Date: 13 Oct 1996 01:15:11 -0400
From: Ron Hoggan
Subject: Alcoholism ....... a disease


> In the early 1970's, a group of researchers discovered that alcoholics
> had several metabolic abnormalities, one of which now appears to be
> the result of a permeable intestine. 

The genetic predisposition for alcoholism is characterized by depression, 
low levels of essential fatty acids, irritability, difficulty in 
concentrating, nervousness, and short-term memory deficiency. Sound 
familiar? We identify some of these people in childhood, and call it 
attention deficit disorder, then we can choose whether we attach another 
label called hyperactivity. Our current method of treatment is to drug 
them. Let me see now, we have a group that has an outrageously high 
incidence of substance abuse when they reach adulthood, and we make speed 
available to them as early as age six. Just whose fault is it that they
become substance abusers? Did they choose to begin abusing methylphenidate?
I don't think it is unfair to attach the blame elsewhere.  

Now back to that group of researchers at the University of Texas in the 
early 70's:
They discovered that in addition to metabolizing alcohol into 
acetaldehyde, like others, alcoholics also use alcohol to produce a 
substance tetrahydraisoquinolines (I'm not sure of the spelling, but it 
is close). These THIQ's compete with endorphins for endorphin receptors. 
Finally, at long last, the alcoholic gets to feel like a normal person 
already feels most of the time, by having all endorphin receptors full. 

Others may see something strange going on, but the alcoholic just feels 
okay. He knows that alcohol isn't a problem. It is a solution. One that 
he has looked for all his life. 

Ultimately, of course, the brain stops producing *any* endorphins, and 
alcohol is the only means for the alky to feel at all comfortable. That is 
the beginning of the end for most alcoholics. About 10% to 15% manage to 
quit, and get involved in something that helps them find a way of coping 
with their illness, whether it be AA or religion, or other means. The 
rest of them die, end up in mental institutions, or in jail. 

It is a pathology that shows itself by age 6 or 7 years. Some with that 
pathology are fortunate enough to witness a loved one in such a dramatic 
situation, that they are able to swear off of alcohol for life. A few others 
exercise an iron will, and live lives of quiet desperation. The 
remainder become alcoholic. The whole constellation is the result of a 
metabolism error. 

Do normal drinkers experience hallucinations and black-outs? Only in 
extremely rare cases. Otherwise, these joyful experiences are reserved for 
the alcoholic. 

Current investigations into exogenous opioids in autism, schizophrenia, and 
bipolar disorder show promise of connecting with what is being learned 
about alcoholism. 

My opinion is that the permeable intestine is a necessary precondition to 
alcoholism. It is usually the result of gluten intolerance, but it can 
also result from bacterial overgrowth in the jejunum and there may be 
some other causes also. I don't think we have much control over the 
permeability of our intestines. Ask any alcoholic how difficult it is
to quit, and how many times they have tried. 

If you will harken to any good dictionary, including a medical 
dictionary, you will find a similar definition to this:
"a disorder with a specific cause and recognizable signs and symptoms; 
any bodily abnormality or failure to function properly, except that 
resulting directly from physical injury (the latter, however, may open 
the way for disease)

I don't see how you can suggest that alcoholism might not be a disease. 
It is only arrested, not cured, when an alcoholic doesn't drink. The 
genetic predisposition is, itself, a disease, by most definitions of 
disease. 

I'm sorry to sound a little cranky, but I do get impatient with this 
debate. I will be happy to provide you with sources on this information, 
if you will give me a week or so to gather it. I am quite busy at the 
moment, which may not be very obvious from the length of this post. 

Best Wishes,
Ron Hoggan