“Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough” was written by Omar Manejwala, M.D., a friend of mine, a nationally renowned addiction psychiatrist, and an expert on compulsive behaviors of all kinds. This nonfiction book is, as the title suggests, all about the phenomenon of craving. It is published by Hazelden and will be released today. You can go to this link to buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1616492627/?tag=ommamd-20
Dr. Manejwala has been the medical director of Hazelden and other prestigious addiction treatment facilities, and has worked with all sorts of addicts including addicted healthcare professionals. He’s even appeared on television on show like 20/20.
This book is about more than just drug addiction; his information about craving pertains to any substance or activity. I love his definition of craving as a desire so strong that when unfulfilled “produces powerful physical and mental suffering.” (p2) His description of craving is eloquent and easily understood.
In this book Dr. Manejwala explains abstract ideas and concepts in plain language. I’ve heard him give lectures on addiction-related topics and I’ve always been impressed his skill of distilling the complicated into understandable bits. His writing also shows this gift. Though his book is easy to understand, it’s not dumbed down, as too many books on addition written for the public tend to be.
The first part of the book defines cravings and compares them to weaker wants and urges. He tells us why cravings matter: cravings lead all of us to indulge in behaviors that undermine success. In subsequent chapters, Dr Manejwala gives some simple information about brain anatomy and neurotransmitters, and shows how the brain’s structure and function affect our ability to make choices.
In a later chapter he shows how cravings can drive not only behavior, but also thought patterns, in some really interesting ways. When a person intends to act on a craving that is obviously destructive, all sorts of irrational and false beliefs can pop up, and seem to make perfect sense. These thought patterns keep the person stuck in destructive behaviors for long periods of time, leading to negative life consequences.
Another chapter shows how addictive behaviors tend to be related; that is, how a person with alcohol addiction is more likely to have or develop addictions to other drugs. That person is also more likely to develop a behavioral addiction like gambling, compulsive overeating, or compulsive shopping. This chapter explains why these behaviors can occur together.
My favorite chapter is about the brain’s plasticity. The term “plasticity,” when applied to the brain, means the brain is changeable. Our thoughts, actions, and experiences actually change the structure and functioning of the brain. This is important, because it means there are things we can do to change our cravings. Dr. Manejwala explains how thoughts, behavior, and even spirituality can free us from cravings. This fascinating chapter has some great references, too.
The next chapter tells more about how spirituality is important to recovery. The author explains why 12-step recovery and other spiritual approaches work to reduce cravings. He explains specifically how groups help reduce urges and improve behavior in ways that can’t be done by a lone individual.
Later chapters explain how insight into problem behavior is only a start in the direction of change, and how many people mistakenly think facts alone will reduce cravings. This chapter clarifies how apparently irrelevant decisions can actually be subconscious decisions to act on a craving. In this chapter, healthier substitute activities are suggested. The latter chapters have solid advice on where to go to find help with problem behaviors, and have specific tips to help with cravings for smoking, alcohol and other drugs, sugar, gambling, and internet addiction.
This gem of a book is relatively short, at 190 pages, and highly readable. I’m keeping it on my bookshelf for the references listed in the back.
This book will help addiction professionals be better able to explain cravings and addiction to patients. Anyone who has ever tried to squelch a craving – unsuccessfully – by willpower alone will be interested in this book.
Don’t miss this book if you’re interested in book about addiction and recovery.