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Bruce Alexander’s Globalization of Addiction Website

Global society is drowning in addiction to drug use and a thousand other habits. This is because people around the world, rich and poor alike, are being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times. This kind of global society subjects people to unrelenting pressures towards individualism and competition, dislocating them from social life.

People adapt to this dislocation by concocting the best substitutes that they can for a sustaining social, cultural and spiritual wholeness, and addiction provides this substitute for more and more of us.

History shows that addiction can be rare in a society for many centuries, but can become nearly universal when circumstances change – for example, when a cohesive tribal culture is crushed or an advanced civilisation collapses. Of course, this historical perspective does not deny that differences in vulnerability are built into each individual’s genes, individual experience, and personal character, but it removes individual differences from the foreground of attention, because societal determinants are so much more powerful. Addiction is much more a social problem than an individual disorder.

This site is about the relationship between addiction on the one hand, and global economic and political realities on the other. Documents, videos, audio recordings, and links may be submitted by anyone using the “contact” feature, and will be added to the site if they are relevant and carefully edited. This site was initially based on the work of Bruce K. Alexander, Ph.D., who is the site administrator.


“I do not easily give superlatives in my praise of books but this one is truly exceptional … I think that the study could prove of momentous importance in how we view the world in the 21st century. If only its message were to be taken to heart, we could spare an immense amount of human suffering. Professor Alexander delivers a convincing case that we are manufacturing addiction by the process of economic globalization and the social dislocation that inevitably goes with it.”
— Frederick M. Toates, Professor of Biological Psychology, Open University.

“Dear Mr Alexander,
I am presently reading your book titled Globalization of Addiction: A study in poverty of the spirit. As a person who was addicted to opiates for over 25 years (now over a decade without a physical dependence on opiates) I really felt your book provided an insight into addiction that I have never before seen in addiction literature (and I am in my fourth year of studying psychology, so have read a book or two on the subject). My interest on inequality and the distress that modern market societies produce was first aroused by the Spirit level book Why equality is better for everyone by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
But it was only really after reading your book that my own experiences made sense. As an addict I was a continually preocupied with my self. This has continued even with the absence of drugs. Although I remain abstinent through personal choice i find myself just as much an addict as when I was physically addicted to heroin. I still have the same gnawing emptyness inside and a terrible desire for recognition and protaganism. This I do keep at bay using a spiritualy based 12 step program of which I am the typical grateful recovering addict as my present life cannot be compared to my former life. But I certainly do not feel cured and have never liked the desease model (please don’t tell my fellow 12 stepers ha ha) I always felt my addiction was adaptive and very much the way a obsessive compulsive person will wash their hands to cope with stress, I used heroin. Adaptive and functional…
I, of course like any self respecting addict seek fame, fortune and recognition in the addiction field and am continually disapointed that my word is not taken as gospel 🙂 I have the pleasure of knowing several former physically dependent addicts who have left their physical addiction behind but have launched themselves into an equaly addictive behaviour in their new field Journalism or IT computers.
Anyway I’m going to leave it here, as you can see it is a subject that I find pasionate and could keep writing for hours in my obsessive addicted way.”
thank you so much, chris neill

“Professor Alexander’s work addresses important local and global issues, and gives another perspective on addiction. The intense disapproval it has generated should make thinking people want to take a look at just what he’s saying that could be perceived as so dangerous.”
— Chair, Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy Committee

Book Review by Teodora Groshkova
Bruce Alexander is best known for the ‘Park Rat’ experiments he conducted in the 1970s, in which drug consumption increased dramatically when laboratory animals were dislocated from their natural group. The present book sets out to draw out the implications of Alexander’s research for our understanding of addiction. Generally, the book challenges the construction of addiction as an individual, progressive, relapsing disease caused by drug use that can only be addressed by professional treatment. While this conventional perspective on addiction serves as a useful doctrine in some therapeutic situations, Alexander believes it is too focused on the individual—and is thus failing to cope with the rising flood of mass addiction that is enveloping the modern world. Read more…

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