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Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction Paperback – May 9, 2017
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"Maia Szalavitz is one of the bravest, smartest writers about addiction anywhere. Everything she writes should be read carefully - I guarantee you'll have a lot to think about, and you'll know far more than at the start."
― Johann Hari, New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream
“Maia Szalavitz is one of our most incisive thinkers about neuroscience in general and addiction in particular and her writing is astonishingly clear and compelling. In the timely, important, and insightful Unbroken Brain,Szalavitz seamlessly interweaves her moving personal story with her investigation into what addiction is (and isn’t) and how we can most effectively prevent and treat it.” ―David Sheff, New York Times bestselling author of Clean and Beautiful Boy
"Through the lens of her own gripping story of addiction – supported with empirical evidence – Szalavitz persuasively shows that addiction is a disorder of learning, not one characterized by progressive brain dysfunction."―Carl Hart, Ph.D., author of the Pen/Faulkner award-winning High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society
"Of the countless writers out there who's focus is addiction, no one can begin to touch the brilliance of Maia Szalavitz. She is by far my favorite addiction writer, perhaps one of my favorite writers ever. Her passion and exceptional writing talent combined with her exhaustive research, create a book that will inspire, educate, enrage, and entertain. I can only promise one thing: if you read this book, you will never be the same again."
―Kristen Johnston, actress, author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Guts, addiction advocate, founder of SLAM, NYC
“As more professionals realize that addiction isn't really a disease, our challenge is to determine exactly what it is. Szalavitz catalogs the latest scientific knowledge of the biological, environmental and social causes of addiction and explains precisely how they interact over development. The theory is articulate and tight, yet made accessible and compelling through the author's harrowing autobiography. Unbroken Brain provides the most comprehensive and readable explanation of addiction I've yet to see.” ―Marc Lewis, author of The Biology of Desire
"... a new way of looking at drug addiction that offers a fresh approach to managing it. [Salavitz] writes frankly about her background .... In a heartfelt manner, she exposes her own fears and pain ... A dense blending of self-exposure, surprising statistics, and solid science reporting that presents addiction as a misunderstood coping mechanism, a problem whose true nature is not yet recognized by policymakers or the public." ―Kirkus Reviews
"Szalavitz makes a novel and even beautiful proposal. Addiction, she hypothesizes, is a developmental disorder. Specifically, it is a learning disorder. . . .[Szalavitz] explores problems with the criminalization of drugs, the place of racism in our culture's treatment of drugs and addiction, and she looks closely and illuminatingly at different treatment methods. There's a lot of news you can use in this book if you or someone you love is an addict." -npr.org
"Journalist Szalavitz offers a multifaceted, ground-up renovation of the concept of addiction--both its causes and its cures."―Publishers Weekly
"Anyone who has battled addiction or seen it harm a loved one will gain insights from "Unbroken Brain," and if it influences policymakers, too, everyone will benefit."-Associated Press
"Ms. Szalavitz deftly threads her life story through the book to illustrate the dynamics that put people at risk of addiction." ―The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Maia Szalavitz is one of the premier American journalists covering addiction and drugs. She is co-author of Born for Love and The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, both with Dr. Bruce D. Perry. Her book, Help at Any Cost is the first book-length exposé of the "tough love" business that dominates addiction treatment. She writes for TIME.com, the New York Times, New York Magazine, VICE, Scientific American, Elle, Psychology Today, and The Guardian among others.
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Maia Szalavitz is a fabulous writer who has penned a wonderful, very forward-thinking book about addiction. She introduces us to some new theories about addiction, several of which may have people re-examining the way they've thought about one of the most prevalent and deadliest problems in America today.
Szalavitz sets out to show that addiction isn’t a choice or moral failing. "But it’s not a chronic, progressive brain disease like Alzheimer's, either," she notes. “Instead, addiction is a developmental disorder--a problem involving timing and learning, more similar to autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia than it is to mumps or cancer." Yes, Szalavitz is blazing new trails here.
