"On Addiction" 

by Claudio Rosso


The Cocaine Papers
Civilizations and its Discontents 


Freud's ideas on Pain
Cancellation of Pain
The Pharmakon
Administration of Enjoyment






  Drug addiction is an old phenomenon. The use of toxic substances has been present in every society throughout our history. However, in the last few years it has become a form of social epidemic and a global problem. Different substances have become real “products” which generate a multimillion commerce.

The consequences of drug use (and abuse) have become a field of study. This phenomenon has been studied from different angles
Science (medicine, neurobiology) has put effort into the investigation of the biological conditions which may be responsible for the compulsive behaviour in the use of different drugs. Classifications have been made regarding the toxicity and degree of physical dependence each substance can create. There are investigations which focus on the relationship between drug abuse and underlying genetic factors. (1)
From a social point of view, there have been studies which focus on the environmental factors that might predispose to the use of certain substances: e.g. social background, cultural factors, etc.
The issue of drug abuse also has a very important place in the legal discourse. Drugs belonging to the same classification in terms of their composition or effects might be considered in a very distinctive way should their use be considered illegal in a particular society.

It is clear that there is a multiplicity of discourses dealing with the issue from different points of view. Therefore, it is necessary to redefine our field and deconstruct certain categories in order to arrive at our object of study, a psychoanalytic object of study in the field of addiction and to analyse the positions which present toxicomania as a specific pathology, structure or clinical entity.
These basic elements will provide the framework to attempt an explanation of the phenomenon. Therefore the thesis will be organized in two ways. On the one hand I shall try to outline the characteristics of this phenomenon in psychoanalytic terms paying special attention separately to what belongs to our field from what doesn’t fall under psychoanalytic relevance. On the other I will revise psychoanalytic theorisations on the subject in order to attempt to explain the mechanisms involved in toxicomania.
In the first section "The Category of Addiction” I will present a classical definition of addiction from the medical discourse in order to compare it with a psychoanalytical approach. This will help me to outline the conception of addiction presented in this thesis.
Chapter 2 will be dedicated to review Freud's ideas on addiction. From his early works to “Civilization and its Discontents” (1930). Freud's ideas are extremely important in order to understand the category of the object-drug as well as the process of subjective structuration. In this section I will also introduce Lacan's concept of "jouissance", an invaluable tool to understand the mechanisms involved in toxicomania.
In the next chapter “Intoxication and toxicomania" I will analyse how different authors define toxicomania (or drug abuse) in contraposition to a casual episode of intoxication using drugs. This will help us demarcate my field of investigation.
I will then examine Freud's concept of "Actual Neuroses" (Chapter 4). This concept has been taken up in some contemporary theorisations. I will critically analyse some of these approaches.
Next (Chapter 5) I will present what different authors think of the causes of addiction starting with Freud's ideas on pain. My purpose here is to examine the hypotheses which consider toxicomania as a way of self medication to treat a form of structural pain.
“Toxicomania and the clinical structures” (Chapter 6) will be dedicated to consider the relationship of the matter with the classical nosographic division on clinical structures in psychoanalysis. I will then review Lacan’s references to addiction (chapter 7), this will ultimately allow me to reach my own conclusions in the last chapter as to the phenomenon of toxicomania.
Psychoanalysis can provide the tools to understand this complex phenomenon:

“Only psychoanalysis has been able to bring about the synthesis of the four great models of dynamic psychiatry that are necessary for the rational apprehension of madness and psychical illness. What it did was to borrow psychiatry’s nosographic model, psychotherapy’s model of physical treatment, philosophy, theory of the subject and anthropology conception of culture based on the idea of universality of the human race respectful differences.” (Roudhinesco, 2001)

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