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Limentani, A. (1986). On the psychodynamics of drug dependence. Free Associations, 1(5):48-64.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(5):48-64

On the psychodynamics of drug dependence

A. Limentani

As the causes of drug dependence are multiform and exceedingly complex, I shall refer to them only briefly in this essay. Many readers, perhaps, have some idea as to what causes drug addiction, and concurrently will hold definite views on how to prevent or treat it.

It is hard to maintain an unbiased and balanced attitude to the problem, which inevitably attracts the attention of the press because of its tragic consequences. The ordinary person will rightly become emotional if he or she is at the receiving end of thefts perpetrated to obtain drugs. The euphoria resulting from drug-taking stimulates vandalism and attacks on persons, often causing understandable public outcry.

In general, the epidemic which has hit the world during this second half of the century has caused a great deal of thinking which has not yet come to fruition. In the past, it was generally accepted that the compulsion to take drugs was linked with psychopathic characteristics. Nowadays only the more severe cases are thought to have a pathological nucleus with a clearly defined mental disturbance. Even then we must distinguish them from those cases where there is physical or mental stress, and we shall often be confronted by a temporary disability. The anxious person will take any drug; the psychopath will turn to whatever drug accelerates the mental processes; whilst the persistent use of morphine is suggestive of a psychotic disturbance on a depressive background.

The greatest source of social anxiety, of course, is the realization that one in three schoolchildren will try some drug or other (Greaves, 1983).

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