Peter R. Martin: Historical Vocabulary of Addiction


Peter Martin’s reply to Louis C. Charland’s comments


        I thank Louis C. Charland for his thoughtful comments concerning my note on the history of the word “addiction” in the Historical Vocabulary of Addiction (HVA) (Martin 2016).

        Charland rightly identifies a meaning that was only just mentioned in my analysis of the term “addiction”, which pertains to “devotion” and he discusses how such can occur without neuropsychopharmacological agents and thus are sometimes called “passions.”  The discussion comes essentially from Charland’s excellent contribution on compromise of decision-making capacity in addiction (Charland 2020). 

        This is an important topic to which I have not yet attended in great detail, in part, because I do not possess Charland’s command of ethics and philosophy.  I do hope to address this topic in a subsequent entry in HVA, as this issue is really very important, particularly when one considers newer areas of research such as behavioral addictions, wherein no neuropsychopharmacological agent is involved, yet decision making can be profoundly compromised. 

        I refer the reader to another entry in HVA wherein I raise some of the issues Charland discusses in his comment.   In the analysis of the word “opium” (Martin 2019) there is some discussion of meanings of this word that go well beyond physiology and medicine.  These concepts of “opium” extend to historical, social and political philosophy, perhaps most notably expressed by Karl Marx (Marx and Stenning 1926): “Religion is the moan of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”  In this quotation, “passion” and “addiction” are utterly confounded linguistically within the understood meaning of the neuropsychopharmacological agent “opium,” perhaps the primal addictive substance used by Man.  Conceivably, such subtle distinctions might not be possible, as behavioral and neuropsychopharmacological effects in the brain are made of some of the same “stuff”?



Charland LC. A Puzzling Anomaly: Decision-Making Capacity and Research on Addiction. In: Iltis AS, MacKay D, editors. Oxf Handb Res Ethics. Oxford University Press; 2020.  

Martin PR. Addiction. Peter R. Martin: Historical Vocabulary of Addiction.  November 24, 2016.  

Martin PR. Opium. Peter R. Martin: Historical Vocabulary of Addiction. July 4, 2019.  

Marx K, Stenning HJ. Selected essays. New York: International Publishers; 1926.


June 24, 2021