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Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy Paperback – January 7, 2014
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The statistics are sobering: drugs kill more than 300 people in the U.S. every day. Almost 10 percent of Americans older than 12 are addicted to drugs. About 90 percent of those who require treatment for addiction never get it. Sheff evaluates our nation’s approach to the problem of drug abuse and finds it sorely lacking. Drug addiction is a chronic illness—like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—but doesn’t get treated as one. It doesn’t afflict only bad people or just those who lack willpower. It is treatable and preventable. Once we acknowledge that drug addiction is indeed a disease, our public policy, research, and treatment will profoundly change. Sheff chronicled his oldest son’s drug addiction in the memoir Beautiful Boy (2007). Here he lashes out at “the pseudoscience, moralizing, and scare tactics that characterize the current system.” He shares addicts’ stories and information from researchers and experts and reports on his visits to treatment programs. Sadly, no surefire treatment presently exists for all types of addiction. In Clean, Sheff advocates not for punishing drug addicts but for treating them. --Tony Miksanek --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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That being said, it should come as no surprise that Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy is probably the most anticipated book ever for me. I pre-ordered it from Amazon as soon as I heard about it and have been eagerly awaiting its publication. Luckily, I was able to get an advance copy through Amazon's Vine program.
David Sheff's latest offering is to be commended for many reasons. First and foremost, though, is its explanation of how addiction works and its attempt to break the stigma frequently associated with this ancient disease. "Most drug use isn't about drugs; it's about life," Sheff writes in the Preface. "Our prevention and treatment efforts have failed mostly because they've focused on dealing with the drugs themselves, but drug abuse is almost always the result of kids starting to use early, genetics, and other problems--stress, trauma, mental illness, or some combination of these factors. The new paradigm is rooted in recognizing that drugs are a symptom, not a cause, and whatever problems underlie them must be (and can be) addressed. Until they are, our prevention and treatment systems will continue to fail most people."
Sheff outlines the six precepts that underpin Clean in the Preface. They are:
1. Most drug use isn't about drugs; it's about life.
2. Addiction is a disease.
3. This disease is preventable.
4. This disease is treatable.
5. As with any other illness, the prevention strategies and treatments most likely to work aren't based on tradition, wishful thinking, or faith, but science.
6. Drug abusers and addicts can do more than get off drugs; they can achieve mental health.
Those precepts are the road map for the book, and Sheff does a fabulous job of backing them all up using scientific evidence, case studies, and his own expertise and experience.
Regarding the stigma associated with addiction, Sheff states: "This stigma associated with drug use--the belief that bad kids use, good kids don't, and those with full-blown addiction are weak, dissolute, and pathetic--has contributed to the escalation of use and has hampered treatment more than any single other factor." As the father of a recovering addict, I know all too well how that stigma affects addicts--and families of addicts--in a negative way. Kudos to Sheff for attacking it head-on.
Another misconception Sheff takes on has to do with relapse: "The main problems with America's addiction-treatment system stem from its roots in the archaic notion that addiction is a choice, not a disease. One common symptom of the disease of addiction is relapse. Kicking an addict out of treatment for relapsing is like kicking a cancer patient out of treatment when a tumor metastasizes." Again, Sheff is telling it like it is and striving to destroy the old myths associated with addiction.
Every page of this book has interesting and valuable information on it. Some paragraphs are so full of information that I found myself re-reading them so I could absorb everything Sheff had to say. I will probably re-read the entire book several times. It's that good and that informative.
This is not only a book about addiction; it's a book about hope. It lets people know that addiction can be prevented. And even if one does succumb to addiction, that there are ways to treat the disease and for people to get clean and stay clean. Sheff ends the main part of the book with his own take on the twelve steps, entitled "The Clean Paradigm in Twelve Steps." (Example: "12. End the war on drugs and treat addiction for what it is--not a criminal problem, but a health crisis.") He also provides a very informative Appendix--"Just Say Know"--where he describes "the most prevalent drugs and their effects, starting with the most ubiquitous drug of all." (That would be alcohol.)
If you have been affected by addiction, you must read this book. If you have kids entering their formative years, you must read this book. If there is a history of addiction in your family, you must read this book. Even if you don't fit any of those categories, I'd still recommend you read Clean to get a remarkable insight into one of the biggest issues facing our country today.
For those who are interested, here is how Clean is broken down, section by section:
I: AMERICA ON DRUGS
1. This Is Your Brain on Drugs
2. This Is Our Country on Drugs
II: WHY WE USE
3. Everybody Does It
4. Helping Kids Grow Up
III: WHEN DRUG USE ESCALATES
5. Use Becomes Abuse, and Abuse Becomes Addiction
6. Addicts Aren't Weak, Selfish, or Amoral; They're Ill
7. Don't Deny Addiction, Don't Enable It, and Don't Wait for an Addict to Hit Bottom--He Could Die
8. The Next Hurdle: Getting a Person into Treatment
IV: GETTING CLEAN
9. The Treatment Minefield
V: STAYING CLEAN
11. Beginning Treatment
12. Primary Treatment
13. Treating Drug Problems with Drugs
14. Where Does AA Fit In?
VI: TREATING A CHRONIC ILLNESS
15. Treating Dual Diagnosis
16. Relapse Prevention
VII: ENDING ADDICTION
17. The Future of Prevention and Treatment
18. Fighting the Right War
Appendix: Just Say Know
Due to the recent increase in deaths from accidental opiate overdose in the small town in which I live, I am working to get a community forum to educate all about the problem from root causes to treatment options to life as an addict in recovery. I believe strongly that information is the key.
This books attacks the subjects from both the eye of a parent and a seasoned journalist. It is well researched and informative for both concerned parents, as well as family members dealing with a person who has the disease of addiction.
This is a no nonsense book that gives the reader good information, as well as a look at rehabs, relapse and everything in between. It is well written and fairly easy to read.
I spend a lot of time around addicts, as well as being one. I can tell you this books tackles the issues dealt with by addicts. Initially, until they reach the point of accepting help, addicts cannot handle life. They cannot handle the emotions that come every days. Life is challenge for everyone. For an addict in active addiction, it is impossible to solve the most simple problem. Our brains are taken over by our addiction.
I especially liked David Sheff's description of addiction as a disease. Until we take away the shame of those addicted and their family members, it will be tough to get addicts and loved ones together to work on this national and international problem.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants/needs to know more about the disease of addiction, what can be done to prevent addiction and what to do after someone you love falls into the depths of hell called addiction.
As Sheff writes...the war on drugs has failed miserably. Forget Just Say No. Remember Just Say KNOW.