In the past four decades, the discourse on addiction in the United States has dramatically changed. Most scholarly and popular accounts have depicted this change as an instance of “medicalization,” whereby medical definitions and imperatives have displaced those of morality, war, or criminal justice. This article seeks to revise that dominant characterization. In fact, the medicalization trend is only one part of a broader discursive shift, in which addiction has been normalized as a form of attachment and conduct—rendered ordinary, even predictable or natural, for a human life. The article reveals this shift through a set of historical readings across four venues in the period 1980–1993: scientific research, diagnostic protocols, judicial practice, and political rhetoric. More than an empirical advance, this shift in addiction discourse reflects a novel construction of the subject in our time.

You do not currently have access to this content.