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The Book of Drugs

Mike Doughty

Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Dec. 16, 2011

Memoir Suite

The Book of Drugs

by Mike Doughty
Da Capo Press, 252 pp., $16 (paper)

A couple of years ago, Mike Doughty came on my KUT-FM radio show and declined to talk about fronting Soul Coughing. Now I understand why. Without naming names, Doughty explodes with such an unrelenting onslaught of scathing negativity toward his fellow bandmates that it's hard to fathom how the group stayed together for seven years, long enough to release three acclaimed albums in the mid-to-late 1990s. At first it makes for a compelling read, but the vituperation gets old and one wonders why, if the atmosphere was so rancid, Doughty stuck around. Even then, his memoir isn't about making music; it's about addiction and redemption. Pills, pot, and Ecstasy worked for a while. "This is what I wanted to do with my life. Be outrageously high, be absolutely alone except for 'adoration from fans.'" Halfway through The Book of Drugs, Doughty is introduced to "whizz" (heroin) while on a video shoot in England. His addiction to dope and then alcohol isn't a pretty picture. With the support of an unnamed "rock legend," his eventual recovery through 12-step programs ("in the rooms," as he calls it) is inspiring. There's the requisite sex and some exotic travels, but more on the music side, particularly regarding his present solo career, would have been nice.

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