Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

With His New Book “The Urge”, Dr. Carl Erik Fisher Explores Addiction Through History, Approaches to Treatment, and His Own Life  

It’s no small project to write a history of addiction. When the author grounds such a history in personal experience, the challenge becomes even greater. Psychiatrist and substance use specialist Carl Erik Fisher has done both in his ambitious new book.

As long as people throughout history have had problems with substance use or other addictive behaviors,” says Carl Erik Fisher, “there’s been this thread of pessimism, fatalism, the notion that people are broken, the notion that they can’t do any differently. And that’s such a powerful negative stereotype to resist. It’s so important to recognize the possibility for change.” 

These insights and many others arise in Fisher’s absorbing interview with Allies’ own Dominique Simon-Levine, Laurie MacDougall, and Kayla Solomon. You can hear their whole conversation in our just-released Coming Up for Air Podcast

The interview coincides with the release of Fisher’s long, scholarly and entirely readable new book, The Urge: Our History of Addiction. In it, Fisher traces the idea of addiction back to the earliest accounts of the phenomenon, and tackles the thorniest of questions about its nature: to what degree is it a product of biology? To what degree of lived experience? How do we untangle the stubborn knot these two factors tend to form in each individual who suffers from addiction? 

The book also contains a frank account of Fisher’s own struggles with substance use. And so much more: the front-page New York Times review offers a fine survey of the range and subtlety of the ideas he explores. 

One part of the history he tells is the history of approaches to treating (and not treating) addiction. The birth, growth, and evolution of Alcoholics Anonymous is a prominent example. In a delightful editorial in The Washington Post, he zooms in on the singular figure of Marty Mann, a well-to-do socialite who turned her own crushing struggle with alcoholism into an unstoppable drive to advance AA—and to transform how America understood the disease. 

Allies in Recovery salutes Dr. Fisher for his many accomplishments in the study and treatment of addiction. We’re tremendously lucky to have him as a colleague! 


Related Posts from "Resource Supplement"

Eating Disorders: Myths, Realities, and Recovery Paths Explained

Finding a health professional who truly understands eating disorders is no easy task. And for those who suffer from them, it can be just as hard to avoid the judgments and unhelpful comments of friends, family, or coworkers. This interview with one of the world’s leading experts on eating disorders takes a broom to those old and stigmatizing ideas. It also offers pointers for standing by a Loved One suffering from an eating disorder.

Fifteen Rounds of Rehab: Why Matthew Perry, Like Countless Others, Struggled for Decades Before He Got Clean

We don’t know just how the star of “Friends” died, but we do know—because he was so remarkably open about it—that he struggled with substance use disorder for most of his life. We also know that in his last years, he had succeeded in quitting both alcohol and opioids. It can happen, but why is it so hard? This article reviews the deeply intertwined biological and social realities of addiction.

Needles In The Ear Can Help With Addiction? You Heard That Right

You’d be forgiven if ear acupuncture isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when talk turns to substance use disorder. Numerous studies, however, are documenting the efficacy of a specific procedure (the NADA protocol) for help with craving, withdrawal, and other aspects of addiction. As this article points out, however, the key to success with NADA lies in the details.

Naming and Understanding the Symptoms of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma of any kind leaves its mark. Severe or sustained trauma generates certain telltale symptoms in survivors. Licensed therapist and life coach Patrick Teahan, himself a survivor of childhood trauma, breaks down three of the most prominent symptoms. By reaching a deeper understanding of what’s occurring inside us, he argues, we’re in a far better position to overcome the challenges that result.

Substance Use Disorder: A Guide For the Family

The Recovery Research Institute, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, is dedicated to advancing the understanding and treatment of addiction. This page on substance use and the family is an extremely well-designed information hub. It’s a great place to start your journey to deeper understanding—or to remind yourself of the basics.

“We Were So Blind” : Dr Bessel van der Kolk on Healing Trauma, Part II

In this second part of his discussion on healing trauma—which is perfectly understandable on its own—celebrated psychologist and author Bessel van der Kolk will leave you feeling both hopeful and humbled. Whether it’s professional-administered psychedelics, EMDR, or yoga, he sees a world of promise for trauma sufferers. But he also stresses that these treatments, like trauma itself, are something we’re just beginning to understand.


In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)