Publishers Weekly Review
In this meticulous, evocative memoir, Lewis, a neuroscientist and ex-junkie, explores how narcotics affect the brain and beguile the mind. His picaresque narrative recounts a lavish drug history: booze, cough syrup and pot at boarding school; LSD during his Vietnam-era college days at Berkeley; intermittent addictions to heroin and prescription opiates that led to pharmacy break-ins and arrest; a laughing-gas party in the Malaysian jungle. His odyssey frames a fascinating look at the mechanisms by which drugs disrupt brain chemistry, excite or sedate neurons, and trash perception, reasoning, and emotion. (A chapter on first love shows how sexual attraction stimulates the same dopamine reward system that hooks the brain on smack.) But Lewis also translates the neuroscience into luxuriant sensation with vivid depictions of the “absurdist carnival” of an acid trip or the “bright white pleasure” of a methamphetamine jag. His saga is as much trenchant psychology as it is hard neurology, as he probes the constant jangle of self-loathing and social awkwardness that drove him to drugs as an escape from reality. Lewis’s unusual blend of scientific expertise, street cred, vivid subjectivity and searching introspection yields a compelling perspective on the perils and allure of addiction.