cover image Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

Maia Szalavitz. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-05582-8

Journalist Szalavitz (Help at Any Cost) offers a multifaceted, ground-up renovation of the concept of addiction—both its causes and its cures. Noting a recent increase in opioid abuse, she provides a reminder that dependency and its discontents have been around for a long time. Szalavitz’s thesis is that addiction is not a brain disease, but rather a developmental disorder, one defined by compulsive, harmful behavior. In a sense, she is the ideal person to make this argument, as her knowledge is experiential as well as research-based: she is open about her own time spent in the trenches of addiction, which brought her to court and, finally, treatment. These personal accounts lend the book and some of its more radical claims necessary credibility. Yet they also, in some ways, limit the perspective to a more drug-specific bent. Szalavitz may alienate otherwise sympathetic readers with her critiques of popular treatment methodologies such as 12-step programs. This study may not be for people who have recovered using such treatments, but it can help promote the importance of understanding—and working toward fixing—a persistent problem. Agent: Andrew Stuart, Stuart Agency. (Apr.)