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Out of mind

Mick, John and Leonard are all chronic alcoholics. Are they just "addictive personalities," or can they make up their own minds?

To what extent do we control our own behaviour? The question of free will is, on a psychiatric ward, a brute, practical problem. Treatment is determined by the extent to which patients are unable to master their own minds. The dilemma is most pronounced when the damage is self-inflicted. Take the alcoholics. Are they the agents or the victims of the habit that destroys them?

The young psychiatrist finds himself baffled by the drunks who wind up on the ward. His views on the nature of addiction—whether it is a biological predisposition or an acquired problem—are unresolved, and he tends…

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