A Father’s Struggle With His Son’s Addiction, Why David Sheff Says Addiction Is A Mental Illness | St. Louis Public Radio

A Father’s Struggle With His Son’s Addiction, Why David Sheff Says Addiction Is A Mental Illness

Apr 8, 2013

David Sheff is a journalist and New York Times best-selling author. 

In 2008, he wrote a memoir, Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction, about how his family dealt with his son‘s methamphetamine addiction.

In a new book, Sheff argues that addicts suffer from an illness and are not simply victims of their own bad choices.  “We must acknowledge addiction is an illness…and not just bad behavior…because we punish bad behavior…we treat illness,” Sheff writes.

Host Don Marsh talked with David Sheff, about his new work, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy.

“Young people are the trick,” Sheff said.  “The brain is developing more for us as humans from when you’re 15 years old up until about 25…and that’s when it’s the most vulnerable and that’s exactly the time when most kids start using.  Ninety percent of the people who become addicted started before they were 18.”

Parents and Stigma

Sheff writes about how parents and families become consumed with a child’s drug addiction. 

“When a child becomes addicted…it’s a life and death and parent’s jobs are to protect our kids and suddenly and it gets worse and we’re watching it happen as they spiral out of control,”Sheff said.

“The other thing is they’re being judged.  It would be horrific to have a child get cancer but there would only be sympathy and support from the people around you. But if you have a child who’s starting to use drugs there’s a sense that they’re the bad kids and in some ways they deserve it and you must be a bad parent…but it has to do with a combination of forces that create addiction,” Sheff said.

Related Event

St. Louis Public Library Presents David Sheff
Monday, April 8, 2013
7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
St. Louis Public Library's Central Library, 1301 Olive Street

(314) 241-2288

 St. Louis Public Library Website

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