The Driving Force Behind Addictive Behaviors

Posted on August 20, 2013

The Heart Of Addiction
~Lance M. Dodes, M.D.
Reviewed by “Deltafox”, SMART Recovery ® Online Participant


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Dodes’ book, The Heart of Addiction, is very compatible with the SMART program and the psychological writings of Dr. Ellis and REBT. Dodes emphasizes the role our beliefs play in addictions. His emphasis is on discovering the driving force behind addictive behaviors. Other treatment modalities deal with the addictive power of the substance or behavior itself, i.e., how the drug or behavior effects an individual and why this occurs in physical terms or how the brain responds. Dodes, like SMART, says that in most cases, this is putting the cart before the horse.

While it may be interesting to see how certain parts of the brain respond to a substance or behavior, it is a mistake to ascribe those reactions as somehow the cause of the behavior. The activating cause or event is not nearly as important as the beliefs associated with that event. The problem is discovering what those beliefs are and learning how to manage the feelings of helplessness that are the real culprits behind real addictive behaviors, whether they involve a substance or not.

The SMART ABC(DE) tool is a perfect example of what both Dodes and Ellis might agree is a way to deal with addictive urges. The difference between SMART and Dodes might be in the latter’s emphasis on the need for an outside agency or person to discover and deal effectively with the penultimate cause(s) of an individual’s problems. Dodes seems to think that since the individual is not aware of these real causes, since they oft times operate at an unconscious level, that therapy is necessary for the individual to discover them and find other, better, ways to address the feelings involved. Dodes, to be fair, does in one of the later chapters of the book, say that it is quite possible that just learning how this process works by reading his book might be enough to get an individual headed towards his or her own solutions for successful addiction recovery.

I agree with the author and think the book is well worth reading, if for no other reason that it gives a large number of real life case examples of how this works with various forms of both substance and behavioral addictions. I would give it a 4-Star rating rather than a 5-Star only because the author’s style and presentation is somewhat disjointed. Of course, human psychology and life is a pretty disjointed business too.


SMART Recovery is a non-profit, volunteer, mutual self-help peer support group. It is a program based on REBT/cognitive therapy methods that provides a “toolbox” designed to allow you to take back control of your life. We provide a supportive network, while YOU develop the skills for lasting change. Visit SMART Recovery to learn more.

One thought on “The Driving Force Behind Addictive Behaviors

  1. Zac Talbott, Director | NAMA Recovery TN

    This is a blog entry that all involved in the treatment and recovery communities should read. Specifically working with patients in medication assisted treatments for opioid dependence, I often deal with the biological and physiological details of opioid addiction & the changes that occur in the brain’s endogenous opioid receptor system. And while opioid dependence is clearly a metabolic disorder in people with deranged opiate-ligand receptor systems I think that we need to remember to emphasize the root *cause* of why substance use behavior began in the first place. This is very important in my work because the medication part of medication assisted treatment can do amazing work in terms of the corrective properties in the brain… but without the necessary psychosocial support to deal with the root causes of the addictive behavior in the first place all else is in vain. Thank you for this much-needed read!

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