David Sheff

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David Sheff
Born (1955-12-23) December 23, 1955 (age 65)[1][2]
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley
Notable works

All We Are Saying: The Last Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono'
Game Over

SpouseKaren Barbour

David Sheff (born December 23, 1955) is an American author of the books Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy,[3] The Buddhist on Death Row,[4] and All We Are Saying: The Last Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Sheff is originally from Boston, Massachusetts.[6] His family is of Russian Jewish descent.[7] He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley.[6]


Sheff, a journalist, has written for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune, and National Public Radio's All Things Considered. His interview subjects have included John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Steve Jobs, Ai Weiwei, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Jack Nicholson, Ted Taylor, Carl Sagan, Betty Friedan, Barney Frank, and Fareed Zakaria, among others. In addition to Beautiful Boy, Sheff wrote the books Game Over, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Crisis,[8] China Dawn, and All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He has also been an editor of New West, California, and other magazines.[6]

Beautiful Boy was based on Sheff's article, "My Addicted Son," that first appeared in the New York Times Magazine.[9]

In January 2019, HIGH: Everything You Want to Know About Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction was published. A resource for middle-school readers offering clear, direct information about the realities of drugs and alcohol, it is Sheff and his son Nic's first collaborative project.[10]

In 2019, Sheff founded The Beautiful Boy Fund, a charity devoted to making quality, evidence-based treatment for substance-use disorder accessible to those in need of treatment, and identifying and supporting research to further the field of addiction medicine.

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2009, Sheff was included in Time Magazine's Time 100 and on the magazine's The World's Most Influential People list.[11] Beautiful Boy won the Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers Award"[12] for nonfiction and was an Amazon Best Book of the Year in 2008. The article in which the book is based won an award for "Outstanding Contribution to Advancing the Understanding of Addictions" from the Society of Addiction Psychology.[13]

He received media awards from College of Problems on Drug Dependence (CPDD), American Society of Addiction Medicine, The Partnership for Drug-free Kids, College of Problems on Drug Dependence (CPDD), American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), and was the first recipient of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) Arts and Literature Award.[citation needed]

Views on addiction[edit]

Sheff educates about addiction as a brain disease and is an advocate for putting addicts into therapy programs early.[14][15]

He believes life stresses and traumas are risk factors, and that therapy for these can help addiction prevention.[15][16] He is an advocate of life skills training to aid addiction prevention.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Sheff is on the advisory boards of the Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program "designed to help colleges and universities promote emotional well-being and mental health programming, reduce substance abuse and prevent suicide" among their students.[19] He is also an honorary board member with the International Bipolar Foundation.[20]

Sheff lives in Northern California with his wife, Karen Barbour, an artist, illustrator, and author of children's books. He has three children: Nic, Jasper, and Daisy Sheff. Nic Sheff, who has also written a memoir recounting his years of addiction in the book Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, is a writer for television and film.[21] Jasper Sheff is a musician and artist, and Daisy Sheff is an artist.

In popular culture[edit]

In 2018, Felix van Groeningen adapted Sheff's book Beautiful Boy into a feature film of the same name. In the film, Sheff is portrayed by Steve Carell, with Timothée Chalamet as his son, Nic. Actress Maura Tierney portrays David's wife, artist Karen Barbour, and Amy Ryan plays Nic's mother, Vicki.[22]


  1. ^ "Father and son memoirs". EW.com.
  2. ^ Sheff, David (January 1981). "Playboy Interview: John Lennon and Yoko Ono". Playboy Magazine. 28 (1). p. 75. Retrieved 20 December 2020. The interview apparently depended on Yoko's interpretation of my horoscope, just as many of Lenons' business decisions are reportedly guide by the stars. I could imagine explaining to my PLAYBOY editor, 'Sorry, but my moon is in Scorpio–the interview's off.' It was clearly out of my hands. I supplied the info: December 23, three P.M., Boston.
  3. ^ Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy - NYTimes review
  4. ^ The Buddhist on Death Row - Kirkus review
  5. ^ "All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono - Harvard Book Store".
  6. ^ a b c David Sheff's home page Archived 2008-07-08 at the Wayback Machine Author's bio
  7. ^ Sheff, David (2009). Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 149. ISBN 978-0547347929.
  8. ^ Sussman, Mick (2013-04-19). "A Disease, Not a Crime". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2020-11-29.
  9. ^ Sheff, David (2005-02-06). "My Addicted Son". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2020-11-29.
  10. ^ "The Marin Family Behind the Film Beautiful Boy - Marin Magazine - January 2019 - Marin County, California". www.marinmagazine.com. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  11. ^ Velkow, Nora (30 April 2009). "The 2009 TIME 100". Time. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009.
  12. ^ "Barnes & Noble: Discover Great New Writers Award". Archived from the original on 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  13. ^ "Outstanding Contributions to Advancing the Understanding of Addictions | Society of Addiction Psychology". www.addictionpsychology.org. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  14. ^ "When My Son Became Addicted, I Thought It Was His Problem. But Addiction Is a Family Disease. - Where Families Find Answers on Substance Use | Partnership for Drug-Free Kids". Where Families Find Answers on Substance Use | Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
  15. ^ a b Sheff, David. "David Sheff On Addiction: Prevention, Treatment And Staying 'Clean'". NPR.org.
  16. ^ Winerman, Lea (June 2013). "Breaking free from addiction". American Psychological Association. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  17. ^ "Author David Sheff Focuses on the War on Prevention". KLEAN Treatment Centers. 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  18. ^ Training, Botvin LifeSkills. "Botvin LifeSkills Training Most Widely Used Evidence-Based Prevention Program in Elementary Schools". www.prnewswire.com.
  19. ^ "The Jed Foundation Partners with the Clinton Foundation, Facebook & MTV - JED". JED. 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  20. ^ "Honorary Board | International Bipolar Foundation". ibpf.org. 7 December 2013. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  21. ^ McGrath, Charles (February 26, 2008). "A Twice-Told Tale of Addiction: By Father, by Son". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  22. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 15, 2018). "Steve Carell & Timothée Chalamet Title 'Beautiful Boy' Sets Fall Release". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 20, 2018.

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