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DirtyReview - Dirty
A Search for Answers Inside America's Teenage Drug Epidemic
by Meredith Maran
HarperSanFrancisco, 2003
Review by Dick C.
Jan 5th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 1)

The motivation behind Dirty is the author's personal experience with her own children in the teen years. She found herself unable to completely recognize signs from her own children regarding the abyss of addictions. This inspired her to this work. She has done an excellent job of mapping for the suspecting parent what to look for and what to expect. This in itself is a major contribution to the overall addiction issues. It will be very helpful to unsuspecting parents with little or no experience in these matters.

There is no question with anyone who has children that the most dreaded time period is the teenage years. This fear is of course driven by the horrors of the unknown as it relates to the teens and possible addictions. There are two types of parents these days. Those that have no prior experience in the world of drugs or addictions and those that have none. Those that have are better prepared to recognize the signs of problems with teens who may be taking this path of destruction.

Dirty presents an intense perspective that would be most useful to those that have no prior experience with drugs or addictions themselves. The author spent much time in actual circumstances interacting and witnessing actual teen behavior. Much of the book is related in the daily speak of the teen generation which is almost in code.

The book switches between teen speak and traditional English. These transitions are not always smooth and somewhat confusing. These instances were overcome by simple re-reads of the material.

Dirty contains considerable redundancy in these teen speak parts. So much so that at times the book is difficult to follow and becomes tedious. I would be quick to add that this teen speak will be extremely helpful to any parent or person who is attempting to recognize signs of looming teen problems.

The subtitles in Dirty would lead the reader to believe that eventually some avenues of addiction recovery would be discussed.  This was not found to be the case. The book accurately describes the repeated inefficiencies of the professional addiction recovery institutes. In many cases the addiction recovery has become an industry and less to do with the addicted and more to do with the revenue producing streams.

The research in this book is to be commended. Obviously this was a very difficult and time-consuming project.

The clinical value of the book to the trained professional will likely be low. The book and contents will affirm to the professional what they experience likely on a daily basis. The book however can be used a very useful tool by the professional community. In many cases the first contact is made with parent or parents who are trying to decide. In these cases a read of Dirty is recommended.

The frustration of what to do about the addicted person continues to exist. Those that attempt to discover the ultimate answer are to be applauded. However much like the discovery of the wheel, the answer has changed little over time. Those that expect a startling discovery will be disappointed.

If you are a parent and would like to save your child from this horrible fate, there is only one answer. Tough Love!!  Most parents cannot bring themselves to administer such love. Dirty can and will be a useful tool to the parent or parents who feel lost.

Overall the review found this book to be interesting, insightful and certainly helpful. It will provide considerable help to any parent that has no experience in these matters.


© 2005 Dick C


Dick C is a retired business executive. He is himself a recovering alcoholic with twenty years of continuous sobriety. During this time Dick C has spent much of his time in the process of helping others. At one time he was an elected Delegate in the recovery movement. He writes under a pen name to maintain his anonymity. This is a very important part of the overall recovery process. Dick C currently has three published books on the subject of recovery. They are written from the perspective of the addict as opposed to an observer.


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