By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  June 16, 2009

Stein handily weaves in facts and figures (last year, Vicodin was the most prescribed drug in the US), attitudes about addicts, and the history of narcotics in this country. He muses on our continuing lack of understanding of addiction: is it "mental illness, a loss of will, an obsessive-compulsive symptom, a character disorder, a spiritual condition?" And he emphasizes that "eleven million Americans take opiates for non-medical, recreational purposes." Though not intended as a primer on addiction, The Addict is authoritative, informative, and thought-provoking.

It is also heart-wrenching. By the end of the book, Stein has guided the reader to make the connection that he, as a sensitive and optimistic physician, makes: "that addiction has something important to say to and about us," no matter how different our life experiences might be from those of a drug-addicted person. The Addict is not only a book for our times, it is a call to re-examine our own family dynamics and to ponder the possibilities for positive change.

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