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Unbroken Brain

Book Notes

When I bought this book, I made the "mistake" of buying it in Kindle and audio format. Wasn't really a mistake to buy it in audio format, as I really like being able to switch from reading to listening (when I can't read) and back to reading. Reading a book is preferable to reading an ebook is preferable to listening to audio, but being able to progress through a book without stopping is preferable to not reading, so, digital formats it was. Taking notes, however, is really hard with the audio version, hence, my "mistake."

Claire recommended this book. I am glad I listened to her recommendation, as I highly recommend this book. I recommend this book not only for anyone with an addiction, but also for anyone with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances, students, or awareness of someone with an addiction (which, if you're counting, is everyone).

This book presents addiction not as a moral failing, as is how the United States treats all addictions, but as a learning disability. Before you go, "Poo poo, what the f---?" the book is worth a read. It is backed by study after study after study. Along with examples of how the current system does not work, examples of how approaching the problem of addiction from a learning disability changes the whole solution of addiction are given.

I spent much of this book highlighting sections, bookmarking parts, and thinking, "Yes, yes, yes." A couple times, my thoughts went to "hoollllllleeeee sheeeeeeeeeeeet," when the revelation happened. I'm positive I didn't capture all of these moments, and I'm not summarizing the book well. The author doesn't present new research, but she does provide a good layman's interpretation of the studies, with lots of references that can be independently reviewed.

I want to buy a zillion copies of this book and insist that anyone who thinks punishment is an appropriate response to addiction read this book. Harm reduction, empathy development, recognizing racial prejudices with drug law enforcement, and understanding the _why_ of addicton, instead of treating the people who already hate themselves for the addiction as criminals, all ring true as needed for actually fixing the problems of addiction.

Given that opiate addictions are FINALLY being openly discussed, finding statistic-based ways of helping people out of the addictions seems even more needed these days. I can recommend this book as a starting point all day and not come close to recommending it enough.

I had close to all of the book bookmarked or noted in some way or another. If I included them all, you'd have the whole book right here, so, no.

Some I did grab though:

Moreover, as parents and teachers everywhere know well, it’s almost impossible to force or coerce learning—especially to alter behavior that has already become habitual.
Page 6

Childhood ideas about oneself shape later self-concepts, in ways that can either increase or decrease resilience... Early interactions shape later ones, and over time, families aren’t just reacting to the person’s current behavior, but to their own interpretations of the person’s past behavior and the results of this whole iterated process.
Page 47

Here are a few cocaine addicts’ descriptions of what it feels like:

“I can remember many, many times driving down to the projects telling myself ‘You don’t want to do this! You don’t want to do this!’ But I’d do it anyway.”

“My body’s saying no and my mind’s saying no, but … we started all over again. I didn’t need it, I didn’t want it … it’s like some kind of molecular thing in my cells would go for it, you know. I felt like a fucking robot.”
Page 114

Instead, addiction is defined by using a drug or activity in a compulsive manner despite negative consequences. And “negative consequences,” of course, is simply a less morally charged phrase for a whole range of experiences that can be experienced as punishing; the terms are fundamentally synonymous. In other words, if punishment worked to fight addiction, the condition itself couldn’t exist.
Page 171

Harm reduction’s fundamental principles are these: stop trying to fight drug use, most of which does not cause harm. Don’t focus on whether getting high is morally or socially acceptable; recognize that people always have and probably always will take drugs and this doesn’t make them irrational or subhuman. Instead, work to find practical methods that reduce risk and minimize damage—and understand that everyone can learn, just not all in the same way.
Page 232

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