New Books Network

We are living in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and binge eating to pornography and opioid abuse. Today I talked with historian...

We are living in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and binge eating to pornography and opioid abuse. Today I talked with historian David Courtwright about the global nature of pleasure, vice, and capitalism. His new book is called The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business (Harvard University Press, 2019). During our discussion, Courtwright walks us through the emergence of the worldwide commodification of vice and shares his views on “limbic capitalism,” the network of competitive businesses targeting the brain pathways responsible for feeling, motivation, and long-term memory. The book is equally interesting and disturbing. And Courtwright offers timely recommendations about how we can understand and address the Age of Addiction. Coming from one of the world’s leading experts on the history of drugs and addiction, this important work raises stimulating and sobering questions about consumption and free will.

Courtwright is the author of Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Harvard University Press, 2001) as well as Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America (Harvard University Press, 1982).


Lucas Richert is an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He studies intoxicating substances and the pharmaceutical industry. He also examines the history of mental health.