By Michael Massing
Reviewed by Gillian Ellenby
The book is an easy enough read, but is kind of a mess in the way it is
For those of us who have only thought of substance problems and recovery issues in terms of our own lives and limited circle of experience this book is a must-read. It provides an eye-opening look into the way that policy decisions are made in Washington, and how these decisions actually can affect people's lives.Michael Massing gives us an account of the United States Drug Policy since the Nixon administration, interwoven with the lives of two real people actually affected by the policy decisions: a crack addict who goes into treatment, and a manic counselor who organizes treatment for addicts. He covers the years from Nixon's largely successful attempts to control the heroin epidemic of the late sixties and early seventies, to the current situation - no reduction in numbers of addicts, huge jail populations, and massive amounts of money being funneled into futile attempts to control the supply side of the problem.He gives us tremendous insight into how personal egos and political agendas get in the way of rational, well-thought-out strategies to alleviate problems. And he reminds us that the issue of how to treat any kind of addiction is indeed a political issue.The book is a real page-turner. I found that I could hardly wait to get to the end of the story! I found myself reduced almost to tears on many occasions, partly due to frustration at all the wasted opportunities that he describes, and partly due to sadness at the broken lives he talks about. But I also felt hopeful as he describes the tremendous strides towards rehabilitation made by one of his real-life characters.