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Book Forum: Somatic Therapies   |    
Handbook of Substance Abuse: Neurobehavioral Pharmacology
JAMES A. WILCOX, D.O., PH.D.; ARTHUR L. RAMIREZ, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2001;158:669-669. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.4.669
View Author and Article Information
El Paso, Tex.

Edited by Ralph E. Tarter, Robert T. Ammerman, and Peggy J. Ott. New York, Plenum, 1998, 602 pp., $110.00.

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Overall, this an excellent compendium of 11 classes of compounds that have the potential to lead to a substance abuse disorder. The handbook corresponds to the substance abuse disorders listed in DSM-IV in 1994. The book is divided into 12 sections, each organized into chapters on pharmacology, behavioral pharmacology, and the psychological and psychiatric consequences of each particular compound or psychotropic medication. As a small point, the multiauthored book (there are 62 authors) lists its contributors without a professional degree. Therefore, the reader is unaware initially as to whether the writer is a physician, a pharmacologist, or both. It is unclear why the various authors, many of them very knowledgeable, are not listed with their professional degrees.

Notable are the brief historical accounts of each substance presented at the beginning of each pharmacology chapter. For the clinician and researcher not familiar with the topic, the information is succinct but well presented. To those interested in the history of each substance or compound, some not too well-known facts are presented. For example, on the chapter on heroin, the author points out that the term "heroin" was coined by the Bayer Company in 1898. There are many other interesting historical footnotes.

The handbook addresses itself to the standard substance abuse disorders that most clinicians manage and confront in the clinical setting. Uniquely, however, the authors also present chapters titled "Anabolic Steroids," "Ecstasy," and "Phencyclidine."

With respect to the content and narrative style, the chapters on the pharmacology and behavioral pharmacology of each compound or substance at times become overloaded with article references, technical animal studies, and inconclusive findings. For the most part, the summaries at the end of each chapter serve to sift through the complex material presented and provide the reader with a sense of future research goals and, to a lesser degree, clinical applications. As with most multiauthored handbooks, there are some scattered repetitions of material and a lack of smooth linkage, even within the chapters of each major section.

The book is very descriptive about drug receptors. The pharmacological information is impressive for a text aimed at substance abuse and is superior to most writings directed at this topic. Illustrations and diagrams are well-done.

Overall, the Handbook of Substance Abuse may serve as a reference book for the clinical researcher interested in addictive illnesses or for busy clinicians who choose to update their knowledge of the pharmacological basis of potentially abusable compounds, medications, or commonly prescribed psychotropics, such as benzodiazepines.

In summary, the strengths of this handbook are in the areas of research issues in addictive illnesses and pharmacology. The handbook falls short, however, in the areas of diagnosis and clinical management of complex addictive illness.

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