I have been a practicing pharmacist for over 31 years. I am board certified in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry. During my career, I have spent countless hours in psychiatric and community hospitals, as well as medical centers. My main interest has always been psychiatry, especially concerning addiction.
I have read many books over the years regarding this subject. Some have been life-changing, others were a waste of my time.
The list I have created sidesteps books that glorify addiction. I have not listed books describing the lives of rock stars or movie stars. The goal is to create a helpful list for anyone who needs it. Some of the books on this list are instructional, and others are informational.
Addiction has a high price. I have personally watched many people die because they overdosed or abused their bodies to the point of no return. This disease does not discriminate. It can, and does happen to people of all ages and all walks of life.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, the best thing to do is get help.
I cannot overstress the importance of treatment. Although some can kick the habit on their own, many need assistance from professionals. It is well worth it. Your life depends on it!
Table of Contents
- 1. Alcoholics Anonymous – The Big Book- First published 1939, 4th edition
- 2. Integral Recovery – John Dupuy
- 3. The Easy Way to Stop Drinking – Allen Carr
- 4. Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery – Erica Spiegelman
- 5. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself – Melody Beattie
- 6. Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction - Maia Szalavitz
- 7. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brene Brown
- 8. Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism – George McGovern
- 9. The Big Fix: Hope After Heroin – Tracey Helton Mitchell
- 10. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic – Sam Quinones
- 11. Cherry – Nico Walker
- 12. Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects – Steps Six and Seven - Bill P., Todd W., Sara S.
- 13. The Easy Way to Stop Smoking – Allen Carr
- 14. Never Enough – The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction – Judith Grisel
- 15. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – David D. Burns, M.D.
This book outlines the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous. These steps have helped many addicts kick their habit.
The 12 steps are also the cornerstone of many other treatment programs. This book is a great starting point for anyone suffering from alcoholism or other addictions. The first edition of this book was published in 1939.
I listed it at number one due to its popularity and success.
This book is a must for any recovering addict. It is intense but comprehensive.
This is an excellent resource for families, friends and any health care provider who treats patients with addiction disorders. This book describes a more holistic approach to recovery by combining treatments of the past with the latest knowledge and techniques.
It provides a roadmap to follow during a person’s journey through the recovery process.
Dupuy uses stories and examples from his life as well as other addicts to explain many aspects of recovery, including treatment plans, assessments, and approaches to relapse prevention.
This is the book I used to stop drinking alcohol. My last drink was taken on February 28th, 2010. The book discusses one justification for drinking alcohol in each chapter. That reasoning is then refuted with common sense and medical data.
It has changed my life and made me a better husband and father.
Allen is a master at removing the psychological triggers that lead to drinking. He explains why the benefits people believe they are getting from drinking alcohol are fictitious. I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with alcohol.
Allen Carr also has a book titled “Allen Carr’s easy way to stop smoking” which is number thirteen on this book list.
Rewired is a new, breakthrough approach to fighting addiction and self-damaging behavior by acknowledging our personal power to bring ourselves back from the brink.
This book outlines a fresh approach to recovery. The book contains 12 chapters, each covering a different aspect of the recovery process. It provides real-life success stories from people who have conquered their addiction. Patience and compassion are the main aspects of the humanist approach to addiction treatment and are taught in this book. I recently read an interview with the author conducted by Caroline McGraw. Erica, the author, ended with the following quote:
…allow yourself the gift of love and healing. And I promise you, you’ll have the best life that you could ever have imagined.
If you are looking for a cutting-edge perspective on addition with a positive message, this book is for you.
Codependent No More is written for the families of recovering addicts. Codependency is counter-productive for the addict. This book gives family members exercises to help regain their individuality.
Learn to live your own life and stop assisting a loved one in destroying theirs. Be happy, restore hope, and begin the healing process.
Setting boundaries is healthy for the family member as well as the addict. I strongly recommend reading this book if you believe you are in a codependent relationship.
Related: Best Codependency Books
Maia Szalavitz shares a new perspective on the addictive personality. She provides a fresh view of addiction theory.
