Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy
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Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  299 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Addiction is a disease; it is preventable and treatable.

It is not a moral failing. As with other illnesses, the approaches most likely to work are based on science -- not on faith, tradition, contrition, or wishful thinking. Those facts are the foundation of "Clean," a new paradigm for preventing drug abuse and treating addiction and the mental illnesses that usually accom...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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Erin Cataldi
This was definitely one of the hardest books I've read this year, not because it was badly written but because the subject matter was very personal and not at all comforting like I hoped it would be. I'm not going to go into details in this book review but those of you who know me, know why I find this subject hard. It's something that I never would have guessed would affect me or anyone I care about, but who am I kidding, this is the 21st century. Addiction is more prevalent then ever.

Prior to...more
Just started this book and find it very encouraging. There was a comment though that Mr. Sheff made early on that has bothered me. He said that he became addicted to his son's addiction. Having experienced addiction in our family I know what Mr. Sheff meant or at least I think I do. Words are tricky. Addiction is a disease. Mr. Sheff knows this, the medical community knows this, most people know this and yet the word 'addiction' or 'addicted' is many times used incorrectly. It's my humble opinio...more
Andrew Shaffer
Clean starts off with a well-meaning premise that grabbed my attention: “Addiction is a preventable, treatable disease, not a moral failing. As with other illnesses, the approaches most likely to work are based on science.” Sheff (Beautiful Boy) provides ample evidence and expert opinions in his quest to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that addiction is an illness and not a moral failing on the part of users. When he sticks to science and statistics, Clean delivers; when Sheff digresses into...more
This was good. He has a couple very strong messages - one being that addiction (like alcoholism)is a disease, not an indication of weak moral structure, and not simply poor judgement. This is not a new message for me, but it is for many people. What was a new idea for me is that we need to TREAT addiction the way we treat other diseases. It seems obvious, but yet it doesn't happen. And he made me look at why. Lots of reasons, addiction carries great stigma and people don't talk about it. It's di...more
Kristen Hernandez
It was so refreshing to read a very well-written book that actually agrees with my specific thoughts on substance abuse. I have been constantly told that people who do substance abuse are just selfish and could stop if they really wanted to or that we should just legalize every drug that there is. People do not seem to understand that this is not just an individual's problem, this is a societal issue! With more authors, like David Sheff, we could slowly change the worst domestic issue that we ha...more
Lorianne DiSabato
I’ve recently finished David Sheff’s Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy, which I found a bit disappointing. My expectations were probably too high, as Sheff’s Beautiful Boy—a memoir of his son’s meth addiction—was both heartbreaking and hauntingly human. It’s clear that Sheff’s experience as the father of a recovering addict has shaped his thinking, making him sound urgent and at times almost quaintly old-fashioned: Ward Cleaver after watching Reefer Madness. Where...more
I'm really glad I read this. I heard the author on Fresh Air, so when I saw the book at the library I figured I would give it a try. I have a lot of experiences dealing with addicted people, and this book helped me understand addiction and addicted people in a more comprehensive, objective way.

I also think this a great book for parents to read as it talks about how especially damaging drug use and abuse can be on young people and how to help your kids navigate their teen years without alcohol,...more
Very interesting book by someone who knows of what he speaks. David Sheff watched his son Nic spiral into a horrifying drug addiction. He spent years worrying, enabling and desperately trying to help his son. Nic, at the time of this writing had been five years clean, and still is as far as I know. But, the point of this book is to inform people of the risk factors related to addiction, preventative programs that are being implemented, different types of treatments for addiction, and to explain...more
David Cooke
As the parent of a child battling addiction, I am drawn to books that share common or similar experiences. David Sheff wrote a very powerful story, "My Beautiful Boy" which chronicles his experiences with a son's addiction. This book is designed to shed light on the issue of drug abuse in this country. Sheff clearly shares the pain and frustration that most parents experience regarding the stigma of abuse. Most people, until it hits home, sees addiction as a choice people make and have little em...more
Patricia Baker
This was a hard book to read as it contained a lot of information about addiction. I had read his other book about his son's addiction and thought it had some merit to discussion addiction and treatment.
I have to agree with Mr. Sheff that addiction is a medical problem, that it needs to be addressed as soon as it is suspected as a problem. I agree with him in that addicts should not be labeled bad people, they are just ill people. I'm not sure that AA or NA is the way to go because of the loss o...more
Shelley Fearn
I doubt anyone would deny that this is an important book for the lay person. Sheff clearly expresses his premise that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing. What he subsequently writes elevates this book from the usual nonfiction book on addiction written for the lay reader.

