Issue #65 - August/September 2011

Viewing the news through the lens of alcohol and other-drug addiction

Over the years, Doug has given a number of talks before chemical dependency counselors. We welcome inquiries regarding speaking engagements for your groups.

Readers are also invited to check out the latest client letter at, where you will find a revolutionary view of Roth conversions and when to begin collecting Social Security. Doug has clients all over the country, so please don’t hesitate to inquire about his tax and financial services.

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

1. Top Story of the month along with runners up, persons under watch, enablers, disenablers and more
2. Review or Public Policy Recommendation of the month
3. Dear Doug in which a recent letter to "Dear Annie" or other "help" column is rewritten, with responses given from the unique perspective that alcohol or other drug addiction best explains the misbehaviors described
4. Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
5. Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2011 by Doug Thorburn

The blog is open to your comments. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.

Books Here

The Code of Silence, Enabling by Unions and Alcoholism: Kelly Thomas, RIP

I first got a hint of the negative consequences of compulsory unionism* when I worked as a box boy for the old Hughes Supermarket in Van Nuys, California in my teens. I worked my tail off for $2.12 an hour, a wage also paid to those who goofed off. The checkers made nearly four times that amount, some of whom likely earned their wage (including one who may have been the planet’s fastest checker—remember, those were the ancient days when checkers punched in numbers) and those who didn’t, who were slow and rude to customers. Discovering that union bosses protected bad employees, I figured out unions were great for incompetents and those who didn’t give a damn and unnecessary for those of us who were competent and caring. They allowed bad employees to make as much as those who earned their wages and helped the undeserving keep their jobs, thereby rewarding bad behavior. **

The most costly and harmful unions may be those protecting teachers and law enforcers (including police, sheriffs, prison guards and the like). They’re costly because, gradually, compensation including benefits has grown at a much faster rate than wages in the private sector, breaking the backs of taxpayers in many municipalities and states. They’re dangerous because the unions protect incompetent—and even malicious—employees.

Although I didn’t know then but know now, the most menacing of such employees are alcohol and other-drug addicts. Such addicts know how to hide their use and, at the same time, intimidate others to get their way. Their main goal is, as with early-stage addicts in all aspects of their lives, to inflate their egos, often by wielding power capriciously in the workplace. They pack a punch way out of proportion to their numbers, since they consist of only 10% of the overall population and yet are responsible for an estimated 80% of society’s unethical and criminal behaviors. When the 10% comprises unionized public school teachers who, short of committing rape, can rarely be fired, we’ve got a huge problem. Recalling my K-12 school years, a number of teachers were likely addicts, at least one of whom was no doubt drunk every day. He, like his fellow alcoholic brethren, was not a good educator.

The most dangerous of these protected incompetents and would-be criminals consist of alcoholic law enforcers. Drug Recognition Experts whom I interviewed in researching my books estimated that 20-50% of active duty cops were practicing alcoholics, depending on the police force—the smaller the force, the higher the likely rate of alcoholism. With more effective employee assistance programs, according to my Drug Recognition Expert friend Thomas Page the rate may have dropped to 15% among the larger forces, but that’s still high when we consider their power and who is responsible for most problems. (Worse: the most common estimate of alcoholic prison guards among those who have some insight into the subject is 50-70%). The more powerful the union the more likely bad cops—almost always alcoholics—are able to remain on the force.

One of the many problems with alcoholics is they are great at hiding consumption and going without when they need to (for example, during work hours). The behaviors, which often slosh over to periods between drinking episodes, give away the secret, but only to those few who know the signs of an inflated ego and that such egomania is the key indicator of early-stage alcoholism. The civil service system, which goes far in protecting incompetents, is made immeasurably worse by public service unions. When unionized teachers act badly they get to keep their jobs or are “reassigned” to another school. When cops act badly they get to keep their jobs because it’s so darned difficult to fire government employees, especially those in unions. *** Private employers fire at least three times as many employees as do government ones, even if they rarely see any drinking. Unfortunately, unimpeded alcoholism only gets worse, with corresponding behaviors usually becoming increasingly despicable over time (until after decades of use, the late-stage alcoholic becomes more concerned with getting his drug than with capriciously wielding power over others). Sooner or later, tragedy occurs, but only after dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people—family, friends, co-workers and employers—could have intervened but didn’t. Tragedy would happen much less frequently with earlier intervention, including firing or forcing such employees into rehab, which is often impeded by union representatives.

