Top Ten Books for Methadone Counselors

I have a fair number of methadone counselors who read my blog. I’m often asked by these counselors what books I recommend, which is like asking me what kind of dessert is good. The list is so long. But here are the ones all methadone counselors should read:

  1.  Medication-assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Opioid Treatment Programs, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This is better known as “TIP 43,” because it’s the 43rd book in the series of treatment improvement protocols published by SAMHSA. You can get any book in the series for FREE! Yes, this book and several others are free resources. The website is: While you’re there, order TIP 40: Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Buprenorphine in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction, and TIP 35: Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment. Then browse around, and see what else interests you. This is a great website, and all addictions counselors should be very familiar with it. There’s great material for counselors and their clients.
  2.   Pain Pill Addiction: Prescription for Hope, by….me. Hey, it’s my blog, so of course I’m gonna list my book. At least I didn’t put it at number one. But seriously, I do think my book describes what opioid addiction is, why this country is having such problems with opioid addiction now, and the available treatments for this addiction. I focus on medication-assisted treatments, which means treatments with methadone or buprenorphine, better known as Suboxone. After reading my book, any substance abuse counselor should be able to talk intelligently with patients and their families about the pros and cons of medication-assisted treatment. I tried hard to base this book on available research and not my own opinions, though I do state some of my opinions in the book. My book also has summaries of the major studies done using medication-assisted treatments, so that if you need resources to prove why methadone works, you’ll have them. OK. I’m done blathering. Order it on EBay and you’ll save some money.
  3.      Motivational Interviewing by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick. This is a book all addiction counselors should have… and read. I’ve learned so much about how to interact with people as they consider if, how, and when to make changes in their lives by reading this book. The authors demonstrate how the Stages of Change model easily fits with this style of counseling. There are some solid examples of how to incorporate MI techniques.
  4.      Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse, by Aaron Beck et. al. This is a venerable text describing cognitive therapy as it applies to substance abuse. The book is relatively concise, but it’s still dense reading. Get out your underliner because you’ll want to find some parts to read again. The dialogues in the book that serve as examples are instructive. This book has been around for some time, as texts go, since it was published in 2001.
  5.     Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, by Narcotics Anonymous World Service. Now in its sixth edition, this is one of the books that serve as a foundation for 12-step recovery in Narcotics Anonymous. If you are a counselor who’s in recovery, you’ve probably already read it. If you’re not, you need to get it, read it, and be able to talk intelligently about the 12-step recovery program of this 12-step group. The AA “Big Book,” which is AA’s version of a basic text, has much of the original old-time words and phrases, and speaks mostly of alcohol. For these reasons, some addicts won’t like the Big Book as well as the NA Basic Text. However, the Big Book does have a certain poetry that will appeal to others. (….trudge the road of happy destiny…) You can order it at or go to that site and download it as a pdf.
  6.  The Treatment of Opioid Dependence, by Eric Strain and Maxine Stitzer. Written in 2005, this is an update to a similar title written in the 1990’s. This book reviews the core studies underpinning our current treatment recommendations for patients in medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction. I don’t know why more people haven’t read this book, because it’s relatively easy to understand. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it will be too advanced for you. Get it and read it.
  7. Addiction and Change: How Addictions Develop and Addicted People Recover, by Carlo DiClemente. This book describes the paths people follow as they become addicted and as they recover. It’s focused on the transtheoretical model of the stages of change, so named because it can be used with many counseling theories. I think this is a practical book, and easier to understand than some texts.
  8.  Diagnosis Made Easier: Principles and Techniques for Mental Health Technicians, by James Morrison M.D. This is an improvement of his earlier book, DMS IV Made Easy, written in 1992. At any work site, addictions counselors will have to be familiar with the criteria used to diagnose mental illnesses. Since around 30 – 50% of addicts have another co-occurring mental illness, you need to be familiar with the criteria used to diagnose not just addiction, but these other illnesses as well. And this book makes learning relatively painless. It’s practical and easy to read, and based on common sense. It contains many case examples, which keep it interesting.
  9. The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control, by David Musto. This book has been updated and is on its third edition, but so much has happened since this last edition in 1999 that the author needs to write an update. This is an interesting book, and it moves fairly quickly. This information puts our present opioid problem into the context of the last century or so. As an alternative, you can read Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America, by David Courtwright in 2001. I included this book, but be warned it’s heavier reading. This author is an historian, so maybe his writing style didn’t resonate with me as much. Still, he has much good information. You can’t go wrong with either book. You could also read The Fix by Michael Massing, which is another book about the history of addiction and its treatment in the U.S… This last book doesn’t focus on just opioid addiction, but still gives all the pertinent history. This book is written by a journalist and will keep your interest. It was written in 2000.
  10.  Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System, by Lonnie Shavelson. This book, written by a journalist, follows five addicts through the labyrinth of addiction treatment. You’ll see the idiotic obstructions addicts seeking help are asked to negotiate in our present healthcare system. I was angry as I read the book, seeing obvious simple solutions that couldn’t be enacted for one administrative reason or another. Let this book make you angry enough to demand change from our system. Be an advocate for addicts seeking treatment.

