The Addict by Michael Stein Age: Adult Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
The Addict, by Michael Stein gives an insiders look at the life of an internist in the big city, I believe Philadelphia, although the city wasn’t mentioned in the book. Michael Stein has previously written the Lonely Patient, a story of treating a young woman hooked on prescription painkillers”. Well, the Addict is virtually the same thing. This book tracks his one year committment to helping keep Lucy off of vicodin, and their therapy sessions which lasted about a year.
To be honest, I’m not exactly sure who this book is meant for. Michael Stein is an internist; a physician who specializes in treating and diagnosing non-surgical diseases. In this case, addiction is the disease and Stein is the expert. He is a highly intelligent man, full of information about addiction, how it develops and how its slowly taking a grip over the nation. Addiction isn’t limited to just lower class minorities, not with painkillers, he stresses. Addiction can haunt the soccer mom using vicodin to get that extra boost of energy to cart the kids around. It can haunt the upper class lawyer who just wants to get away from the reality of his job.
While the focus of his story is on one patient and her progress under his care, Lucy Fields, he does digress to talk about other patients and their addictions. I think this sets up a nice balance and highlights that addiction is handled differently on a case by case basis. Each addict has their own backstory to why, when and how they started and each addict reacts differently to the same drug.
Stein met Lucy at the hospital he works for because of the program he runs to help people quit vicodin. His method is basically to switch them from one pill, vicodin, to another, Buprenorphine. My first reaction to this was, how is that any better? Buprenorphine works as a stopper for vicodin, it sends signals up to the brain saying “you don’t want vicodin, you don’t want vicodin.” Stein never discussed if Buprenorphine is addictive and if addicts latch onto that instead. He does actually address the point of pill-switching later on in the book, which I greatly appreciated. The switch is monitored and the pills are given out at the hospital and are tied to either weekly or monthly sessions with Stein. In this regard, he keeps them hooked to the sessions and can continue to treat the mental issues behind the addiction.
This was a really insightful book and very well written. Stein has a way of setting up the scene so that you feel like you are there. I wish we could have learned more about Lucy, or heard from her perspective. Her life story was told in choppy bits during the course of the year long sessions and she seems like a really interesting young woman. One thing that bugged me was when Stein would talk about addiction or the addict, he would switch pronouns, talk about the addict as a he in one chapter and a she in another chapter. Although its good to know that addicts come in all shapes, sizes and sexes, the pronouns would be too confusing especially since he would go into one of these side-talks right after talking about a patient in an example.
As I said above, I think the audience of this book is for future medical practioners, I think some families may benefit from hearing Lucy’s story, as well as at least learning the facts about addiction and its development over someone’s life.
This book is for my Dewey Decimal Challenge, 600s century. The assigned call number to this book is: 616.8606 SteinThe Addict by Michael Stein Harper Collins, 2009 ISBN 0061368134 275 pages