Anna Lembke’s gateway drug was Twilight, the young-adult vampire-romance novel. “I was at my kids’ elementary school and heard a bunch of moms talking about it, and one of them was saying she couldn’t
put it down,” Lembke recalls. “I thought, gosh, that sounds good! And it was true: It totally transported me. It was just the right drug at the right moment.”
The Stanford University psychiatrist was so enthralled by that first sweet hit that she went on to reread Twilight four more times, always trying, in vain, to replicate the high. In the meantime, she devoured every other vampire bodice-ripper she could find, soon moving on to erotic novels involving werewolves, fairies, witches, time travelers, soothsayers, and mind-readers.
Undeterred by tortured syntax, worn-out plot devices, stock characters, or typos, Lembke read instead of cooking, sleeping, socializing, or spending time with her husband and kids. It took a full year for her to hit bottom, catching herself awake at 2 a.m. on a weekday, reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
Of course Lembke should have known better. Her day job, as chief of Stanford’s Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic, is all about helping other people cope with self-destructive cravings. Yet her journey down the…