Such enabling probably occurred in the case of at least some of the six Fullerton police officers who killed a homeless schizophrenic. Following a report of a burglar breaking into cars, officers approached the alleged perpetrator, Kelly Thomas, 37, who initially resisted arrest. While onlookers’ reports diverge at this point, a video **** taken by one strongly suggests the officers, with a combined weight of some 1,500 pounds, beat and tasered the 135-pound man beyond recognition long after he stopped resisting. Thomas’ father, retired sheriff’s deputy Ron Thomas, who taught other officers proper arresting and subduing techniques pointed out the injuries sustained by his son could not have occurred had proper techniques been used. More probably, alcoholic rage took hold of at least one of the officers and, because of a code of silence that is as prevalent among cops as the perpetrators whom they arrest, other officers went along with the beating and have since protected their coworkers with their silence.

Police officers’ unions may be the most powerful force in protecting these bad cops, almost all of whom are alcoholics. The Fullerton Police Officers’ Association (cops unions are often called “associations”) hired their attorneys to write a formal demand that blogger Tony Bushala, founder and site administrator of Friends for Fullerton’s Future “cease and desist from making false allegations against any member of the Fullerton Police Department.” They objected in particular to a comment on Bushala’s blog that said in part, “An eye witness of Kelly Thomas’ brutal deadly beating told me that the Terminator (Kenton Hampton) was the same cop that smashed poor Kelly’s head into pieces after he had been taser [sic] several times.” The attorneys wrote, “The insults that you have posted about Officer Hampton and other Fullerton Police Department officers are malicious and false.” It turns out the main bully was probably another officer (reportedly Jay Cicinelli), but who wants to bet the police union hasn’t come to the defense of some if not all of these six cops on previous occasions involving misbehaviors? And who wants to bet that at least several of the officers haven’t previously exhibited behavioral indications of alcoholism, including rage?

In researching this piece I stumbled onto a ratings system for officers, “rate my cop,” and found good reports for many Fullerton Police Department officers but very poor ratings for Hampton and a few others. I don’t know that Hampton already had only negative remarks before this episode, but it wouldn’t be surprising. There are no reports on Jay Cicinelli.

Most cops are honest, ethical, sober and honorable. Even alcoholic ones are often good much of the time, but as elsewhere in society if there’s a horrific event there’s usually an addict behind it. Yes, Kelly Thomas probably made a bad mistake in initially resisting arrest. He may even have been under the influence. However, while there appears to be no excuse for subsequent events, the explanation is probably undiagnosed and unimpeded alcoholism in at least one of the officers along with a code of silence among both cops and their union, which harms perpetrators and victims alike.

By the way, John and Ken (John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou), in their roll as what I view as America's greatest living journalists, broke the story on the Kelly Thomas beating on their 3pm-7pm KFI talk radio show in Los Angeles (640am on the dial). If you live anywhere in Southern California their show is well worth tuning in. Regardless of where you live, their blog-history of the Kelly Thomas case is worth reading.

* Compulsory unionism forbids you from contracting with an employer without permission granted by a majority of workers, something I view as a violation of the freedom of association that I recall being mentioned somewhere in the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

** With more open and competitive markets in the private sector, most private employee unions have thankfully disappeared over the decades. However, participation in government employee unions has gone in the opposite direction. (Overall union membership was 20% in 1983 and stands at 12% today. Unionized employees comprised 10% of the government workforce at the apex of union power in the 1940s, nearly 25% by 1975 and roughly 37% today (and only 60% are eligible to be unionized); unionized employees comprised 34% of private sector employees in the 1940s, less than 22% by 1975 and a relatively miniscule 7% today.) It makes sense when we contrast private competition and public monopoly: market forces act to constrain union wages and benefits which, in fact, when otherwise unrestrained have contributed to the decimation of entire industries in the United States, while market forces by definition cannot constrain excessive compensation and poor work ethics among government employees.

