The Heart of Addiction

How psychology drives addictive behavior.

The myth of impulsiveness in addiction

The often-stated notion that people with addictions are "impulsive" goes right along with the myth that addiction is pleasure-seeking or the result of some weakness of the mind. If you believed those myths then you would be willing to believe that addictive behavior is an unthinking, sudden act simply expressing an urge to instantly have what you want. Read More

This article makes a lot of

This article makes a lot of sense to me because my husband is very methodical and plans everything out to the last detail but still seems to me to be addicted to marijuana. He does plan days in advance how he will get more so that he never runs out. While I understand this is an illness that deserves compassion and understanding, I need to know how to convince him that his use is a problem that needs to be resolved. My husband left his full time job nearly 2 years ago and since then has spent most every day sitting at home smoking marijuana. He does not earn the money that he agreed upon and that we need to pay our bills. We are chronically late on most things, including rent, and are regularly in danger of being evicted. Despite these obvious problems he proceeds to spend money on marijuana and spend time he should be using to either find clients for his business or to look for another job to help support our household sitting at home and smoking. I don't know what to do about this because he does not think his marijuana use is a problem or a contributing factor to his lack of motivation (or lack of follow through). Sometimes he does get meetings with people through friends or family but in general he fails to deliver and in some instances we have had to refund deposits because of this - it has also damaged our relationship with certain family members and other friends/acquaintances. He is willing to spend our last dime to get marijuana, even if we are late on bills like rent and car payments, even if it means that we cannot buy groceries. I want to be there for my husband and I want him to be successful in his endeavors but this is reaching a critical point because I no longer can afford to pay the rent on our apartment. I also find myself feeling very frustrated, nearly unmanageably so because I am angry with him for leaving this burden on me for so long. Even when he was employed it was an issue because he spent about 65 percent of his net pay on drugs. At this point we have not had health insurance for nearly 2 years, obviously we cannot afford for him to go to counseling to deal with this. I understand that he is troubled and needs help, but we are going to be evicted if he cannot start earning money and stop spending all of his time stoned (not to mention spending money we don't have buying drugs). My husband does not consider himself to be addicted and does not think that marijuana is a drug to be concerned about because he feels it is beneficial medically and helps him regulate his moods. If there is any advice you could give, it would be greatly appreciated.


I believe you're right to imply that your husband needs treatment. Since private therapy isn't going to be possible at this point I'd suggest the two of you make an appointment together at a local mental health center to talk about the stress between you. That way, your husband doesn't have to start by acknowledging that there is something troubling him, and you each have a chance to explain your situation. If your husband doesn't feel cornered or ganged-up on, he may be willing to continue meeting by himself or as a couple.

Great Post

I really connected to this line:
Real impulsive behavior is immediate. It is simply stimulus-response, like a biological reflex: see it, do it.

Great post, as always. I'd love to hear what you think of some on our site, Thanks for sharing your expertise.

I appreciate the points made

I appreciate the points made in this article. However, my understanding of "addiction" is the behavior that ensues AFTER the addicted interacts with that to which he/she is addicted (ie., takes first sip of booze, snorts the first line, places the first bet, etc.). You know that saying "He can't drink just a couple" and the like. And THAT behavior of not planning when one is going to STOP their interacting with their "drug of choice" is what constitutes an "addiction."

Perhaps that doesn't conflict with anything this article says? Or I'm confused? (Which I WILL admit, I DO find the philosophy of addiction and its treatment EXTREMELY CONFUSING!)


Thanks for your post. One could call addictive behavior the "addiction," of course, but what is most important in understanding the nature of addiction isn't the behavior, but the psychology that leads to it. You might find it useful to see some earlier posts in this blog, especially "The Psychology of Addiction," or my website If you'd like more examples and a fuller discussion you could take a look at either of my books ("The Heart of Addiction" and "Breaking Addiction"). Hope this is helpful.

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Lance Dodes, M.D., is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.


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