Here are some of the books I have read along the way…

DREAM LAND by Sam Quinones: This is where it all started for me. Dreamland ignited my interest in drug use. Quinones brilliantly traces how the perfect storm created this epidemic: Perdue Pharma’s aggressive marketing of Oxycontin, new U.S. distribution techniques by Mexican heroin dealers, and the medical community’s adoption of pain as the”fifth vital sign.” Quinones’ book is a must read.

CHASING THE SCREAM by Johann Hari: To successfully address drug addiction, we must reconsider our unsuccessful “War on Drugs.” Start here. Read this brilliant book. I first learned of it at the REACH program in Seattle. My favorite line of Hari’s is: “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.”

IN THE REALM OF HUNGRY GHOSTS by Gabor Maté: Rick Shamberg, the immensely personable managing director of Gray Wolf Ranch in Washington state recommended this book to me. Maté spent twelve years practicing medicine in North America’s most concentrated neighborhood of drug use—Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He explains the neurological and environmental roots of addiction and introduces us to some of his patients. A touching and evocative exploration of the subject— a highly engaging book.




BROKEN by William Cope Moyers: Broken was one of the first books I read that chronicled a person’s journey through drug addiction. It is open, honest, and worth picking up.

THE ADDICTION SOLUTION by Lloyd Sederer: Right after I finished reading this book, I contacted Dr. Lloyd Sederer and made plans to meet him. He brilliantly focusses on the need for prevention and explains why adverse childhood experiences make people more vulnerable to addiction. This is just what addicts taught me as I traveled across the country interviewing them.

IGEN by Jeanne-Twenge: Read this book to understand what is going on with kids today. Once I realized that addiction is often rooted in childhood experiences, such as isolation, this book literally scared me into creating the Protect installation. We have to reconnect with the youth of today to prevent addiction tomorrow.

INVENTING OURSELVES The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: To understand addiction, understand the adolescent brain. Blakemore provides fascinating access through research. For example, social isolation (think social media) affects how brains develop. She suggests how to create more successful messaging to teens about health issues (like drug use.) A must-read for parents.

A WAY FROM DARKNESS by Taylor Hunt: I first learned about Taylor Hunt through the terrific guys who created Green Hill Recovery in Raleigh, NC (Benjamin Shuford and Tripp Johnson). Hunt walks the walk, there in Columbus, using ashtanga yoga to aid in recovery, knowing how tough that road is. He was so gracious when I contacted him to learn more about his journey. (I even began learning ashtanga…but don’t ask how far I have come.) This book will expand your universe.

AMERICAN PAIN by John Temple:This well-written book provides the inside story of how a 27-year-old built a pill mill empire in Florida. We want to blame individuals—and this book definitely makes the case for it-—but there is plenty of blame for the system that allowed this to happen…



BEAUTIFUL BOY by David Sheff: Stories of the heartache of drug addiction abound, but my favorite part of this book is the afterword in which Sheff talks about deciding to write the book. It is about helping others rather than exploitation. He falls on the right side of that line. Movie was good..but read the book.

DOPESICK by Beth Macy: Yes, you have heard much of this in news stories and articles, but Macy makes it all come alive by personalizing the drug epidemic as it ravaged a community.

HIGH by Ingrid Walker: Walker provides a unique framework for viewing our failing War on Drugs. She will make you rethink how you think about various drugs and wonder why such a smart country can get it so wrong.



UNBROKEN BRAIN by Maia Szalavitz: Some books provide insight into an individual’s addiction journey, while other books highlight the neuro-psycho-social roots of addiction.  This one does it all–it is simply brilliantly fact-filled, while also taking you into the depths of addiction as Szalavitz recounts her own journey.   While I would not quite characterize addiction as a learning disorder (the author’s revolutionary premise),  it presents as a  learned response to psychological injury.


THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D: About 20% of the population can be considered “highly sensitive,” or as I call it, “pro-receptive.”  Four traits characterize this group:  1)  keen sensitivity to their surroundings, especially noise, light, activity, etc., 2)  awareness of subtleties, 3) empathic abilities, and 4) deep processing.  Many of my interviewees exhibited strong signs of sensitivity—and this makes sense.  Sensitivity makes them more vulnerable to psychological injury and makes recovery tougher due to the stigma.


THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: Psychiatrist Bessle van der Kolk explains that emotions may be interpreted and labeled in the mind, but they are experienced in the body, through psychological changes to the body and brain. The stress of this stored harm makes us vulnerable to disease and to addiction. He considers trauma one of the West’s most urgent public health issues.