*** An IRS manager once rhetorically asked me, “Do you know how difficult it is to fire someone around here?” after I complained about one of her auditors. Thankfully, the percentage of alcoholic IRS agents is probably among the lowest of all law enforcers because budding young alcoholics don’t grow up thinking, “If I go into a bar and tell a hot babe I’m an IRS agent I’m going to get laid.” Instead, they know that if they go into a bar in a cop uniform they likely will.

**** One can only imagine the sort of grotesque violations of private citizens’ rights that likely occurred with far greater frequency before the days of videos.

Thorburn Addiction Report Archives

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Rep. David Wu, D-OR
, saying he would resign from Congress before the end of August after coming under scrutiny for allegedly making an “unwanted sexual advance” (some say a euphemism for “rape”) on a supporter’s 18-year-old daughter. By itself, assuming the accusation isn’t false, this behavior is compelling evidence of alcoholism, especially when the alleged perpetrator is a 56-year-old 7-term Congressman. Even if the “unwanted” part of the allegation is false, the age difference alone is pretty good evidence. In the case of politicians, this is generally as far as we could go because getting proof of alcoholism in those who make (and enforce) laws is usually challenging at best.

David Wu is an exception. He was hospitalized due to an “adverse reaction” to a combination of Ambien and Valium in 2008. As pointed out in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, because a single dose of two different drugs packs a far more powerful punch than a double dose of any one drug, polydrug use (especially to excess) is almost always a certain indicator of alcoholism. Wu has admitted to taking prescription drugs given to him by a campaign contributor but denied knowing what the drugs were (a contributor claimed it was ibuprofen, which is over-the-counter, while a staffer said it was oxycodone, which is illegal to provide without a prescription and is an opioid commonly used by addicts). I think it could be safely argued that only an addict would lie about knowing which drug he took or would take a drug without knowing what he’s taking. Last fall, Wu’s senior campaign staff quit en masse after confronting him about his “drinking problem” and a pattern of erratic behavior. As pointed out in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in Its Early Stages, a pattern of erratic behavior is almost always a result of the effect of various chemicals on the brain. Diagnosing alcoholism in David Wu isn’t challenging in the least.

Rapper Jeffrey Atkins, known as Ja Rule
, 35, sentenced to 28 months in federal prison for failing to file income tax returns from 2004 through 2006. The IRS usually doesn’t go after delinquents on charges of fraud, so an Enrolled Agent like me might predict the rapper, who has sold 40 million records worldwide, must have had a lot of income on which no tax was paid. In addition, since the IRS doesn’t usually prosecute non-filers, we might predict there were more years involved than just the three for which he was sentenced. Indeed, Atkins had more than $3 million in earnings on which he owed more than $1.1 million in taxes and the IRS dropped charges on at least two other years. Since those who believe they are more powerful than the U.S. government have an inflated sense of self-importance, which rarely occurs without the benefit of alcoholism, an addictionologist like me might predict that Atkins is a substance addict. It turns out he has a prior arrest for driving with a suspended license and marijuana possession, along with another on gun and drug possession charges for which he is currently serving a two-year sentence. Atkins blamed his youth, bad advice and an inability to manage his money properly for his poor judgment. We might instead suspect that alcoholism is doing what it does best: causing the afflicted to view everything he does through self-favoring lenses, leaving everyone and everything else to blame for his woes.

R & B star Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly
, 42, facing foreclosure and nearly $2 million in federal tax liens. The multi-Grammy winner with 10 albums to his name was involved in a brawl in 1996, arrested on multiple charges of disorderly conduct in 1998, arrested in 2002 and 2003 on child pornography charges (for which he was acquitted) and has written lyrics as only an alcoholic could: “We ain’t gon [sic] leave till four in the morning. Thousand dollar tab, what? I can afford it. On my fourth drink, but I’m not an alcoholic….so f*cked up man it’s just not my day. I need another shot of that Bacardi.” Brawls and episodes of disorderly conduct are almost always associated with alcoholism, which would likely be proven if those four drinks were doubles.

