Book Review, Health Conditions/Diseases, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Addiction on Trial: Follow-up Interview with Dr. Steven Kassels

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Steven Kassels this summer re: his recently published book, Addiction on Trial: Tragedy in Downeast Maine, which posted to Social Justice SolutionsI enjoy reading and read a few books at a time, so this one appealed to me as a ‘fun read’ initially but went a step further as another theme in the book is addiction. So my fun read became enjoyably educational.

If you as a reader like crime, murder-mystery, courtroom drama, and dysfunctional family dynamics, then you will like this book. If you are a reader who wants to be educated with a refreshing approach, the interwoven theme of addiction will appeal to you as well.

The College of Atlantic is using the book in its Psychology and Counseling courses and Dr. Kassels hopes that the book becomes a teaching tool in other colleges and universities.  The characters are based on medical truths and by exposing the characters in such a realistic manner, the author demystifies and de-stigmatizes the meaning of addiction. But it does not stop there, going one step further to engage the reader in addiction’s medical, economic, psychological, and social impacts, while being entertained and enthralled by the egotistical yet likeable high-powered Boston attorney who travels to Downeast Maine to defend the heroin addict from away, who has migrated to Downeast Maine with hopes of starting life anew.

Discussions in the classroom focus on the individual characters, medical treatment options, psychosocial support, and benefits of talk therapy. In examining the wide range of personalities and situations that the book brings to life (relapsed heroin addict, enabling father, alcoholic parent, and the community’s reaction to the murder trial) societal biases and nuances are explored.

Dr. Kassels has had many speaking engagements, and most recently spoke in Baltimore at the Flight Attendants Drug and Alcohol Program which was attended by approximately 300 pilots and flight attendants. Earlier in December, he was invited to the Book Fair at the Union League Club in New York City.

Dr. Kassels will be speaking to the Coalition on Physician Education in Substance Use Disorders group in Spring 2015. This group includes academic deans who meet to discuss improving medical school curriculum. The idea is to utilize Addiction on Trial as a way to engage and educate medical students and hopefully to counter any prejudice early in young doctors’ training. Dr. Kassels believes that insufficient time is spent in medical schools educating about the disease of addiction, especially when so many illnesses are the result of substance abuse; much of which can be minimized or avoided if the underlying factor of addiction is diagnosed and treated proactively.

American Society of Addiction Medicine Magazine just published an article by Dr. Kassels, which further explains the impact he hopes to make on the medical community.

He participates either in person or by Skype in book club gatherings to talk about the characters, the trial, the sequel currently being composed, the complexities of addiction or a combination thereof. Should you be interested, please contact him to schedule a talk. There is no charge for his participation in your event; and in fact when books are sold at speaking engagements Dr. Kassels customarily donates his author proceeds and any honorarium to local charities, such as homeless shelters and addiction treatment centers. When speaking at book readings, his presentation is adapted to the type of audience and geographic region. You can easily listen to a book reading and medical discussion or other interviews at: An Evening with Dr. Kassels at College of the Atlantic.

If you are interested in reading the book, you have the option of paperback or hard cover versions; or an ebook through: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes. The ebook version is available for 99 cents through January 8, 2015 and the soft cover and hard cover book versions are on sale as well! The book has a 4.9 out of 5 star rating! It is a great book to curl up with over the holidays, and whether you wish to be entertained or educated or both, you won’t be disappointed.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW