The author offers personal stories from his own experience as well as that of others. The subjective stories serve as a foundation for the more objective research that supports his contentions that addiction is a disease and, therefore, must be treated as such. Unfortunately, the stigma of addiction is not perceived in the same way as addiction for, after all, the addict has a choice. Use or don’t use. How is this a disease?
And this is where Sheff excels because he is able to explain why addiction should be defined as a disease. Furthermore, it should be treated as such. A patient who has a remission is no less guilty of failure than an addict who has a relapse because addiction causes neurological changes in the addict’s brain making the option of choice impossible. And while I can agree with what Sheff says, strongly supported with scientific evidence, it is not always easy to feel the truth on a more personal level. Nonetheless, I found myself nodding when he drew a parallel between how an addict is not unlike an obese person who has a choice to consume something the first time but then has that choice removed by a genetic chemical reaction beyond the individual control.
Sheff challenges a lot of sacred cows. He does not see the “twelve steps” as the only real solution to addiction. He dares to suggest that alcohol is no less tolerable than methamphetamine. He even dares to suggest that waiting until the addict hits “rock bottom” is a dangerous game to play when some addicts are heading towards self-destruction. He pulls no punches and hits all of his points hard. Whether you agree with him or not, he demands attention. Where some writers would invite the reader to consider the information offered, he shoves the reader’s nose in the reality of addiction and then asks, “What now?”
A great book to invite the reader to think, to reconsider, to possibly redefine, even where there are some areas with which the individual may disagree with the author’s assessment.