s writings on drugs should be assigned their place as part of a generation of prophets seeking whimsical direction after the fall.  The idea that drugs would liberate society sounds now little more than a fanciful lyric.  Drugs and liberation folded back in on themselves, and after the flower there was no power, only collapse.  The ‘pill mentality’, as we saw it emerge since the 1950s became a chemical tsunami by the end of the millennium.  Can we envisage another vista, one where mass drug retreat is replaced by a new civil alertness.  We don’t have to subscribe to an age of parsimonious civil obedience and psychic sanitisation, rather a social order where agitation and conflict can rouse the passion of sober anarchy, that might project us towards a better society.  It may be the revolutionary potential of sobriety which transforms the status quo.  The numbing effects of mass drug use serve well to induce malaise, solidifying the stagnating forces of democracy.  The opium of the masses has become just that.  It is timely to re-appraise how we approach the problem of addiction.  This book marks out a new direction, not only in offering clinicians new theoretical frameworks for working with addicts, but also in transforming general attitudes to the way in which drugs are perceived in society today."

Brief Over the past twenty five years, harm minimisation, crime minimisation and health education have been the UK health policy backbones for tackling drug use.  Dose stabilisation and maintenance via prescribed drug substitution have been favoured over treatment promoting pathways to cessation and recovery.  However, the massive escalation of drug use in recent years suggests that our strategies for health education and harm minimisation have been ineffectual when it comes to prevention. More worryingly, even after over two decades of educating addicts about sharing needles. Research has highlighted that drug users are just as likely to share needles than ever.  When it comes to curbing the drug epidemic our liberal appraoches to pharmaceutical stabilisation through prescribing interventions might have even served to have exacerbated the problem. 

The Spike & the Moon moves beyond a health education model of intervention and considers the challenge of consciousness raising about why people use drugs.  In facing this challenge The Spike & the Moon returns to the building blocks of drugs in society by considering a range of classic mythologies, old and new, urban and folklore.  Claude Levi-Strauss said that trying to reading a myth was like reading sheet music for the untrained eye; at first there appears to be a whole range of peculiar signs dotted about all over the place that seem to have little order or connection, but after a while you begin to see there are patterns emerging as the same signs are repeated.  And so it is here with the various myths under analysis, beginning with Dionysus and Prometheus through to modern tales of obsession like Dracula, a new social ecology of the addicted mind is deciphered.

The scale of drug addiction is nothing short of a public health disaster and might be said to touch as many lives as the great Cholera epidemics.  Herbert Marcuse's notion of the new sensorium of drugs priming the awareness of the need for revolution; "the kernel of truth in the psychedelic search", now seems nothing short of a fanciful poetic.  Drugs and liberation have simply folded in on themselves.  We have no flower, no power, only collapse: the opiate of the masses has become just that.  Our liberal approaches to treatment have proved futile and addicts have been sold short because fewer and fewer people have taken the time to wonder why they take drugs in the first place. 

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Call For Papers: International Conference: The Subject of Addiction - Culture and Clinic.  The University of Nottingham, September 11-12 2014

The organizers will be pleased to receive any contributions addressing contemporary addiction, but proposals are particularly welcomed in the following broad areas:

 Consumerism and/as addiction

 Medical and Health Humanities approaches to addiction

 The Western/Non-Western cultural history of addiction

 The medicalization of non-substance addictions (e.g., gambling, sex, gaming)

 Drug use and counter-cultures/subcultures

 The geography and geopolitics of addiction and of the ‘War on Drugs’

 Drug classification and the new ‘legal highs’

 New technologies and mediated addiction

 Contemporary art and representations of addiction

 Addiction on screen and/or on stage

 Psychoanalysis and/of addiction

 Neuroscience and addiction

 User’s voices and agency

Proposals of no more than 500 words should be sent by 1st of December 2013 to