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“Addicts Who Survived” by David Courtwright: Crucial Work on Drug Addiction

Despite all the government’s measures to combat drug addiction, this problem remains relevant to this day. Unfortunately, at the moment, it is not possible to cure every drug-addicted person. There is a significant amount of research on this topic. They are dedicated to the effects of various drugs, discuss remedies, or tell stories of current and former addicts. One of the prime examples of such work is the book by David Courtwright, Addicts Who Survived. The purpose of this paper is to identify the main issues raised by the author and to discuss the content of the book.

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Dedicated to the problem of drug addiction, the book is not limited to narrow issues related to the treatment of this terrible disease. It examines the topic in all the complexity of social and psychological problems, without understanding which it is impossible to overcome addiction. One of the book’s primary roles is played by people’s characters and their complex relationships with others; the language is not burdened with particular terminology. The book’s purpose is to tell the whole truth about such widespread evil in the modern world as drug addiction. The author reveals its psychological and social causes and shows that there is still a way out of the seemingly vicious circle. Written in the genre of popular literature, the book is intended for a wide range of readers. It describes in detail various aspects of the life of drug addicts in different historical times, which allows readers to get a full understanding of the issue.

One of the author’s main conclusions is that drug addiction is a consequence of the wrong lifestyle, a perverted value system, and an infantile idea of ​​the surrounding world. This is a fundamentally new look at drug addiction. An important question is whether a drug addict needs a doctor or an exemplary educator who will help a lost person find their place in this world. After reading the stories of people who have been addicted for many years, readers can understand the true price of this terrible curiosity. From the narrative, it is clear that it threatens with losing loved ones, personal decay, and a horrible death long before old age.

The author pays considerable attention to the historical and political aspects of the fight against addiction. Thus, one of the main methods of this research is working with various documentary sources. By studying them, he builds a complete picture of how the process of dealing with addictions has transformed over time. The reader understands that at some point in history, drug addiction was not considered a disease. Consequently, little attention was paid to this issue, which contributed to the aggravation of the problem. However, the government began an active fight against drugs, which made it possible to suspend this process. Despite this, there was no complete understanding of how drugs influence people and why they can be dangerous. Hence, not all methods of struggle were effective, and their improvement is relevant even now.

The described book is significant and elaborate work. It reflects many aspects of drug addicts’ psychology, allowing a better understanding of these people and the mechanism of addiction. Each of the stories immerses readers in the living conditions, hopes, and anxieties of the interviewees. The author, undoubtedly, achieves his goal, not only talking about addiction, but also showing its connection with psychological, social, and political processes. This is essential both for a complete picture of different historical stages of the existence of drugs and for understanding the personal characteristics of drug addicts.

The stories collected by the author vividly describe the states of drug addicts: “I got sick. I threw up. But there’s an overriding feeling of peace that erased the memory of the nausea and the discomfort” (Courtwright et al. 58). On the one hand, this description reflects how well the person is feeling. However, on the other hand, it causes controversial feelings: anxiety and even fear. The combination of rejection of the body and positive emotions are described vividly enough to indicate the negative effect of drugs on a person.

Drug use can be imposed by society, which the author also notes. One story says that “cocaine use was just a passing fancy, being with the crowd” (Courtwright et al. 69). With the help of these words, the reader clearly understands that people sometimes use drugs without wanting to under the pressure of others. However, in order not to stand out from the crowd, they are ready to become drug addicts themselves, not understanding the full danger of the process and the complexity of getting rid of addiction.

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The author describes the mechanism of the beginning and strengthening of dependence. One interviewee says: “I figure I smoked about an ounce or a half-ounce a day. The majority of time I’d have company, but then I enjoyed smoking it alone” (Courtwright et al. 85). Thus, the human brain gets used to receiving a regular dose of the drug. Having a company is no longer a motivation to consume. On the contrary, the main goal is getting pleasure, and where, how, and with whom it happens is not so important. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous process, because sometimes it even pushes people to commit crimes: theft, violence, or murder.

David Cortwright’s Addicts Who Survived is a crucial work in many other books on drug addiction. It describes the stories of people with different addictions, which vividly reflect the life of drug addicts. By collecting these stories, the author helps readers understand what drug addiction is. Thus, the audience of the book can compose a full-fledged psychological portrait of the addict. Undoubtedly, this is quite scary, so it protects people from addictions since they fully realize drugs’ danger.

Work Cited

Courtwright, David, et al. Addicts Who Survived: An Oral History of Narcotic Use in America before 1965. University of Tennessee Press, 2013.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, April 16). “Addicts Who Survived” by David Courtwright: Crucial Work on Drug Addiction. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, April 16). “Addicts Who Survived” by David Courtwright: Crucial Work on Drug Addiction.

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