Sheff, in a very orderly and forthright manner, describes the science behind the change from treating addiction as a fault to treating it as a disease. He covers the possible causes of addiction, its trajectory, and...more
Todd Nemet
Jul 14, 2013 Todd Nemet rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people with longer attention spans than I have
Shelves: kindle, on-hold
I had high hopes for this book after hearing the interview with the author on Fresh Air, but ultimately I couldn't finish it. It's just too meandering and filled with too many personal stories and the bits that dig into the science of addiction and recovery feel secondary to the personal stuff. Too bad.

I have more than a passing interest in this topic, but I didn't feel this book was worth the slog after 70 pages or so. There are some interesting bits though, like only one out of ten addicts sta...more
Read this book! Clean is a wonderful introduction to the world of addiction and recovery. Sheff wrote an earlier book, Beautiful Boy that chronicled the son's struggles with addiction. In clean, Sheff demonstrates that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing. Sheff also discusses what some of the current treatments are for addiction. He also discusses various myths and preconceptions some people have about drug abuse. He pays special attention to the the misperceptions people have about m...more
JoAnn   W.
I wish everyone would read this book. Unfortunately, Goodreads has it listed by the wrong title. "The Thirteenth Step" is not its name. "Clean" is its name.

One out of twelve Americans has a problem with drug/alcohol addiction. This is one out of twelve Americans OVER TWELVE! Yes, that's right. Mr. Sheff reports that 90% of all who battle substance addiction began using BEFORE AGE 18 and 95% began using before age 21. These addiction statistics cover all regions of the country and all social and...more
Angela Fitzsimmons
The idea that addiction is a disease is not new but it's a hard one to internalize and embrace. Sheff is working hard to cast addiction as a public health crisis in our country, which I believe it is, but titling his book "Clean" does something to undermine this. If an addict isn't "clean" then s/he must be "dirty." That implication still feels stigmatizing to me.

Sheff's personal experience with addiction has evolved from a narrative retelling of his own family's story (in Beautiful Boy) to a jo...more
David Little
A good call to action for drug addition with particular focus on prevention, scientifically proven treatments, decriminalization, and the notion of addiction as a disease rather than moral corruption.

Very meta-analytic. I agreed with almost the entire book. Also included some interesting info about vaccines to prevent and treat addictions.

Great discussion on the need to de-stigmatize addiction - in the same way The Big C was normalized.

Balanced exploration of the benefits and failings of Alcoh...more
The war on drugs has failed. The costs of rehabilitation, medical complications, and a lost generation should cause us all to ponder a better way. This book is an attempt to review the research on prevention and treatment of addictions in an objective manner. The science behind our biases are exposed and it is an urgent read for teen, parents, teachers, government, and other stakeholders in the battle.
This is one of the most important books on addiction I've read and I've read plenty of them. This book offers hope as well as hard facts, and it's a great guide for people who are trying to find the right care, whether the reader is an addict herself or an addict's loved one. Highly recommended.
Kathleen Hagen
Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, by David Sheff, Narrated by Jeff Cummings, Produced by Brilliance audio, Downloaded from

