Drugland – It’s Not Exactly Wonderland

Drug abuse is one of America’s most serious health and social problems. While our news media may be preoccupied with politics, war, natural disasters, and the antics of celebrities, the scourge of drugs spreads quietly in our homes and streets. The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that diabetes costs society $131.7 billion annually and cancer $171.6 billion annually, yet the bill for drug addiction is at least $484 billion per year. This includes not merely medical interventions, but the associated cost of lost earnings, crimes, and accidents. Everyone suffers – the abuser, his family and friends, and our community. One way to understand how we got to this point is to read some of the poignant and searing memoirs and studies at our library.

A book that has been on many must read lists, is Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff. Sheff, an accomplished and noted journalist, chronicles the devastating descent of his son, Nic, into methamphetamine addiction. Sheff and Nic appeared on the Oprah Show to tell their story and to offer hope to other families with similar struggles. The book has received glowing reviews, including: “Beautiful Boy is so beautifully written that it will come as a welcome balm to millions of parents and loved ones who thought they were making this journey alone." -- Armistead Maupin

You can read Nic’s story told firsthand from his own unique perspective by checking out Tweak: (Growing up on Methamphetamines). The San Francisco Chronicle writes that “The trajectory of drug addiction is nothing new, but Sheff's lucid, simple prose makes the heartbreaking journey seem fresh. More than once, adults praise him for his candor - he lies frequently in his constant quest for more money and more drugs, but he also comes clean (so to speak) many times in the process. It's one of his most appealing aspects, and it's a necessary quality to autobiographical writing. One senses that he's not holding much back. “ -- Reyhan Harmanci.

A coming of age story including experimentation and finally addiction with drugs and alcohol is a well recognized genre of writing. One of the older classics of this type is The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll. Carroll who passed away this September at the age of 60, started a journal while attending an elite private school in New York City where he was a star basketball player. He crafted his journals into a book which appeared in 1978. It has been reissued numerous times since, and has been enormously popular with the college aged. A movie by the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio came out in 1995.

Moving from the personal to the broader social perspective, is Methland : the Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding. Proving that addiction and its associated ills are not just an urban phenomena, Reding tracks the descent of the small rural midwestern farming town of Oelwein, Iowa into near destruction. The impact of Big Agriculture modernization with its attendant destruction of well paying jobs fuels, if not creates, the towns booming local meth production. Bookmarks calls Methland a “powerful, terrifying look at the drug epidemic.”
- Karen S.

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