 Have I left out any? Let me know which book have helped you be a better counselor or therapist.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by brian phipps on January 25, 2011 at 3:43 am

    nice to see you list the na blue book. the green and gold traditions book of na is a wonderful resource as well. i think it does a great job of showing how and why 12 step recovery is so effective. thanks for your blog.


  2. Posted by Anonymous on January 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    N/A has a written policy that methadone patients can attend meetings if they want to get off methadone, but otherwise they cannot participate, lead a meeting, or serve as a trusted servant (meaning you can’t even make the coffee!). They consider methadone treatment to be “using” and therefore a person on methadone doesn’t meet the basic criteria for N/A, which is a desire to stop using.

    This is a link to the NA statement on methadone and other drug “replacement” therapies.


  3. Posted by K.C.B. on August 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    That’s bullshit! Methadone is approved drug treatment by the Florida court & probation systems, but it’s not good enough for N.A. What a bun ch of ignorant hypocrites.


    • The difference is that the Florida court & probation system is a public system. NA is a nonprofit fellowship of people who found a non-drug way to recover. So no, not bullshit. You may not agree with them, but they have every right to believe what they do.


      • Posted by Solarc on January 29, 2015 at 8:01 pm

        They may have the right to believe what they do, but I will get in their face real close when they start providing misinformation about things they do not understand because they are stocked on the twelve steps and are true believers and indoctrinated.

        You did miss one book

        Hester and MIller <same dude that researched and develop the Motivational Interview. Which many counselors claim to follow, but have no idea what they are talking about, they might not even have read the book. They consider Motivation Counseling equals Nagging someone to death.

        Any way Hes5er and Miller "Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches Effective alternatives (3rd ed.), 2003, Allyn & Bacon. Although the title mentions alcoholism their research is about substance as a whole. They are on their third edition. I consider the books the review of the literature on alcohol and substance use treatment. Including assessment, evaluation and treatment. There has been a number of review written. The one I think is the most full is on
        done by a Marty N he does express some bias but he did even number the pages where he quated the book.

  4. That bulletin was written in the 90s. See more recent info below from NA website. Anyone is welcome. Sure there are still some groups who may decide that speaking while still in any kind of TX is not OK. Each NA group is autonomous and like with any type of group people’s understanding may be limited or not. This is changing in my area, Philadelphia, where I’m told at some meetings the majority of attendees are on or have been on medication assisted TX. One of our largest Metyadone Clincs says about a third of their clienst also attend NA or AA. Its noted that they are often some of the more successful folks at teh clinic. Its not for everybody of course but they are not mutually exclusive anymore. Times are changing. There is abstinance and there is recovery. Each human on the planet may have a different take on what that means and it can be fluid.

    From NA website:
    “We do not have an opinion about methods used in a treatment facility, nor do we endorse the use of any mind or mood altering drugs. When the subject of methadone comes up, it is important not to judge. Based on our Eighth and Tenth Traditions, we are not in a position to do so. We can only tell them they are welcome at any NA meeting, read NA literature, and keep coming back.

    Our Eighth Tradition tells us that we are not physicians, psychiatrists, or therapists. We are recovering addicts. The principles underlying the Eighth Tradition are eminently practical ones: Prudence, anonymity, and integrity.

    The Tenth Tradition states that, “We have no opinion on outside issues…” Our primary purpose, as a member of H&I, is to share our experience, strength, and hope with addicts in an H&I setting. Aside from that, we have no opinion whatsoever. By refusing to take sides on other issues, we avoid becoming embroiled in controversies that could detract us from our primary purpose.

    Our program approaches recovery from addiction through abstinence, cautioning against substituting one drug from another. That’s our program. That’s what we have to offer the addict that still suffers. However, we have absolutely no opinion on methadone maintenance, or anyother program aimed at treating addiction. “


  5. Posted by Solarc on January 29, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Oh, by the way there is an anecdote going around that says that Bill Wilson and Vincent Dole had met and that Bill Wilson ask Dr. Dole to develop a medication for alcoholics. Bill Wilson has been said to have been in the Harvard Studies of LSD with Tympthy Leary and Al Port. I do not know how accurate these stories are but they seem to have some reality to them. Does anyone has any other information about it?


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