Carl Erik Fisher

Assistant Professor at Columbia University | Author of The Urge: Our History of Addiction

Carl is an addiction psychiatrist, bioethics scholar, and author.He teaches law, ethics, and policy relating to psychiatry and neuroscience, especially issues related to substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors.

Carl Erik Fisher

Carl Erik Fisher is an addiction physician, bioethicist, and person in recovery. He is an expert in addiction and recovery who has sought to make sense of topics like self-control, suffering, and behavioral change across an unexpected variety of topics and fields: not just science and medicine, but also history, spirituality, philosophy, politics, arts and literature, and more. Through deep investigations of these surprising perspectives, Carl seeks out the ideas and practices that help all people flourish in their lives.

Dr. Fisher is the author of the nonfiction book The Urge: Our History of Addiction, published by Penguin Press in January 2022: a history of addiction, from ancient India and Greece to the present day, interwoven with his own experiences as an addiction psychiatrist at Columbia and as someone in recovery himself. He is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University where he studies the role of neuroscience and psychiatry in society. He is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and he is in the national leadership of the American Psychiatric Association as a member of its Council on Psychiatry and Law. He also maintains a private psychiatry practice focused on addiction, with a special focus on complementary and integrative practices like the evolving science of mindfulness and meditation. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Scientific American MIND, and elsewhere. He also is the host of the Flourishing After Addiction podcast, a deep-dive interview series exploring addiction and recovery. He lives between Brooklyn, New York, and Lisbon, Portugal, with his partner and son.

Speech topics

The addiction in all of us

“Quitting is easy, I do it every day.” Loss of self-control is universal to human life. Everyone has had trouble breaking a habit, even if it’s just impulsive eating, checking email or social media, or other, everyday behavioral traps. People want to stop, and yet they keep going.

Dr. Carl Erik Fisher shares his surprising rethinking of addiction, drawing on his in-depth historical research, his own recovery from addiction, and his psychiatry practice. Fisher brings to life how addiction is more than just a problem of alcohol or drugs "hijacking" vulnerable people. He explores how we can use this broader understanding of addiction to help us all to change our behavior and work towards flourishing.

The many paths to recovery: addiction’s lessons about growth and change

Dr. Carl Erik Fisher shares research, medical, and personal insights that expand what we know about addiction, showcasing that there are many paths to recovery. He guides audiences through the exciting new field of “recovery research,” offering lessons from addiction and recovery about growth and change that tangibly help people support their clients or loved ones. In the process, he offers tactics, practices, and skills that everyone can use in their work toward freedom from their negative emotions and behaviors.

The surprising power of acceptance

Dr. Carl Erik Fisher tells the vivid, unforgettable story of how he faced his own addiction crisis, early in his training as an award-winning Columbia University physician, which nearly cost him everything. As he struggled to make sense of his condition, he learned that paradoxically, the path forward came not from mastering or defeating his problem, but the surprising power of acceptance.

Dr. Fisher shares the lessons he uncovered, drawing on his own life as well as the lives of countless others who have sought personal change, offering great hope in the exciting possibility for all people to make truly transformational change.

Books

The Urge: Our History of Addiction

An authoritative, illuminating, and deeply humane history of addiction—a phenomenon that remains baffling and deeply misunderstood despite having touched countless lives—by an addiction psychiatrist striving to understand his own family and himself

Podcast

On the Flourishing After Addiction podcast, psychiatrist and bioethicist Carl Erik Fisher explores addiction and recovery by interviewing experts and thinkers across an unexpected variety of topics and fields: not just science and medicine, but also history, spirituality, philosophy, politics, arts and literature, and more. Through deep investigations of how they understand addiction, Carl seeks out the insights and practices that can help all people flourish in recovery.

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