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The New York Times: “David Sheff is a skilled journalist on an urgent mission.”

This review by Mick Sussman was published in The New York Times.

Sunday Book Review: A Disease, Not a Crime

It must be the purest agony to be the parent of a child succumbing to drug addiction. David Sheff’s previous book was an account of his son Nic’s descent from a thoughtful boy to a sullen pothead to a self-destructive methamphetamine fiend, and of his own tormented and bewildered reaction.

If that book, “Beautiful Boy,” was a cry of despair, “Clean” is intended as an objective, if still impassioned, examination of the research on prevention and treatment — a guide for those affected by addiction but also a manifesto aimed at clinical professionals and policy makers. Sheff’s premise is that “addiction isn’t a criminal problem, but a health problem,” and that the rigor of medicine is the antidote to the irrational responses, familial and social, that addiction tends to set off.

Sheff, a journalist, writes that America’s “stigmatization of drug users” has backfired, hindering progress in curbing addiction. The war on drugs, he says bluntly, “has failed.” After 40 years and an “unconscionable” expense that he estimates at a trillion dollars, there are 20 million addicts in America (including alcoholics), and “more drugs, more kinds of drugs, and more toxic drugs used at younger ages.” Continue Reading →

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“Clean is the best book on drug abuse and addiction to appear in years”

This article by Glenn C. Altschuler and Patrick M. Burns was published at HuffingtonPost.com.

Free Will Hunting

Substance abuse and addiction have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Every day, on average, about 8,120 individuals age 12 and over try drugs for the first time and 12,800 try alcohol. About 60 million people binge drink. Mortality rates from abuse of prescription pills are skyrocketing. All-in-all, in addition to destroying families, devastating inner cities, and causing crime and car accidents, substance abuse is responsible for more deaths than any other “non-natural” cause.

In Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, David Sheff, the author of Beautiful Boy, a moving account of the addiction and treatment of his son, Nic, draws on research in psychology, neuroscience and medicine to present a new approach to dealing with what may well be our greatest social problem. Sheff insists that addiction is an incurable but treatable disease, not a moral failing. Since choice “has nothing to do with the disease,” he emphasizes, it is counter-productive to exhort young people to “Just say no” or dismiss addicts as dissolute or undisciplined. Treatment must be based on evidence, not urban legends, guilt or wishful thinking.

Providing a wealth of information and practical advice, Clean is the best book on drug abuse and addiction to appear in years. Continue Reading →

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The 2009 TIME 100: David Sheff

Kurt Rogers / San Francisco Chronicle / Corbis

This article, written by Dr. Nora Volkow, originally appeared at times.com.

David Sheff wrote a beautiful book called, appropriately enough, Beautiful Boy — A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Meth Addiction, one of the most compelling portrayals I’ve ever read of a parent’s loss of a child to drugs. In this journey, Sheff, 53, faces the overdose of his son Nic and his inability to protect him, the relapses that inevitably occur and the family’s struggle to cope with it all.

Many people still call addiction a moral failing. But 20 years of research tells us that it’s a disease that results in part from the damage that abused drugs do to the brain circuits required for self-control. Unfortunately that damage is long-lasting, meaning that the person remains vulnerable to relapse even after years of successful rehabilitation. Continue Reading →

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Beautiful Boy #1 New York Times Best Seller List

Beautiful Boy reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List in April and May 2008.

In addition, Entertainment Weekly named it the #1 Best Nonfiction Book of 2008 and it won the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for nonfiction in 2008. Amazon.com selected it as one of the “Best Books of 2008” and Starbucks picked it as one of the few books it would sell in its coffee shops.

Posted in Recent Press

David and Nic Sheff featured on The Oprah Show

This article originally appeared at oprah.com in April 2008.

David & Nic Sheff on OprahAddiction is a painful secret many families are too ashamed to discuss. In 2005, one father came forward in a very public way to share what it was like to love a child whose drug and alcohol abuse threatened to tear their family apart.

Award-winning journalist David Sheff wrote about his struggle to help his son Nic overcome a crystal meth addiction in The New York Times Magazine. After the article was published, David says he realized he was not alone. His story generated an overwhelming response from other parents of addicts.

“When this hit our family, we were like so many families in this country,” David says. “I was not naive about drugs. I used drugs when I was a kid. … But I still thought, like most of us, ‘This could never happen to our family.’ When it did, we were so blindsided. We were so devastated that I realized that this is something we have to talk about.”

David delves deeper into Nic’s drug abuse and its impact on their family in his book Beautiful Boy. “I realized the power of telling a story like this because it opens the door to other people,” he says. “It gives people permission [to discuss it].”

Using journals he kept throughout his life, Nic has also written a version of the story. In his memoir Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, he recounts his experiences as a teenage drug addict to the best of his recollection. Continue Reading →

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