Review: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Close Encounters with Addiction

Five stars for the hard science and experience, three for the recommended treatment? I was drawn into the first 3/4 of this book, wherein the author discusses the realities of street-level, needle addiction, and the current understanding of the neurological basis of addition. Good stuff. Barely put it down. I have definitely shifted my understanding and view of decriminalization and harm reduction as a result.

On reflection, I’m pondering a bit of a gap: the claim that addicts are locked up for being addicts, whereas most of the people I know who have done prison time as a result of their addiction did time for real crimes that were committed under the influence, because of the influence. (Think drunk driving, drunken fights leading to murder, armed hold-ups, etc.) Still not sure how to think about this. Decriminalized drugs would take organized crime out of the picture, certainly. They will not take violence and insanity out of the addict.

I found myself losing interest in Hungry Ghosts as the author moved into his own solutions for individual recovery from addiction, a four+one step program of his own design. It’s one thing to be forgiving of oneself when a relapse means buying another classical music CD or being late to work again. It’s completely different when a relapse means driving up the on-ramp in the wrong direction and killing a family of four. Finally, reading an explanation of the 12 Steps written by someone who has been to one meeting, three years ago, might almost be amusing. Except it’s not.

On whole, the parts of the book that were informative and interesting to me vastly outweighed the few chapters that weren’t. Hungry Ghosts is well worth the reading, and given its price, worth the buying, too, if your life is touched by any form of addiction.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close encounters with addiction

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