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Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  932 ratings  ·  126 reviews
 A myth-shattering look at drug abuse and addiction treatment, based on cutting-edge research
Addiction is a preventable, treatable disease, 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. These facts are the foundation of Clean. The existing addiction treatment
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Eamon Dolan/Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.91  · 
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 ·  932 ratings  ·  126 reviews

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Erin Cataldi
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
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
jv poore
As a HUGE fan of Mr. Sheff, I could not wait to get this book in my hands. The writing is as amazing as I expected, but the facts are simply more than I can handle.

Mr. Sheff has become remarkably knowledgeable about addiction, particularly as it relates to undiagnosed and/or unacknowledged mental disorders/chemical imbalances, and his presentation of the information is so straight-forward that, to me, it is impossible to deny.

There are reasons that conventional "rehabs" don't work well; there a
Bev Ethington
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Lorianne DiSabato
Jul 22, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Todd N
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Andrew Shaffer
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Kristen Hernandez
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jess Dollar
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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,
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Good piece but kind of boring. Didn't offer any life changing insights like I hoped.
Larry Bassett
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
If you're looking for a good book with an overview of drug and alcohol addiction you should probably keep on looking because I don't think this is the book. What do you will get from this book is that addiction is a disease not a moral deficiency. If you Artie think that read no further. The other thing the author talks a lot about his evidence-based therapies. He likes to call them EBT's and he is quite into things that have initials. The problem is he seems to think that a quote from TIME Maga ...more
David Cooke
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Shelley Fearn
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Kalem Wright
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
"Clean" is David Sheff's prescription for ending the addiction crisis in America. He explores the state of the research through interviews with recovering and active addicts, family members, researchers and service providers and explores failings in the system in educating consumers and providers, access to quality and evidence-based care, philosophically harmful and moralistic treatment models and implementing best practices.

He illustrates the impact of drugs on the developing and developed bra
John Zak
Dec 31, 2016 rated it liked it
This book had some helpful elements—especially with regards to learning more about brain circuitry—however, the author writes in an extremely biased manner. This is most likely due to his own son's descent into the abyss of drug addiction. I certainly agree that there are many external factors, such as upbringing, brain circuitry, and the like, which strongly influence one's chance of becoming an addict. Although there is an unwarranted amount of social stigma associated with those enslaved to a ...more
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-work
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.
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Angela Fitzsimmons
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Retha Van zweel
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Tori Miller
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.
Travis Lupick
This review was originally published in the Georgia Straight newspaper.
Learning one’s child is using drugs ranks among the most frightening moments a parent can experience. For those families, David Sheff has written Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy.
The New York Times contributor presents years of exhaustive research on prevention strategies, methods of intervention, and seemingly countless options for treatment and rehabilitation.
He insists that addiction is not
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, drugs
I struggled to decide how to rate this book, because it is quite good, just not what I was looking for. David Sheff writes a clear and impassioned call to action to improve our tangled and ineffective drug rehabilitation system, starting with thinking of addiction with a disease model. He writes from his own heartbreaking experience of almost loosing his own son to addiction, and struggles with finding quality care for him within a system which primarily blames users for their weakness rather th ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read Sheff's NYTimes article, My Addicted Son, a few months ago. It was such a well-written, moving story, I was compelled to read Clean.

"Most drug use isn't about drugs; it's about life. Addiction is a disease, a disease which is preventable and treatable... Addiction is America's number one preventable health problem... Everyone has a stake in ending addiction: everyone who cares about safer streets, government spending, quality healthcare, poverty, c
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was just so helpful. I am the parent of an addict and have been learning a lot about this topic over the last several months. This book is filled with evidence based research and makes some excellent recommendations. And it isn't necessarily the same advice you get anywhere. Most people say you have to let the addict hit rock bottom, but he drives home the point that, particularly with hard drugs, "rock bottom" can very likely be death. Do you really want to wait for that when it is yo ...more
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was hooked by this paragraph in the Preface. Very well researched and well written. Loads of resources and info in this book would have been helpful 20 years ago. Better now than not a all.

"The view that drug use is a moral choice is pervasive, pernicious and wrong. So are the corresponding beliefs about the addicted; that they are weak, selfish and dissolute. If they weren't, then when their excessive drinking or drug-taking began to harm them, they'd stop. The reality is far different. Usi
Dolly King
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I truly think everyone needs to read this book. David Sheff has compiled a book full of his research and stories and examples and knowledge that he has acquired through his many many years of walking with his son through his drug addiction. I believe that everyone is affected by this disease and huge problem that we have in the world today. It touches everybody and the only way to help stop it is by becoming educated on what addiction is and how we can help stop it. Just like other diseases that ...more
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Has David become co dependent again? 2 8 Nov 19, 2017 04:27AM  

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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
“teenagers are almost a different species than the rest of us, particularly in social situations.” 0 likes
“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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