Clean Talk: A Myth-Shattering Look at Addiction

This article originally appeared at houghtonmifflin.com

David Sheff first opened our eyes to the horrors of drug abuse in his bestselling memoir Beautiful Boy, a harrowing work that detailed the heartbreak caused by his son’s drug addiction. In Clean, he takes on the traditional views of addiction and its treatment, demonstrating why 12-step programs don’t work for more than 90% of those who try them—and revealing the approaches that science has shown do work.

Based on the latest research in psychology, neuroscience, and medicine, as well as conversations with scores of scientists, social workers, addicts, and their families, Clean offers clear, cogent counsel for addicts and those who love them. Sheff deals with addiction for what it is—an illness—and suggests that the approaches most likely to succeed are based on science rather than faith, tradition, contrition or wishful thinking.

Sheff explains why our country’s failure to stem the tide of addiction directly relates to the belief—as persistent as it is wrong—that addiction is a moral failing, rather than a disease. He counters this widely held belief with several shocking facts: that teens are especially prone to drug use; that the earlier one experiments with drugs, the more likely one is to become addicted; that drug addiction is almost always a symptom of another illness; that the co-occurring illnesses—ranging from PTSD to depression to obsessive disorder—are rarely treated in many recovery programs.

In addition to exploding all-too-common myths, Sheff offers surprising, invaluable, and practical advice:

  • How do you know if you or a loved one has moved from use to abuse?
  • Should you tell your kids about your own drug use?
  • Is it better to let someone hit the bottom? (Sheff’s answer: No!)
  • What do you do when sobriety puts you right back in the place you were when you got addicted?

All in a manuscript that’s easy to access and understandable for readers at many levels.