The author contends that "addiction doesn't just happen to people because they come across a particular chemical and begin taking it regularly. It is learned and has a history rooted in their individual, social, and cultural development." She adds that the addicted brain is not "broken," as many other researchers and writers have suggested. Instead, she says, the addicted brain has "simply undergone a different course of development....addiction is what you might call a wiring difference, not necessarily a destruction of tissue."
Looking at addiction as a learning disorder may seem strange to some, but Szalavitz states that doing so "allows us to answer many previously perplexing questions." And in "Unbroken Brain," Szalavitz--who is 25+ years in recovery from cocaine and heroin addiction herself--tells us how learning is a part of every aspect of addiction, oftentimes drawing upon her personal experience to illustrate her points.
There are so many interesting and thought-provoking topics covered in this book. From the problems associated with waiting for someone to hit "rock bottom" to the myth of the addictive personality; and from the issues surrounding 12-step programs to why harm reduction isn't a bad thing. ("Harm reduction recognizes [the] social and learned components of addiction. It 'meets people where they're at,' and it teaches them how to improve their lives, whether or not they want to become abstinent." Amen to that.)
If you or someone you love has been touched by addiction, or if you're just interested in this fascinating subject, I cannot recommend "Unbroken Brain" highly enough. This book contains a wealth of information, but Maia Szalavitz presents it in an organized manner while writing in a clear and understandable voice. Trust me: You will not be bombarded with a bunch of scientific language that you don't understand.
Szalavitz writes in the introduction, "Only by learning what addiction is--and is not--can we begin to find better ways of overcoming it. And only by understanding addicted people as individuals and treating them with compassion can we learn better and far more effective ways to reduce the harm associated with drugs." That is definitely the approach we should be taking with addiction. Hopefully, Maia Szalavitz's innovative new book will be the catalyst for some positive change.
Even if you don't like to read, you'll find this blockbuster-compelling ; as Szalavitz,both both a truther and survivor of addiction, rehab and recovery, from an 'Inside Out' frankness so poetic it knocks my socks off.
It shows the WHY our country's punitive, even "Draconian" measured and laws put in place failed to yield lifesaving results as we foolishly abused people with addiction on the "War On Drugs."
Another thing.....AA'ers, often say "Once and Alcoholic always an Alcoholic." (I'm not sure if this is said verbatim in The Big Book but it's implied)
They apply similar dogma with regards to recovery from other compulsive behaviors.
In my life...well, maybe not so much.... It's all in the book.
If you are affected by or interested in addictive behavior, people who are dually diagnosed with a mental illness and substance abuse..
Even if you're not ready to 'recover,' (another stigmatizing term).this book is written for you. ...
Who knew some people outgrow this 'learning' issue? and furthermore explains why those laws and policies have never worked and how sadistic protocols, like being in the 'hotseat' during rehab group therapy doesn't help anyone, only reinforces low self esteem, shame and stigma. I'm so excited about the promise of this new direction in thought on how to more effectly address the Opiate epidemic and other consequences of addictive patterns (compulsive gambling to an extreme on both sides of my family tree..) even including new ways to deal with eating dfsorders and health problems like Obesity...well, you've just got to read this book.. That's the end of it. I'm going back to it now. Allison Biszantz Aka "Strong"
This is a good one to read cover to cover at some point but if you're cruising for an overdose I'll save you time: find a good therapist if you can afford one, or download a guide on Cognitive Behavioral skills if you can't. If abstinence just isn't an option right this second, find some harm reduction resources for whatever your vice is. Focus on learning nondrug ways to cope and building a life you don't want to escape from, or you'll go right back to where you started. Google the author's name and check out the shorter articles around her ideas and then get cracking.
Everyone who isn't on a timeline, this is a great resource for understanding addictive behavior, especially if you're creating or voting on drug related public policy.