After David Sheff, a journalist, wrote the story of his son’s addiction to meth, and his overcoming that addiction, Sheff was struck by how little was known about methamphetamine addiction, how powerful a hold it has on its victims, and the lack of good therapy to help overcome the addiction. He has spent the years since writing “...more
Retha Van zweel
Very insightful and relevant, and very very sad & scary for every parent with pre-teens & teens.BUT Not just applicable to drugs, but to everyone who is living/had lived with any form of addiction. Highly recommended.
This didn't really have any new information that I hadn't heard before, but it was the best summary I have read of everything all in one place.
Good piece but kind of boring. Didn't offer any life changing insights like I hoped.
John Martindale
David Sheff tries to make the case that addiction is a disease and I did find some of his arguments pretty compelling. I myself have experienced the power of addiction (though never to drugs) and I can contest to how I feel powerless, how I can't seem to think clearly, care like I should or keep from doing irrational actions. Yet, I still must question Sheff's conclusions, because he overlooks a groundbreaking study done in the 70s, that is largely forgotten today. According to Sally Satel, duri...more
You can read my review in Spanish here:

This is a very different book about addictions. The goal is to show that the addiction recovery and treatment science is almost non-existent. It succeeds to show how the addiction phenomena is terribly complex and how we have a very poor understanding of it. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is destructive; it destroys people, families, neighborhoods, the world.

The problem is the high emotional component from those who...more
Susan Heskin
I thought this book would be depressing, but it is actually quite a hopeful book about this debilitating, heartbreaking disease and its enormous social consequences. Sheff describes the current research into how addiction happens and why current treatments often don't work. He reports on research into possible vaccines for addictions to certain drugs...who knew? He discusses evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies, and makes the case that we cannot treat people effectively as long as...more
A sobering counterpoint to the flat earth morality that has historically dominated discussions of addiction and treatment, David Sheff presents evidence in favour of the disease model of addiction. This is not a rant, but an exhaustive search for answers to the the questions of how best to approach the dilemma faced by so many parents caught flat footed when their child is discovered as a combatant in the national war on drugs and associated addictions. Science based compassion that addresses mo...more
A refreshing assessment of what needs to be done to treat addiction. Sheff understands that addiction is a disease and he is very blunt - most doctors have no training in how to treat it. The weakness in the book is that he frequently says families and addicts must continue to search and seek out "good treatment" and then in the next paragraph he admits that there is very little good care out there. Still this is a book that needs to be read - especially by the medical community. Doctors and the...more
David Sheff, is as always, very readable. I thought it would be more painful to read but it wasn't. Great read for anybody touched by the disease of addiction. Gleaned some new facts about the disease of addiction; totally agree with his assessment of addiction as one of the greatest tragedies .in America. We are losing too many people to this battle, and it has yet to find a voice.
Eric Durant
The book begins by dispelling myths about the various causes of addiction (lots of interesting statistics) and discussing risk factors and sociology of addiction in children, adolescents, and adults. I don't know that it offers any solid answers or advice that someone who reads casually on the topic would not already know. But, it certainly does offer insight into the variety of things someone afflicted by addiction might be experiencing and is valuable for that alone. It then discusses the evid...more
Amazing and informative book. I love how the author seamlessly weaves together stories from people's lives with academic research into a non-fiction book that was almost impossible to put down. I borrowed this book from the library but am planning to order a copy because it is invaluable in how it explains addiction as a disease in easy to understand comparisons and metaphors. I know I will be pulling from this book and using it on the job as an addictions counselor from here on out. I'd Al's,o...more
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Has David become co dependent again? 1 5 Jul 18, 2013 08:03AM  
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DAVID SHEFF is the author of the #1 New York Times-bestselling memoir Beautiful Boy. Sheff's other books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune, and elsewhere. His ongoing research and reporting on the science of addiction earned him a place on Time Magazine's list of the Wor...more
More about David Sheff...
Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction Game Over, Press Start to Continue: How Nintendo Conquered the World All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono Playboy Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono China Dawn: Culture and Conflict in China's Business Revolution

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“Once and for all, people must understand that addiction is a disease. It’s critical if we’re going to effectively prevent and treat addiction. Accepting that addiction is an illness will transform our approach to public policy, research, insurance, and criminality; it will change how we feel about addicts, and how they feel about themselves. There’s another essential reason why we must understand that addiction is an illness and not just bad behavior: We punish bad behavior. We treat illness.” 0 likes
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