Bias against simplicity


Dr Olivier Ameisen, 55, one of France’s top heart specialists, says he overcame his own addiction to alcohol by self-administering doses of a muscle-relaxant called baclofen.

He has now written a book about his experience – Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass) – in which he calls for clinical trials to test his theory that baclofen suppresses the craving for drink. […]

Further investigation uncovered research showing that the drug worked on rats to cut addiction to alcohol or cocaine

But, strangely, Dr Ameisen found that baclofen was unknown to specialists on dependence.

In March 2002 he began treating himself with daily doses of five milligrams.

“The first effects were a magical muscular relaxation and baby-like sleep,” he says. Almost immediately he also detected a lessening in his desire for drink.

Gradually, he increased the daily dosage to a maximum of 270mg, and found that he was “cured”. Today he continues to take 30 to 50mg a day.

“Mine is the first case in which a course of medicine has completely suppressed alcohol addiction,” he says.

“Now I can have a glass and it has no effect. Above all, I no longer have that irrepressible need to drink.” […]

However, many specialists fear that media excitement over Dr Ameisen’s theory is obscuring the complex nature of alcoholism.

“Encouraging people to think that there is a miracle molecule is to completely misunderstand the nature of alcoholism, and is extremely irresponsible, ” says Dr Michel Reynaud of Paul-Brousse hospital in Paris.

Source: BBC.

This story illustrates a bias against simplicity that sometimes occurs, in this case among academics and medical doctors.

All phenomena are of course infinitely complex. We can always explore it further within familiar frameworks, within new or different frameworks, and in terms of how they all may fit together in a larger and more comprehensive picture. And all of that is often quite helpful.

But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be simple solutions. Sometimes, there are simple solutions to complex problems.

In this case, there is a chance that they found a simple solution for alcoholism, at least in some cases. So when there is some receptivity there, we can investigate and see if, when and to what extent it works, and go from there. It may not take care of all of it for everyone, but even if it works for some, it is a great blessing.

And as always, it can be a supplement. Something that works along with other approaches – including helping people meet and come to terms with whatever they try to escape, and find what they seek in alcohol in other ways and areas of life.

This is also the case in psychology and spirituality. It can be of practical use to explore and be familiar with maps and tools. In the best case, they function as temporary pointers for us.

But sometimes, it is tempting to create an identity for ourselves that is based on an intricate knowledge of maps and theories. We use it to form in groups and out groups, and a sense of being right and on the right track. In short, we use it as a buffer against not really knowing.

And we overlook the simple tools. The ones that may not be very flashy, but still quite helpful.

Initial outline…

  • bias against simplicity
    • complex dynamics, yes (always the case)
    • but can be simple solutions
    • stay open either way, receptive, curious (not close off by beliefs)

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