Book recommendations about addiction

16 Dec 2022

There are a lot of great books out there, both fiction and non-fiction, that explore addiction in a comprehensive and nuanced way.

Reading these books can improve our understanding and make us more empathetic towards ourselves and others who we may know are struggling with their alcohol and drug use.


These books can also enlighten us on the stigma surrounding alcohol and drug use, and teach us how we can remove those barriers. So, whether you are someone who is looking to make changes to your alcohol and drug use or just an avid reader who wants to learn more about addiction, here are some book recommendations for you.

Be Aware of Triggers

Before you pick up a book, it is important to be mindful of your triggers. A lot of the books mentioned below do explore addiction in great detail, which may be overwhelming for some people. It is also recommended to do a quick google search to see what other themes these books explore which may trigger you (e.g. violence, sexual assault, racism).

Also remember to take breaks when reading these books. Not only does this provide you an opportunity to decompress, but it also gives you a chance to reflect on what you have just read and how it may relate to you or someone you know.

Reading is meant to be an enjoyable activity so make sure you are mindful of how these books make you feel, and take as many breaks as you need to make sure these books aren’t causing any negative feelings to resurface.


Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Set in 1980’s Glasgow, sweet innocent Shuggie lives in a rundown housing commission, with his mother Agnes. Although Shuggie adores his mother, her tumultuous relationship with alcohol impacts her ability to provide him the stability he needs.

A beautiful but heart-breaking story, Shuggie Bain portrays how alcohol impacts an individual and their relationship with their loved ones, while also showing how recovery is not always a straightforward journey.

If you find yourself enjoying Shuggie Bain, you can also read Douglas Stuart’s book Young Mungo which also explores drug and alcohol use.

The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining may not be the first book that comes to mind when you think about drug and alcohol use, given its paranormal themes. However, this classic thriller provides great insight into the role alcohol can play and how it contributes to dysfunctional families, domestic abuse, and cycles of family violence.

Jack Torrance, recovering from alcohol dependence, grew up with a father who drank. Although he tries to fight his urges to drink while staying at The Overlook with his wife Wendy and five year old son Danny, he eventually submits.

Jack’s descent into madness highlights the importance of seeking treatment early and incorporating effective strategies to help reduce the temptations.

In 2013, King wrote a sequel to The Shining, titled Doctor Sleep. King's own time in AA inspired him to write this sequel. The book returns to Danny in adulthood, where he is dealing with the traumas of having a father who drank and navigating how to break the cycle of a family history of drinking.


Chasing the Scream: The Search for the Truth About Addiction by Johann Hari

According to Johann Hari there were two wars that broke out in 1914. World War 1 and the War on Drugs. While World War 1 ended after four years, the War on Drugs continues to this day, and in this book, Hari tries to figure out why.

Travelling across nine countries, Hari interviews a diverse range of people, including; drug users, dealers, police and lawmakers, scientists, drug addiction specialists and drug reform advocates. He also profiles early figures in the drug war like jazz musician Billie Holiday, drug trafficker Arnold Rothstein, and Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Hari’s journey across the world and history exposes how strict laws and penalties enforced due to ‘The War on Drugs’ are more detrimental for society.

The Urge: Our History of Addiction by Carl Erik

Drawing on his own experience as a clinician and researcher, and in recovery from his own alcohol use disorder, Carl Erik explores the history of addiction.

Referring not only to science, but also literature, religion, philosophy, and sociology, Erik tries to figure out why humans have struggled to define, treat, and control addictive behaviour for most of recorded history.

While also learning lessons from the past, Erik examines the treatments and strategies that have produced hope and relief for many people struggling with drug and alcohol use, including himself.

The Urge is an insightful book that provides a nuanced perspective to the phenomenon of addiction, and breaks down the stigma surrounding drug and alcohol usage.

Seeking help

Always remember that you can seek help at any time.

For alcohol or other drug support call 1800 250 015 or visit Counselling Online.

For gambling support call 1800 858 858 or visit Gambling Help Online.