Condition in which jouissance is localised in and reduced to a particular object. It is more or less narcissistic, dependent upon subjective fantasy; at its extreme, it can almost be asocial. The ascension of addiction to a position of prime importance in the contemporary clinical world can be understood as correlative of the decline of the ego ideal (and paternal authority), and the rise of the superego (manifest in the imperative to enjoy). Addiction can be found across all clinical structures, but has some particular affinities with phobia, perversion and melancholia. The maintenance of an addiction constitutes the triumph of the drive over desire. Consequently, a subject can analyse his or her addiction without there being any guarantee of relinquishing it. (Whilst analysis is no guaranteed cure for addiction, nothing else is either. Medicalising the problem often results in failure. For example, obtaining Buprenorphine from one’s doctor is not at all likely to replicate the jouissance and phantasmatic configuration of ‘scoring’ heroin from one’s associates). It should be remembered that the aim of a drive is not its object, and in addiction, the former is often aligned with death.


‘…It has dawned on me that masturbation is the one major habit, the “primal addiction” and that it is only as a substitute and replacement for it that the other addictions – for alcohol, morphine, tobacco, etc – come into existence.’

Freud, Letter 79 to Fliess.


He swears every now and then to begin a better life.
But when night comes with its own counsel,
its own compromises and prospects—
when night comes with its own power
of a body that needs and demands,
he goes back, lost, to the same fatal pleasure.

Cavafy, ‘He swears’.

1 thought on “Addiction

  1. Charles Melman has an interesting paper on addiction in the form of alcoholism wherein he tentatively situates it within perversion; applying the Lacanian matheme of sexual identification, he places the male alcoholic on the feminine side. His analysis accords well with yours, e.g.,

    ‘…the theatricality, the modalities of the demand, and the orality of the drinker evoke more clearly *the hysterical structure*. One characteristic, however, distinguishes the drinker radically from the hysteric: the total absence of disgust. This affect is neither hidden from view nor sanctified; it is non-existent. Disgust does not function as a barrier; from vomit to excrement, from incest to perjury, from perverse manipulation to investigative sniffing, there is even an appetite for waste; and frank intimacy extends to the alcoholic’s spontaneous exhibition of himself as such an object.

    Here the alcoholic consummates his break with medical ethics. Medicine sees somatic degradation as a sign and as pathology, where the alcoholic lives it as visible. Medicine denounces intemperance as a moral fault (this well before out religions), and this denunciation comes to be a heroic gesture, the fulfillment of a duty. The object *a* whose quest motivates this dynamic does remain linked for a time to the physiology of the body and its ability to accustom itself. But the object is an ideal aspired to as a beyond: another effort, the “one more drink” that calls to the alcoholic.

    In fact, the particularity of the object *a* when it derives from the oral field makes for its being reached only in the transitory clouding of consciousness: the confusion or the sleep of the drunkenness is parallel to a phenomenon elsewhere pertinently called “little death.” It is not a matter of enjoying death, unless in the sense of taming it, even for a short period of time. Here we notice again how much death and its fear are absent from the perceptive field of the drinker.

    In any case, the clouding of consciousness makes for the fact that this object fades away at the very moment when it is reached or that it is reached only after a long time. The object’s defect prohibits it from being seized quickly or permanently and seems to place the object relation under the sign of complaint and dissatisfaction which leads to a fundamental and paranoiac demand for the end.

    The alcoholic wants the whole truth; he speaks frankly, without mincing his words, comes right to the point, and does not fail to ask for a willing reciprocity that will be betrayed by the underhanded style of the interlocutor. It is easy to show that if he does not tell the truth, even when he lies with the most natural good faith, he is aiming precisely at the truth. The reference to this truth is hardly sustained by his approximating [the act of] saying [something]. The problem is that in this approximation his goal of attaining the truth escapes him. Thus the family is for him his wife’s territory: everything signals her presence, which is dissimulated and refused only from him…. This is her treason and her crime; and he wants to wring her neck until she vomits, to bring forth what she conceals, to get her to spew out her guts…. No less remarkable is the value the drinker gives to the truth when he thinks he has it and exhibits it generously for everybody’s jouissance: he shows it as the cause of evil. In his thirst for truth, he can paradoxically not speak or swear; nothing can subsist, faced with this desire to gulp down the truth. He destroys it with the same movement that he uses to make it emerge, and thus the cycle of demand and appetite begins again.

    And if he “lies” sometimes in disavowing his ethylism, he does not do so because he has anything at all to dissimulate: launch an inquest and sniff about. But at the same time he must validate the excellence of the object that constitutes the good of the family and, in exhibiting the truth of its overripe face, he must annul it with the best faith.’ (Charles Melman, ‘Essay in Clinical Psychoanalysis: The Alcoholic, pp. 234–46 in *How Lacan’s Ideas are Used in Clinical Practice*, ed. & trans. Stuart Schneiderman [New Jersey & London: Jason Aronson, 1980], pp. 239–40.)


    ‘Let us pursue our questioning of this mode of *relation* to the phallus. This mode is distinguished first in that its *coming back* implies no limit, prohibition, or duty; on the contrary, its *going out* claims a generosity and an inexhaustible abundance that, joined to the liquid character and the absorption *per os* of the delivered product, evoke unfailingly, at the place designated, the presence of the breast. Thus for the drinker a contradiction is established such that a breast is made to respond “phallically.” Obviously it is impossible to resolve this contradiction.

    We understand the mode of anxiety proper to the drinker: since nothing in the structure can attest to the permanence of this breast, this latter becomes attached to its sign: the bottle, the bar, elevated here to the dignity of the fetish. […] [O]ral jouissance and its particular consequence, here drunkenness, become themselves the necessary guarantees, constantly to be furnished, of this permanence. Drinking becomes a duty as well as a homage, and we can understand that any prohibition is counternatural, or better, counterlogical. […] Alcohol provokes the fading of the subject.

    The exalted triumph of the drunken man is nothing but an evacuation of the subject in favour of a speech immediately become that of the Other.

    The fluent speech, the megalomania, the omnipotence and omniscience of this moment, the boundless generosity, as well as the violent response to any constraint, are notable as attributes of the Other: a time in brackets, where words and acts cannot create memories, since they are broken off from any history that could be assumed by a subject; this history comes back with a painful and gray awakening. […] [A] transferential relation cannot fail to revive the presence of an Other whose unfoundedness provokes anxiety and thus depersonalization. His silence will be registered as impotence (to flee) or provocation (to conquer), while his benevolent intervention will justify the alienation of the appeal for “one more.” The analyst will be captured in the alternation between a dual relationship pathetically invoked but justifying the constituting alienation and a properly analytic relation, generating pathogenetic anxiety: this he must play out, if he can.’ (Ibid, pp. 243–46)

    – Simon

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