Maybe addicts don’t have “broken brains” or lack willpower. Could learning and development lead to the formation of habits?
She also explores new approaches to treatment, including the LEAD program in Washington State. Maia delves into brain chemistry, the physiology of addiction, and the effect of drug abuse politics on society.
She discusses the twelve-step program and points out some of its shortcomings. This book illustrates some fresh ideas in the fight against substance abuse.
The Gifts of Imperfection is about being OK with who you are. Our society is filled with messages describing who we should be and how we should act.
I believe this is an excellent read for any recovering addict. It can help change how we all feel about the expectations placed on us. We are all important and are put on this earth for a specific reason.
Brown identifies ten “guideposts” in wholehearted people’s lives. She writes a short chapter about each. This is not a long book, but it does cover how to be happy with ourselves. One aspect of the book is letting go of harmful habits.
George McGovern passed away in 2012. He was a US Senator, US representative and the Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 1972. I included this book to point out that depression and addiction can happen to anyone.
George’s daughter Terry was found frozen to death in Madison, Wisconsin in December of 1994. She had spent that evening heavily drinking. Her blood-alcohol level was higher than three times the legal limit. She left behind two young daughters.
Terry had a complicated life. She started drinking at 13. Two years later, Terry became pregnant and had an abortion. She attempted suicide as an adolescent and was arrested for marijuana possession.
This book includes some of Terry’s journal entries outlining her drinking habits and feelings.
The Big Fix is the story of a heroin addict who beat the odds, moved past her addiction, and reclaimed her life. She spent many years on the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District.
She is now a certified addiction specialist possessing a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in public administration. Her focus is on her recovery journey from street addict to a successful, stable mother of three.
Her inspirational story can give hope to those who believe there is no way out.
This list would not be complete without a book about America’s opiate crisis. As a health care professional, I see the effects of this crisis daily.
Dreamland is a well-written book that paints a gloomy picture of our opiate epidemic. It tells the story of the marketing of Oxycontin, a prescription pain reliever, as well as the influx of black tar heroin from Mexico.
I recommend this book for those who wish to learn the history of one of our country’s biggest struggles.
Cherry is a book written by a former army medic. After returning to the states after his tour in Iraq, he and his girlfriend become addicted to heroin. They robbed banks to support their habit. The author was convicted and sent to prison in 2012. The book was written in prison where Nico remains today.
This book does get a bit raunchy at times. I added it to the list as a reminder of what can happen to a relatively “normal” person when addiction takes hold of their lives.
Drop the Rock digs deeper into steps six and seven of the twelve-step program. The authors describe anger, fear, intolerance, and self-pity as the “rocks” that can sink the recovery process.
Personal stories are used to illustrate the author’s points. This is an excellent book for those navigating recovery from any addiction.
If you want to quit smoking, this is a perfect book to read. There has been a clinical trial published on October 25, 2018, demonstrating the effectiveness of this method.
Allen does not utilize medications in his recovery process. Carr speaks of how cigarettes are not a reward but a negative experience for the smoker. He describes a monster fed by continuously smoking.
The only way to kill the beast is to stop smoking cold turkey. Carr removes all the glamour from smoking and helps retrain the mind to realize how devastating ingesting this substance really is.
Never Enough is a fascinating book written by an expert who experimented with many substances in her early years. She is now a professor of psychology at Bucknell University.
Grisel explains how mind-altering drugs work and how the brain learns to adapt to their effects. Since the brain has an infinite ability to adapt, there is never drug to satisfy the person.
She believes addiction to be a combination of genetics, development, and one’s environment. Punishment for drug abuse is also explored.
If there is one book that has changed my life for the better, this is it. Although not a book written explicitly for addiction and recovery, the tools explained in this book can help anyone improve their general mood.
Depression and anxiety are very prevalent in the addict. Feeling Good explains how thinking errors can lead to these conditions and gives the reader tools to change their thinking. A result is a person who feels better about themselves. Dr Burns packs this book with exercises to help improve mood.
Everyone can benefit from this book.
Read next: 7 Best Books for Recovering Addicts