Juliette Dunn, 29, who, after being arrested by police, denied knowing why her 10-month-old baby tested positive for cocaine. Another mom on a playground called authorities after watching Dunn telling her four-year-old son to chug a beer, which he finished, earning the title “alcoholic” from his mother. A reporter asked, “How insane does one have to be to give beer to a preschooler in a public park? It seems almost impossible.” As I have said countless times, alcoholics are capable of anything. Unfortunately, this qualifies as “anything.”

Barry Minkow
, now 44, was a teenager in the 1980s when he began building ZZZZ Best (a carpet and furniture cleaning company) on credit-card fraud and fabricated work orders. He was a poster-child for egomania in Drunks, Drugs & Debits (pp. 85-86), which was no doubt related to the large quantity of cocaine he kept in his desk drawer. After spending seven years in prison for the scam, which cost investors at least $100 million, he became a preacher and fraud-detection specialist for the FBI and other organizations. Unfortunately he relapsed, this time on Oxycontin. Since psychotropic drugs cause distortions of perception and memory in susceptible individuals, bad behaviors followed. Minkow pleaded guilty for securities fraud and will spend another five years in the slammer. (Wikipedia has a terrific synopsis of the scam, which is a classic in the annals of egomania taking hold at a very young age.)

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine suggests there may be some truth in something those who have read my books would predict: “Many [Club Fed and other white collar] prisoners suddenly discover, post-conviction, that they had a drinking problem….” I would add that those who don’t figure this out might benefit from greater introspection. In the spirit of The Economist’s discovery, several recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the behavior itself.

Jena Liberty
, 48, who while driving from Fresno, CA to Manhattan Beach took a break near Santa Clarita and locked her keys in her car. There was no one around to help. What would you do? Probably try to flag down another car and patiently wait. But then, you’re sober. She was apparently in a hurry and, like a toddler chasing after a big red ball, incapable of controlling her impulses. Like the baby-king, she just had to continue on her way. So, to get the attention to which she felt entitled, she set the hillside on fire. Lucky for civilized man, she got the attention of sheriffs before the fire did too much damage and she was arrested for arson. (If you’re curious about the reference to the baby-king, you might want to check out the great—and I mean great—essay by Dr. Harry Tiebout on the connection between alcoholism and egomania and the role of surrendering that ego in recovery).

Casey Anthony’s defense attorney Jose Baez
, 42, who against all odds got Anthony acquitted of murdering her child Caylee. In order to be a great defense attorney, one must be able to defend the seeming indefensible—in other words, the attorney must be able to convince a jury that the guilty is innocent, which is another way of saying the best defense attorneys might be great con artists. Since recovering addicts tell us that while they were using they could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, we might surmise that addicts might make great defense attorneys. When we hear one described as “a guy with a colorful and complicated past and a very confusing present,” as Law professor Robert Jarvis described Baez to ABC News, alcoholism should be strongly suspected. It turns out that Baez, who graduated from law school in 1997, was denied a license to practice law due to his failure to pay child support. In 2000 on appeal, the denial was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, citing in addition to his failure to pay child support, other unpaid bills, writing bad checks, extravagant spending and other “financial irresponsibility,” ruling he had a “lack of respect for the rights of others and a total lack of respect for the legal system.” Key indicators of addiction include anything that suggests serial poor judgment, including repetitive financial malfeasance. In addition to the litany of misbehaviors cited by the Florida Supreme Court, in 1990 Baez declared bankruptcy. In 1995, liens were recorded against him for unpaid education loans. He purchased a home for over $670,000 in 2007, which was foreclosed on shortly after. In addition, in March 2009 Circuit Judge Stan Strickland notified the Florida Bar Association about ethical concerns in which it was alleged Baez instructed investigator Dominic Casey, if he found Caylee Anthony’s body during the 2008 search, to “walk away” and tell Baez instead of law enforcement.

