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Stuart, C. (1996). Addiction from an Object Relations Perspective: A Review of Dancing among the Maenads: The Psychology of Compulsive Drug Use by Kevin Volkan. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1994. xxii + 167 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 32:486-488.

(1996). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 32:486-488

Addiction from an Object Relations Perspective: A Review of Dancing among the Maenads: The Psychology of Compulsive Drug Use by Kevin Volkan. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1994. xxii + 167 pp.

Review by:
Catherine Stuart, Ph.D.

Maenads are the mythical female worshippers of Dionysus. They live in a world that is “beautiful and ecstatic as well as degrading and brutal” (p. 85). While normally peaceful, when these women drink wine they become mad orgiastic cannibals. Volkan finds in the myth of the Maenads narcissistic wounds and grandiose defenses, vacillating calm and rage, splitting, idealizing, oral aggression, denial, and good and bad object representations. All of these typify the internal lives of drug abusers.

Kevin Volkan, Ed.D., Ph.D., is a psychologist at Agnews State Hospital and a teacher at John F. Kennedy University. He is well versed in the history of psychoanalysis. In this book he summarizes the major psychoanalytic theories about addiction. He concludes: (1) current psychoanalytic perspectives on the underlying causes of addiction focus on preœdipal problems, narcissistic disorders, problems with affect tolerance, or severe neurosis; (2) addictive disorders range from severe neurotic to borderline psychopathology; and (3) object relations theory best explains the etiology of the compulsive drug user.

Addicts and alcoholics, he maintains, have suffered early object loss and use drugs to alter internalized object representations. Drugs can be

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