An Open Letter to Dr. Nora Volkow, National Institute on Drug Abuse Director

March 4, 2016

The following is an Email I sent to Nora Volkow on 2/9/16. To date, no response.


Subject: Addiction Is a Disease of Free Will
From:    <charles@dopamineproject.org>
Date:    Tue, Feb 09, 2016 10:11 am
To:    nvolkow@nida.nih.gov

Dr. Volkow,

I found your HuffPost article, Addiction Is a Disease of Free Will, extremely informative because it shines a spotlight on a problem I’d like to bring to your attention.

Take a good, hard, honest look and you’ll find the most common and destructive dopamine-induced addictions are to money, belief systems, and Maslow’s psychological deficiency needs (d-needs) for safety (power), acceptance (approval, attention), and esteem (status).

Ironically, you help explain why the above isn’t common knowledge. First, by sharing your brilliant insight about addiction being a disease of free will. Second, by demonstrating how power, attention, and status addicts invariably control the institutions that define addictions. And third, by confirming how a lack of free will ensures the power brokers, who actually believe they’re addiction experts, are the least likely to be interested in linking dopamine and addictions to power, attention, and status. After all, denying addictions, to themselves and others, is what addicts do.

Consider this an intervention. As you know, there’s no room for gentility when trying to convince an addict to work past the lack of free will facilitating the denial of addictions.

I wouldn’t be bothering you if you were just another addict. I’m writing because your unacknowledged addictions are the reason you’re in a position to make a difference. And because your lack of free will is keeping you from doing the job you worked so hard to get. A job that comes with serious responsibilities you are shirking.

If you had free will, you’d have already figured out addictions to drugs are only the tip of the tip of the iceberg and that everything you understand about drug addiction can be applied to your addictions to power, acceptance, attention, and status.

Your list of professional accomplishments includes: “Pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects of drugs and their addictive properties.”

There’s only one addiction and it’s to dopamine. You have access to the tools to prove it doesn’t matter if the dopamine is triggered by drugs, gambling, belief systems, power, approval, attention, status, or money.

Want to know why you haven’t? Same neurotransmitter, same symptoms, starting with the lack of free will that fosters self-deception, denial, an intransigent commitment (exacerbated by painful withdrawals) to continue indulging even the most irrational behaviors, plus the instinctive urge to dislike and dismiss any evidence that threatens to expose the addictions. For example, the information in this Email.

I could be wrong. It seems more than possible you’ve already figured most of this out. If anyone could, it should be you. I’m a layman who’s never taken a science course but still managed to connect the dots your peers continue to ignore.

Do you already understand how addictions to safety, power, acceptance, approval, attention, esteem, status, and money are all diseases of free will?

Given your family history, schooling, and training, did it occur to you to question personal obsessive behaviors? Are you mindful of the influences that predisposed you to your d-needs addictions?

Is it possible you inherited your addictive behaviors or did a mother’s shame burden you with the emotional issues driving you to strive, compete, and over achieve?

Most importantly, are you ready to start doing your job?

I just read that you were named one of Time Magazine’s “Top 100 People Who Shape our World” and Year 2000 “Innovator of the Year” by U.S. News & World Report.

If that’s true, here’s your chance to live up to the hype and be part of the solution by being an actual innovator who figures out how to find the will to use what you know about your emotional addictions to help countless millions admit to their emotional addictions.

You might not be ready to admit it, but your addictions put you in the perfect position to “shape  the world.” If you’re up to the challenge a good place to start is by encouraging and funding research into the links between dopamine and addictions to destructive behaviors currently considered normal, acceptable, and even enviable habits, customs, and traditions.

Scientists are cranking out two papers an hour about dopamine while conveniently ignoring the connections between the powerful neurotransmitter and the unacknowledged addictions they share with you. The dearth of research is both suspicious and inexplicable, until you factor in a widespread disease of free will plaguing your profession that makes it possible to overlook the obvious, deny the undeniable, and dismiss inconvenient truths.

As director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse how long is it going to take you to figure out the “drug” being abused is dopamine instead of missing the forest for the trees by limiting your attention to a small group of legal and illegal substances that happen to trigger the same powerful neurotransmitter triggered by deficiency needs?

How many of your studies involved using brain imaging to investigate the similarities between the dopamine triggered by drugs and the dopamine triggered by power, attention, status, and money?

I would challenge you to either do the job you’re being paid to do or resign but that seems pointless. Knowing what I know about the widespread dearth of free will, I’m convinced the addicts jockeying for your position are less inclined to make a difference than you. Harvard’s Howard Shaffer is a perfect example of an especially hopeless addict in high places getting high on power, attention, status, and possibly money. The man’s complete lack of free will has him so mired in deception he’s actually an addiction denier.

You’re too smart to not grasp all this so my question is…

…will your lack of free will continue to keep you from doing what needs to be done?

Or will your lack of free will help you trick yourself into dismissing what you just read as uncalled for and insulting drivel from a crank who doesn’t deserve a response from someone as important as Dr. Nora Volkow?

My initial intention was to post this as an open letter on DopamineProject.org but I decided to send it to you instead. If you disagree with any of the above I hope you’ll take the time to explain.

I am available to meet with you to discuss the above, privately or in a public debate.

Looking forward to your reply,

Charles Lyell

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