Jonah Shacknai, 54, founder and CEO of Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, possibly under investigation for the murder of his girlfriend Rebecca Nalepa, 32, whose naked body was found hanging from a balcony at his Coronado, CA mansion by his brother. Shacknai’s six-year-old son was comatose after having fallen down a staircase two days earlier while under Nalepa’s supervision. Despite the fact that she was found with her hands tied behind her back and feet bound with orange electrical cord, San Diego Sheriff’s captain Tim Curran told CBS news in Los Angeles, “Because of the unique and bizarre circumstances of this incident, it has yet to be determined if this will become a criminal matter….” We might wonder how a dead woman hanging naked from a balcony with her hands and feet bound and tied would not be a criminal matter, but that’s just us. Why else might we suspect foul play? Shacknai is twice-divorced, most recently from his son’s mother with whom he had a “stormy and violent relationship” according to reports, including at least three police reports. And Shacknai may have blamed his much younger girlfriend for his son’s fall, which if you’re an addict deserves retribution.

Alcoholic victims of the month:

Blake and Mary-Jo Handley of Port St. Lucie, Florida, who were beaten to death with a hammer by their 17-year-old son because they didn’t let him have a party. The boy used Facebook to invite friends to his house for the Saturday night event after his parents were already dead. The bodies were found the next morning when police received a tip, presumably from one of the partiers. You just can’t make this stuff up—fiction is so much more believable, isn’t it?

Everyone who pays for insurance in Australia if Michelle Egglestone wins a lawsuit against her ex-fiance’s insurer. When Egglestone leaned against a railing in order to relieve herself at her ex-fiance’s house in Smythes Creek, Victoria, the railing gave way. The picket fence below resulted in “penetrative injuries” to a number of body parts, which “could have been avoided with reasonable care on behalf of the defendant” if only the fence posts had “adequate” capping. No surprise she was reported to have been drinking. If this was fiction, no one would believe it.

John Rauchbauer, 30 and his children Tyler, 10 and Hayden, 4, who were awakened at 2 a.m. when Crystal Leija’s car plowed through his living room, dining room and into the boys’ bedroom. Rauchbauer screamed for his boys in the pitch black darkness and Leija, 32, yelled out, “If you give me $1,000, I’ll help you find your kids.” She had gotten drunk at a bowling alley, hit a parked car as she left and ran through two fences and mailboxes before smashing into the house. Despite the fact that Hayden’s bed was pushed through the wall into the back yard the boys suffered only minor injuries. I doubt any writer of great fiction would ever have included the part about the money, compelling evidence for the idea that truth is much stranger than fiction.

Co-dependents of the month:

Marvin Norwood
’s mother Diana Page, who said her son would never have beaten paramedic Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who dared to show up at a Dodgers’ game in a Giants’ T-shirt because, to paraphrase, “He’s a good son, a hard-working contractor, charming, compassionate; he confronts his problems with his heart and not his fists and is incapable of this sort of behavior.” Ms. Page, while this may be true when your son is sober, it’s apparently not the case when he’s drinking. Your son Marvin, 30, went to the fateful opening day Dodgers game on March 31 with his cohort Louis Sanchez, 29, his long-time partner Dorene Sanchez, 31 (Louis’s sister) and Louis Sanchez’s 11-year-old son, and likely got rip-roaring drunk. The hypothesis that they’re alcoholics and, therefore, capable of heinous behaviors, is supported by the fact that Marvin and Louis already have violent criminal histories and were reported by other fans to have been acting like “aggressive, belligerent jerks,” both of which go hand in hand with alcoholism. Codependents are often confused because they know there’s a good side to people who may act horrifically (often out of their sight) and because they’re not under the influence all the time—it’s only some of the time. In addition, they don’t act badly when under the influence on every occasion or at all times during any one drinking or using episode—just walk into any bar and try to imagine more than one or two of the patrons going home and beating up their spouses (and bear in mind, while only one in ten of us are alcoholics, the odds are much higher among bar patrons). Most are the life of the party and appear to simply be having a great time. Until they don’t, and their behavior changes, and we see Dr. Jekyll turn into Mr. Hyde. In the meantime, Bryan Stow remains in a medically-induced coma on life-support.

