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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> Some More of My Favourite Reads

Some More 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.

As in my last Background Briefing, I have chosen various books as recommended reading that are related in some way or other to drug and alcohol misuse. The order is random – I’ve just picked up books from various places in the house.

“Theory of Addiction” by Robert West (£24.99)

If there was ever a major challenge in this field, it is to critically evaluate the large number of theories about addiction and try to bring together the diverse elements into a comprehensive theory. Robert West has taken up this challenge and done a brilliant job. Whilst the theory focuses on the mind of the addict, it also looks at the social and cultural forces that influence behaviour. The author makes recommendations for the development of effective interventions for addiction.

“Promoting Self-change from Problem Substance Use: Practical Implications for Policy, Prevention and Treatment” by Harald K. Klingemann, Linda C. Sobell and others (£14.72)

It is often forgotten that many people with drug and alcohol misuse problems overcome their problems without professional assistance or without using traditional self-help groups. This book is based on the first major international conference on self-change/natural recovery. It presents the process of self-change from several different perspectives – environmental, cross-cultural and preventive – and interventions at both an individual and societal level. It provides strategies and suggestions for how professionals and policy makers can aid and foster self-change. This book is an essential guide.

“Working with Substance Misusers: A Guide to Theory and Practice” Edited by Trudi Petersen and Andrew McBride (£18.39)

A practical handbook for students and people who work in the field, it covers an impressive range of topics. The book also contains activities designed to reinforce learning, including discussion points, case studies, role plays and group exercises. I used this book as the core text for my undergraduate students studying substance misuse.

“Tackling Alcohol Together: The Evidence Base for a UK Alcohol Policy” by Duncan Raistrick, Ray Hodgson and Bruce Ritson (£17.95 from Free Association Books)

The leading researchers and practitioners in the UK provide an authoritative and independent analysis of the country’s experiences with alcohol. The book examines alcohol problems, alcohol policy and makes specific policy recommendations. Published in 1999, the ideas are still relevant today.

“Get Your Loved Ones Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening” by Robert J. Meyers and Brenda L. Wolfe (£6.11)

This is an important book for families and friends affected by substance use problems of others. It describes a programme based on the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) therapeutic model, which has been evaluated on a number of occasions and found to be an effective intervention. Although the book primarily focuses on alcohol, the principles are relevant to situations where illicit drugs are a problem. An engaging read, with clear and helpful exercises to be followed.

“Modernising Australia’s Drug Policy” by Alex Wodak and Timothy Moore (£6.93)

This book may focus on Australia, but its provocative arguments are just as relevant to the UK. The authors argue that mood-altering drugs are primarily a health and social issue, rather than a problem to be tackled by law enforcement agencies. The book contains a variety of interesting facts, a ten-point plan to reduce the problems caused by the drug economy, and a call for a new realism in Australian drug policy. A thought provoking read.

“Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change” by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick (£26.98)

Motivational interviewing (MI), first described by Miller in 1983, is a directive, client-centered counselling style for eliciting behaviour change by helping clients explore and resolve ambivalence. The use of MI in this country has grown considerably in the past decade. This book describes the spirit of MI and the techniques that are used to manifest that spirit. It incorporates emerging knowledge on the process of behaviour change, a growing body of outcome research, and discussions of novel applications. This is a must-read book.

“Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse” by Aaron Beck, Fred Wright, Cory Newman and Bruce Liese (£17.96)

This book comprehensively details the cognitive model of substance misuse, the specifics of case formulation, management of the therapeutic relationship, and the structure of therapeutic sessions. It discusses how to educate clients in the treatment model and procedures, and manage their cravings for drugs and alcohol. Methods for working with dual-diagnosis patients are also described.

Relapse Prevention: Maintenance Strategies in the Treatment of Addictive Behavioursby Dennis M. Donovan and G. Alan Marlatt (£32.50)

This is the revised and updated second edition of the classic by Alan Marlatt and Judith Gordon on relapse prevention. This book provides an empirically supported framework for helping people with addictive behaviour problems develop the skills to maintain their treatment goals – even in high-risk situations – and deal effectively with setbacks that occur. It is an essential clinical resource and text that reflects two decades’ worth of advances in research and practice.

We have learnt so much in this field over the past couple of decades and I hope that my selection both inspires you and helps you in your work. Of course, there is so much more to learn. Keep reading!

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