Some of My Favourite Reads

‘NB. Please note that some of these books may be out of print or be selling any a different price to what I quoted back in July 2006. These are some of the books that enhanced my understanding of addiction, recovery and treatment, and inspired me to continue working in this field.’ David Clark, 24 January 2023.

Well, with just one issue before Claire and Ian take a well-deserved holiday, I thought I would do something completely different for this Background Briefing.

I have to confess that I am totally fascinated by the field of substance use and substance use problems. Given that I also love reading and purchasing books (when I can afford them), I spend many enjoyable hours reading about drugs and alcohol. Not that everything I read in this field makes for pleasant reading. It can be frustrating and irritating.

So I thought I would share with you some of my favourite reads – and no, I haven’t cut a special deal with authors, publishers or Amazon! The books I have chosen have been selected for a variety of reasons – some because of the practical advice, others because they have pulled at my heart strings, and still others because they are just so interesting and thought-provoking.

The books I have selected are not in any order of preference or any other order. I’ve selected them as I look at my bookshelves and they bring back pleasant memories. I’ll select some for this article and others for another article(s) in the future. Prices are for paperbacks at Amazon.

“Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use” by James McIntosh & Neil McKeganey (£20.99)

This is the book that inspired part of our research programme. I literally read it through from cover-to-cover in one sitting. This book provides insights into the process of recovery, as revealed by 70 people who have managed to overcome their long-term substance use problem. I still find it a fascinating read – and I am surprised by how few treatment professionals have seen it!

“Addiction by Prescription” by Joan E. Gadsby (£7.25)

A compelling and heartbreaking read from a courageous person and tireless advocate. “In 1966, when Joan Gadsby’s four-year-old son died of brain cancer, her doctor prescribed a ‘chemical cocktail’ of tranquillisers, sleeping pills and anti-depressants. It was the first step in a twenty-three year addiction to benzodiazepines – an addiction which threatened her family relationships, financial security, career and personal health.”

“The Treatment of Drinking Problems: A Guide for the Helping Professionals” by Griffith Edwards, E Jane Marshall and Christopher CH Cook (£36.10)

A well-written, comprehensive and compassionate book that is not only recommended for professionals, but also for anyone interested in the treatment of alcohol-related problems. A definitive text.

“Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System” by Lonny Shavelson (from £12.85)

The author follows the lives of five addicts in the American treatment system: a compelling read. Highlights the links between drug addiction, mental illness and trauma, including child abuse, and argues for an integrated approach in treatment.

”Legalise This! The case for decriminalising drugs” by Douglas Husak. (£12.00)

I don’t get involved in arguments whether drugs should all be legalised or not. However, this book by a philosopher really made me think about the issues and the American system that imprisons so many recreational drug users. Well-written, balanced arguments, and as I say, really thought-provoking.

“Living with Drugs” by Michael Gossop (£19.00)

This is still probably the best general text in the business about psychoactive drugs and society. It is easy to read and the arguments are well-balanced.

“Illegal Leisure: Normalization of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use” by Howard Parker, Judith Aldridge and Fiona Measham (£19.95)

Based on a five year study following school children during the 1990s, this book explains how young people make decisions about whether or not to try drugs and how some become regular drug users. This seminal text questions how society is tackling the issues centred on widespread recreational use of drugs and alcohol by young people.

“Treating Drinkers & Drug Users in the Community” by Tom Waller and Daphne Rumball (£36.50)

Only just seen this classic – how have I missed it? This book looks at a wide range of interventions that can be used to help different people with different drug and alcohol problems at different stages of the problem. A breath of fresh air and a must read for all practitioners and commissioners in the field.

“The Heroin Users” by Tam Stewart (£8.99)

The author was part of the heroin scene in Liverpool for many years, and she tells you how it really is to be a heroin user. A refreshing read that reveals with insight and honesty what kind of people take heroin, why they do it, and how it changes lives. Challenges common misconceptions and assumptions, and also gives hope to those affected.

“Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice” edited by Craig Reinarman and Harry G. Levine (£15.95)

Another thought-provoking book which really got me thinking more about drugs in the wider context of society. Just to get you going, a comment from the back cover: “The contributors make a convincing case that America is unable to solve the problems associated with crack because it is unwilling to deal with extreme economic and racial inequality except by stigmatising and punishing the unequal.”

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