Enablers of the month:

Daniel Schuler
, suing the state of New York for the accident in which his wife Diane Schuler drove her brother’s Ford Windstar the wrong way down the Taconic State Parkway in New York for nearly two miles before slamming head-on into an SUV, killing herself, four of the five children in her van and all three adults in the SUV (as seen in issue 50 August 2009 TAR). Suing for what, you might wonder? Why, the state’s “wrong way!” and “do not enter” signage wasn’t adequate and was, therefore, negligent, careless and reckless! Of course, his drunk and stoned wife, with a .19 per cent blood alcohol level and plenty of THC (think: active ingredient in marijuana) in her system at 10 a.m., was not at fault. (If she weighed 150 pounds and started drinking at 6 a.m. she would have had to consume a half liter of vodka to get to a .19 by 10 a.m.) Oh, and he’s also suing his brother-in-law for having let her borrow his van for the trip she took the kids on. I’d give odds that Daniel Schuler shares his wife’s disease. (Just another bit of evidence that when it comes to alcoholism, truth is far stranger than fiction.)

The idiot, an unnamed MD or MDs
, who supplied Barry Minkow with the painkiller Oxycontin. Yes, Minkow had severe migraines. Regardless, you don’t give a known addict psychotropic drugs (ok, maybe you didn’t know—because you don’t know the behavioral indications of addiction. Sorry, I forgot they don’t teach that in medical school). I’m sure Minkow would agree the pain from headaches was far less painful than being locked up for another five years, especially since he was able to get clean once he learned he was under criminal investigation. Hey doc, he must have found another way to deal with his migraines. Now is that so surprising?

Quote of the month:

“Patti and I obviously are very disappointed in the outcome [of the second trial on corruption charges]. I, frankly, am stunned.” So spoke former Illinois Gov. Rhod R. Blagojevich, one of the most amazing egomaniacs ever to grace these pages. For a review of a story that makes fiction seem realistic, take a look at the top story in issue 45, January 2009 edition of TAR. His brazen words and attitude continue to be a classic in the annals of likely alcoholism. He was finally convicted on 17 charges of corruption, including trying to sell the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama. He will hopefully spend at least a decade behind bars.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Former First Lady Betty Ford
, dead from natural causes at age 93. A full-on addict while First Lady, it wasn’t until sixteen months after Gerald Ford lost the 1976 presidential election that her family staged a professionally-aided intervention. Like any other addict, she was angry and resentful and later likened it to “hitting a wall; the wall is the disease.” Fortunately, the intervention was successful and she decided to scale the wall, while publicly announcing her addiction. She had become addicted after a doctor prescribed painkillers when she pinched a nerve in 1964 and later admitted to taking 20-30 pills a day, including “sleeping pills, pain pills, relaxer pills and the pills to counteract the side effects of other pills,” all of which she “loved.” She also spoke of her great liking for alcohol, which made her feel “warm,” and in conjunction with the potentiation of her in-house pharmacy groggy, unsteady, forgetful and late (or a no-show) to almost everything. Oddly, while her first husband was an alcoholic, she may not have triggered her own addiction until mid-life (she was 46 in 1964 and had been married to Gerald Ford since 1948). She realized if she could be an addict, anyone could be. Determined to help others, she started The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California in 1982, where over 75,000 addicts have been treated, including a who’s who of celebrities, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Stevie Nicks (“Betty Ford saved my life”), Kelsey Grammer, Steven Tyler, Marlee Maitlin, Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey Jr., Mary Tyler Moore and Ali McGraw. She often introduced herself to patients, “Hi, I’m Betty. I’m an addict and an alcoholic.” We’ll miss you, Betty. Thanks for everything you’ve done and will continue to do, as your work lives on with your memory as its guide and inspiration.

