Erickson, Carlton K.

views updated

Erickson, Carlton K.


Education: Purdue University, Ph.D., 1965.


Office—College of Pharmacy, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, A1900, Austin, TX 78712-0120. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and educator. University of Kansas, Lawrence, teaching and research position; University of Texas, Austin, College of Pharmacy, Pfizer Centennial Professor of Pharmacology/Toxicology, director of the Addiction Science Research and Education Center, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. Betty Ford Center newsletter, science editor.


Research Society on Alcoholism, College on Problems of Drug Dependence, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.


Betty Ford Center Visionary Award, 2000; Pat Fields SECAD Award, 2003; Fred French Award for Educational Achievement, 2004; Nelson J. Bradley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2007.


(Editor, with Donald W. Goodwin) Alcoholism and Affective Disorders: Clinical, Genetic, and Biochemical Studies, SP Medical & Scientific Books (New York, NY), 1979.

(Editor, with others) Addiction Potential of Abused Drugs and Drug Classes, Haworth Press (New York, NY), 1990.

(With John Brick) Drugs, the Brain, and Behavior: The Pharmacology of Abuse and Dependence, Haworth Medical Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Comparative Pharmacological Profiles of Abused Drugs, Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Austin, TX), 1998.

The Science of Addiction: From Neurobiology to Treatment, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of scores of articles to scholarly journals and books. Coauthor of pamphlet Your Brain on Drugs, Hazelden, 1996. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, associate editor.


A research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, Carlton K. Erickson has studied the effects of alcohol on the brain since the 1970s. His research has led to the conclusion that alcoholism, as well as some other addictions, are the results of a neurochemical disorder. He is the author or editor of several books on the subject, including the 2007 title, The Science of Addiction: From Neurobiology to Treatment, "a very valuable resource to individuals with a drug dependence problem, their family members and friends, health educators and counselors, undergraduate and graduate lecturers, and students," according to Phi Kappa Phi Forum contributor Jean M. Bidlack.

In The Science of Addiction, Erickson concludes that, as Families, Systems & Health reviewer Anthony E. Brown noted, "chemical dependence is a chronic, relapsing medical brain disease and that those with this disease should have a variety of treatment options made available to them." Erickson uses a number of proofs and information to support this contention. He describes what changes occur in the brain as a person becomes addicted to a drug or to alcohol. As Bidlack explained, "All drugs and substances to which people can become addicted ‘hijack’ the brain's dopamine-reward pathway." Erickson presents case studies as well as neuroscientific research to support his findings, taking the reader through a primer on brain functioning as well as on the difference between drug addiction and drug dependency. He also examines the role genetics plays in addiction as well as therapies for treating addiction. For Bidlack, this was "an excellent book."

Similar praise came from other reviewers. Brown commented, "Erickson's thesis that drug and alcohol dependence is a medical brain disease is well presented and may help expand treatment options and empathy for those struggling with it." He further observed, "This book is an informative resource for both clinicians and investigators of chemical dependence and a welcome addition" to the literature. Writing on the Institute of Alcohol Studies Web site, Killian Welch, however, felt that Erickson relied too much solely on a disease model for addiction. Welch concluded: "It is important … that in the pursuit of a medical explanation for substance dependence, societal interventions known to have major benefits for the population as a whole are not sidelined." On the other hand, a reviewer for Internet Bookwatch wrote that "any collection strong in health science needs this."

Erickson told CA: "As a scientist, writing was always difficult because of the precision required to write scientific manuscripts. Because of the need to write well, I began teaching graduate students to write better and edit their own work. I continue to teach writing in a communication skills course every summer. My own writing grew from scientific papers to book chapters and reviews, then into coedited books, and finally resulted in my own sole-authored book. At every step I found it became easier and more exciting to write.

"I am most influenced by the thought that readers are thirsty for what I have to say (at least that's what I keep telling myself to stay motivated).

"I believe in not trying to be perfect with the first draft. I remember when I couldn't get the first sentence exactly right, and it drained my motivation. It is much better and more fun to write freely and then go back and correct the first draft. I love to edit; in fact, when I write an article with someone else, I usually ask them to write the first draft and then I come along and make it better! This is my strength.

"I am most surprised at how the final printed manuscript looks better than it did when it left my computer. It's like: ‘Did I write that?’ Seeing the finished product is a real thrill.

"I really like my book The Science of Addiction, which was the first book I wrote by myself. Not having a coauthor was a bit scary, but my editors were so good it made writing the several drafts very enjoyable and most rewarding.

"My books are written in ‘regular’ language about scientific research, so I hope that my audiences will learn something new about a topic that is rarely presented to treatment professionals and the public in language they can understand. Addiction is not an easy scientific area because there are so many nonscientific opinions about the topic. Getting scientific evidence to break through all the myths and folklore is not easy, but hopefully my books can help do that."



Choice, May, 1999, Tony A. Fletcher, review of Drugs, the Brain, and Behavior: The Pharmacology of Abuse and Dependence, p. 18.

Families, Systems & Health, September, 2007, Anthony E. Brown, review of The Science of Addiction: From Neurobiology to Treatment, p. 347.

Internet Bookwatch, June, 2007, review of The Science of Addiction.

Journal of the American Medical Association, August 15, 2007, Bernd Wollschlaeger, review of The Science of Addiction, p. 809.

New England Journal of Medicine, October 18, 2007, Patrick G. O'Connor, review of The Science of Addiction, p. 1671.

Phi Kappa Phi Forum, fall, 2007, Jean M. Bidlack, review of The Science of Addiction, p. 29.

SciTech Book News, May, 1991, review of Addiction Potential of Abused Drugs and Drug Classes, p. 27; June, 2007, review of The Science of Addiction.


Addiction Today, (January 2, 2008), Deirdre Boyd, review of The Science of Addiction.

Institute for Addiction and Criminal Justice Studies Web site, (February 23, 2008), "Carlton K. Erickson, Ph.D."

Institute of Alcohol Studies Web site, (February 23, 2008), Killian Welch, review of The Science of Addiction.

University of Texas at Austin, College of Pharmacy Web site, (February 23, 2008), "Carlton K. Erickson."