The Addict by Michael Stein

One year in the treatment of a Vicodin addict, as told by the internist who treated her with medication.

Dr. Michael Stein is an internist specializing in prescribing a drug that blocks the effect of painkillers on a patient. In The Addict, subtitled One Patient, One Doctor, One Year, Stein recounts his journey treating Lucy, a promising young woman whose life has been stunted by an addiction to prescription medication. Lucy is meant to be an Everywoman; a college graduate, she’s a far cry from the stereotypical lower-income addict–unless, of course, you watch “Intervention” on A&E. If you do, you’ll know that Lucy’s story is quite common.

As an internist, Stein uses conversation as a means of diagnosis, not treatment as he would if he were a psychologist. He prescribes a strictly managed drug regimen meant to help Lucy restore her life. In doing so, he spends time talking with her as she describes the life she’d been living and how treatment is changing her.

As a narrative, The Addict was a little thin. In many ways, it’s a suitable companion to “Intervention,” showing what happens after the addict enters treatment. Yet Lucy’s story didn’t feel completely realistic, and I questioned at many points whether or not she was a composite of several of Stein’s patients.

Of course, the story is building to the “why.” What would turn a college-educated young woman into an addict? I don’t want to give it away, but I have to say that I found the story to be perplexing, even fishy. Either someone was covering up a crime or Lucy’s memory of the events was inaccurate. It was very strange to me.

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