And so long, too, to British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who likely died of an overdose (less likely alcohol withdrawal, as her mother claims), at 27, putting her alongside many others whose fame and money enabled them to their deaths at 27, including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. As psychiatrist Sally Satel said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, “Managers insulate their famous (and profitable) clients from the consequences of their behavior and tolerate lapses for which the rest of us would be held accountable.” If only others held addicts accountable. Along with managers putting up with alcoholics’ misbehaviors, we can include friends, family, co-workers and, often, the law. In two words: enabling kills.

Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts—which would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of misbehaviors and, where possible, proactively intervene.

“War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy”

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

It seems almost everyone I talk to knows that the war on drugs is an utter failure. This misguided public policy response to a serious problem has managed to corrupt entire police forces and even, arguably, whole countries. Because prices take into account risk factors in supplying goods it has, as the James Bond movie “License to Kill” so graphically showed, enabled really bad people to become obscenely wealthy. The fallout has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people caught in the cross-fire between gangs of thugs, while doing nothing to reduce the demand for and supply of illicit drugs.

I have long opposed the war on drugs on principal: it’s a clear violation of property rights. After all, you own your own body and as an adult you have an inalienable right to ingest whatever you choose, whether lobster or Ajax, aspirin or cocaine. To paraphrase Libertarian-Republican John Dennis, who ran against Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in 2010, “Of course I’m for decriminalization of drugs. It’s a property rights issue.”

Becoming aware that addicts cause incomprehensible damage to society did not change my views on decriminalization. After all, we already tried prohibition with the main drug of choice among addicts, alcohol, and we saw how well that worked. However, I realized we might change the verbiage and perhaps sway some who, despite all the evidence, continue to believe in the failed war. We could narrow the scope of the war on drugs and instead, wherever possible, coerce abstinence in those who cause problems for others. Only via such focused prohibition can we improve the odds of long-term sobriety which, if we want to improve behaviors, is really the ultimate goal.

Other commentators have adopted a similar idea, which they call “harm reduction.” Rather than spending vast sums on criminalization directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of drugs, which are instantly negated by the emergence of other sources and traffickers and result in increased levels of AIDS and fatal overdoses, funds would be spent much more effectively on education, prevention and intervention.

The ideas presented in the Report entitled “War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy” are not new. What is new is the people responsible for the Report, which include former Presidents of Columbia, Mexico and Brazil Cesar Gaviria, Ernesto Zedillo and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, the current prime minister of Greece George Papandreou, former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz and, my personal favorite, Peruvian libertarian intellectual and writer Mario Vargas Llosa. The idea that the war on drugs has failed is finally going mainstream. Perhaps even more remarkable is the uncompromising statement in the Executive Summary: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” The Report stops short of recommending private and public measures that would go far in discouraging drug use by those who shouldn’t use drugs, such as allowing widespread random testing of recovering addicts by employers in a bid to decrease the odds of relapse, as well as testing people on public assistance as a condition of receiving such assistance. It hedges on the issue of how best to deal with organized crime and drug traffickers. However it emphasizes the failure of the war on drugs and the need to change policies now. The Report is one heck of a start in expanding the dialogue and calling for open debate and reform.

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Daughter in the dumps because of boyfriend

Dear Doug:

Our talented and beautiful daughter graduated with honors in music. While her peers are finding work as performers, she’s “too upset and depressed” to work because of her boyfriend, with whom she argues all night and over whom she cries all day because of their arguments. He dropped out of college, doesn’t work and lives with and off of his aunt because his mother kicked him out. Now we have our daughter’s student loans, car loan and bills staring us in the face. We’re almost ready to send her to live with this jerk’s aunt. What do you suggest?


Concerned about our daughter

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would suggest you tell your daughter to get a job to help pay the bills and that she join a local music group in the hope she can keep her skills fresh. They might also suggest you do all you can to get her to seek professional help. The trouble is the boyfriend exhibits numerous behavioral indications of alcohol and other-drug addiction. If correct, he is a terrific con artist, incredibly charming and pushes all the right buttons to keep your daughter off-balance and her decimate her confidence and self-esteem.

