Unbroken Brain


unbroken brain by maia szalavitz

I loved this book. Its main thesis is that addiction is a learning disorder falling on a spectrum, instead of a pathological disease, that many people can learn to evolve beyond, instead of struggling and managing for the rest of their lives. Though it mainly focuses on substance use and not alcohol, the author draws upon current research to show the social, psychological, biological, and cultural ways addiction is formed as a logical development in the brain, given the right circumstances. The brain is not broken and diseased, but rather attracted to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.

One of the only things I thought was not fully discussed in the analysis was environment. While the author shows that there are predispositions for people who get addicted that go beyond just trying a drug, I saw little on the influence of culture, peers, and assimilation. These may not have as strong of a pull in a more counterculture of illegal drugs, but even if you hardly care for alcohol the first few times you try it, in thirty years that could be a whole different story, due to the repetition of an ingrained behavior that comes with living in a dominant drinking culture.

The author includes research and evidence of ineffective policies and treatments that can focus on powerlessness, humility, moralism and character flaws. She argues that the learning disorder usually doesn’t occur from healthy self-esteem and sense of self and some programs that focus on character flaws and humility may further lower the already low sense of self-worth and esteem a person has, trapping them in a cycle of despair. Research shows that empowerment really is the most effective way of changing behavior, and challenging your automatic and self-limiting beliefs, also known as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Celebrate your neurodiversity with this 5-star read.