Pierre Lembeye

We Are All Dependent Publication date : June 1, 2001

Some people are workaholics; others are addicted to passion and sex; others to words and writing. Although work, passion and writing are not as dangerous as heroin abuse, they too can lead to dependence, and their lack can even bring on withdrawal symptoms. These “addictions” can be as powerful as those produced by Subutex or Methadone, while the feeling they give users of “coming out of themselves” is similar to the state produced by cocaine or amphetamines.
Pierre Lembeye, a doctor, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, shows how all forms of addiction — whether chemically induced or not — are based on the same deep need: the need to surpass and get out of ourselves. The ideal of addiction-free autonomy, upheld by western societies and reflected in the way they deal with illegal substances, shows basic ignorance of human nature. Western societies have constructed a modern myth describing a fictional state that doesn’t correspond to any human reality. We are all, practically by nature, “addicted” to something.
The failure of psychoanalysis in relation with narcotics abuse is enlightening. The desire to free patients of their neuroses and to treat them only through the talking cure has prevented psychoanalysis from understanding that addiction is primary and fundamental: whatever one does, one cannot be freed of addiction. All that can be envisaged is to “replace” a chemical addiction with a less toxic and more creative one, while bearing in mind that the process may be long and not necessarily accessible to everyone.

Pierre Lembeye is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at the Hôpital Européen, in Paris. He has worked for more than twenty years on the phenomenon of dependence, and particularly as it applies to drug addiction. He belongs to MLC, an organisation whose members include the lawyers Francis Caballero and Thierry Lévy.