The best thing you can do is tell her you love her, do all you can to educate her about alcoholism and tell her she must move out of your home until she dumps the creep. Also make it very clear you will no longer pay off any of the loans. If the car loan is in your name take the car back and use it yourself or cut your losses and sell it. Destroy any credit cards in your name (be sure to call the credit card companies and freeze the accounts). If the student loan is in only in her name, so stop paying on it as well. Hopefully she’ll get the message—that you love her and she can’t help this guy—before she suffers too much damage.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, July 5, 2011.)

PrevenTragedy Foundation

“He has definitely hit rock bottom at this point.”

So said a close friend of comedian Andy Dick after he was caught with a woman in the men’s bathroom at a club and seen snorting cocaine off a CD cover in his car. The same friend, however, contradicted himself when he added, “Unless he gets help fast…he’s going to kill himself, because he is totally out of control….” So, either he’s bottomed and lives or he hasn’t bottomed and dies. Which is it? Of course, there’s no way to know without the benefit of hindsight. The good news is many addicts get sober who we think “no way, ever;” the bad news is some never get sober and die all-too-young. If you’re a friend, don’t give up. But do something few others have done: try to get videos of his antics and use them in the (next) intervention.

Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”

“ANIMAL HOUSE: Sheriff's deputies responded to an out-of-control house party in Valley Center, Calif., and found ‘at least 100, mostly inebriated, teenagers’ inside. ‘Every room was trashed,’ said Sgt. Bob Bishop. ‘Booze bottles and beer cans were laying all over the place.’ In one room, four girls were playing strip poker while boys took pictures. Deputies finally found the hostess: Nancy Jean Hildebrand, 56, who was allegedly throwing the party as a graduation present for her daughter. ‘My name is Nancy, I'm [daughter's] mom,’ her name tag read. Hildebrand was ‘drinking with everybody else, and handing out beers to kids,’ Bishop said. She tried to get officers to leave on the old ‘you don't have a warrant’ gambit, but she was arrested and charged with providing alcohol to minors, among other violations. Hildebrand is a teacher at Valley Center Middle School. District officials refused to comment on the case. (RC/San Diego Union-Tribune) ...Maybe the entire district runs under omerta.”

“Omerta” is a code of silence. While we decry this code among criminals, popular culture teaches us to show respect for those refusing to “rat out” friends and associates. However, silence results in the perpetuation of bad behaviors because it helps to ensure that addicts, who commit most criminal and unethical acts, don’t experience the pain from consequences they so desperately need to inspire in them a need to get and stay sober. As a result, ultimately, tragedy happens. These outcomes are especially tragic when the victims are children and teenagers. Note that Ms. Hildebrand is 56 and has, therefore, probably engaged in reprehensible behaviors hundreds of times. Her teachers’ union, along with well-meaning friends and family likely protected her from the logical consequences of those behaviors almost every time. Such enabling harms perpetrator and victim alike.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2011 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven''t already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:


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Doug's new book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities, is now available at, and bookstores near you.

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"My father died of alcoholism. His father died of alcoholism. Three generations of alcoholism is enough. Now is the time to abandon superstition and pseudoscience, to debunk the myths surrounding alcoholism, and to apply science to solving this problem. Doug Thorburn's book is a model example of how this should be done. Read it and be prepared to change your thinking on this important topic. When enough of us understand what is really going on with alcoholism, society can make the shift from treatment to prevention and intervention."
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Have you visited the Prevent Tragedy Foundation" The Prevent Tragedy Foundation is a tax-exempt 501c-3 organization, the goal of which is to educate the general public on the need for early detection of alcohol and other drug addiction. The Foundation is intended to answer a question that has been all-but-ignored by similar organizations: what does alcoholism look like before it becomes obvious"

Click here to visit the Prevent Tragedy Foundation


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