|August-September 2009 / Issue No. 50
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Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:
1. Top Story of the month
2. Review 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!
My blog is now reopened to your comments. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.
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Diane Schuler: A Tragic Case of Hidden Alcoholism
Diane Schuler’s husband, Daniel Schuler, told investigators that everything seemed fine when she left a Sullivan County, New York campground with her 2-year-old daughter, 5-year-old son and three young nieces at 9:30 a.m. on July 26. He was going fishing, while his wife was heading home. When he heard from police a few hours later that she was involved in a wrong-way head-on collision that killed everyone in both vehicles except for the 5-year-old, heand the presshad no idea what could have possibly gone wrong. For days, cops and family members were “baffled” about what made her drive so recklessly.
Six other drivers called 911 before the collision, as she straddled two lanes, tailgated, flashed her headlights, beeped her horn and attempted to pass at least one other vehicle via the highway’s shoulder over an almost-60-mile path. The ultimate tragedy didn’t occur until two miles after she began driving the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway, about 35 miles northwest of New York City.
As shown in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, any one of the behaviors described points to a likely DUI and alcoholism, while a confluence of driving behaviors this erratic is virtual inarguable proof of both. Indeed, a broken bottle of Absolut vodka was found near the wreck. State police, however, according to media reports “investigated” why Schuler, 36, a Cablevision executive, would have been driving the wrong way on a highway she had driven numerous times before. The addiction-aware would have simply waited for the results of the toxicology report, knowing full-well what to expect.
When Daniel Schuler, a security officer for the Nassau County Police Department, was told that his wife’s blood alcohol level (BAL) was .19 percent, with 6 grams of undigested alcohol in her stomach and high levels of the key psychoactive substance in marijuana in her system, he said, “She did not drink. She is not an alcoholic.” However, the facts belie the claim. It would take about 10 shots (15 ounces, or almost half a liter bottle) of vodka over four hours to achieve a BAL of that level in the 150-pound person she appeared to be. Not even factoring in that she was using two different psychoactive substances at this hour of the day, driving and with children in the car, this much alcohol in her system virtually assures us that Diane Schuler had the disease of alcoholism.
Addiction is often hidden, even from those who are closest. I observed erratic behaviors in my long-ago ex-fiancée, but never saw addictive drinking. Schuler later modified his claim, telling investigators that his wife drank socially and “occasionally” smoked pot. I, too, observed the “sipping” of wine we would expect of a social drinker, but never the gulping of vodka that I later learned was occurring prior to tasting wine. I never saw (or even smelled) the pot, which of course, when I found it, was her “son’s pot.” The therapists with whom we counseled for the better part of two years of our rather (behind closed doors) tumultuous 2 ½ year relationship nevernot oncesuggested even the possibility that alcoholism might explain the behaviors that drove us to seek counseling. Schuler said that there were “absolutely” no marital problems. The addictionologist in me thinks the truth is somewhat more complicated.
In 1969, Astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon. He later admitted to going on two-week-long benders while under intense medical and psychological scrutiny before his journey. He stopped drinking only two days before lift-off. If NASA didn’t identify alcoholism, it can be hidden anywhere. The late Joseph Kellerman, who wrote the classic A Merry-Go-Round Named Denial, estimated that it takes an average of nine years for a spouse to tentatively diagnose alcoholism in the other spouse.
Almost as interesting as the hidden aspects of Diane’s disease are the myths associated with the reporting of the story. While she was confused enough while on the road to call her brother, Warren Hance, to ask for directions home, he said there was “no slurred speech,” as if that’s the norm in someone under the influence. No, it’s not. As explained in Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease, myth #6: "With a Blood Alcohol Level between .10 and .24 per cent, even an alcoholic would appear inebriated," alcoholics often don’t exhibit slurred speech, staggered gait and the like until the BAL is at least .24 percent (and often much higher). Daniel Schuler’s attorney, Dominic Barbara (a divorce attorney who frequently appears on Howard Stern’s radio show and has represented the alcoholic likes of Joey Buttafuoco, actress Lindsay Lohan’s father Michael and Victoria Gotti) said, “this is not a woman who would jeopardize five children.” Not when sober, but while under the influence anything goesand many, many alcoholics in recovering admit to having regularly driven with children in the car while under the influence. (myth #80, Alcoholicsm Myths and Realities: "He may be an alcoholic, but he would never risk a child's life by drinking and driving with one.") Daniel Schuler said, “I never saw her drunk since the day I met her.” We often have no idea that highly tolerant early-stage alcoholics are under the influence. (myth #43: "He never looks drunk - so he can't be an alcoholic!") Even I have failed to diagnose alcoholism in someone who I saw many times, only to learn recently that I nevernot oncesaw her sober. As if to explain Schuler’s alcoholism, clinical psychologist Carol Goldman said, “We have to look at the pressures on women these days. They have to be supermom.” No, if the trials and tribulations of life caused alcoholism, we’d all be alcoholics. (myth #32: "The stresses of the job and other life problems made her turn to the bottle.") Connecticut psychologist Elaine Ducharme pointed out that just because someone is a parent doesn’t mean she’ll stop using “drugs and alcohol”, saying “If you have a real addictive personality, just having a child isn’t going to make the difference.” It’s not “drugs and alcohol,” nor is it an “addictive personality,” Ms. Ducharme. It’s a genetic and biological predisposition to alcohol and other-drug addiction.
The New York Post reported that a “drinking buddy” of Diane’s said, “She liked her drinks, she liked her vodka” (reportedly in screwdrivers). If Daniel Schuler was not a co-addict (which is a big “if”), he may well have had little or no idea about his wife’s alcoholism. The families of the three victims in the other vehicle are suing Daniel, alleging he “had” to know of her addiction. No, he didn’t. Roughly 10% of the U.S. population consists of alcohol and other-drug addicts. If you know 500 people, you know about 50 addicts. Yet, the typical person says he or she knows maybe 5 people in whom addiction has been confirmed, leaving 90% of the addicts in our midst unidentified and undiagnosed. Unfortunately, this often includes those closest to us.
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Runners-up for top story of the month:
Systems analyst and loner George Sodini, 48, who walked into a Pittsburgh gym, shooting and killing 3 women, wounding 9 women, terrifying dozens of others and then killing himself. In his personal blog, he recounted years of loneliness and rejection, along with his plans for committing mass murder, which he delayed twice. He knew that liquid courage was required for him to pull it off. He wrote on May 5: “To pull the exit plan [i.e., murder-suicide] off, it popped into my mind to just use some booze….I stopped at Shop N Save and got a fifth of vodka and a small bottle of Jack Daniels. I haven't had a drink since September 1, 1988, just over 20 years….I need to use it to take the edge off of carrying out the exit plan. I will be taking some every now and then to get used to it and see if the alcohol effects will embolden me. Weed would be fun to try again.” On July 23 he wrote: “I had 20+ years of sobriety….”
As I’ve written elsewhere, the healthy neo-cortex, the seat of reason and logic, restrains us from acting out on the vile thoughts many of us have from time to time. A damaged neo-cortex allows the lower brain centers, responsible for impulsive behaviors and base survival, free reign. Alcohol in the alcoholic damages the higher brain center. This is the reason the number of mass and serial murders committed by non-alcoholics is almost zero.
But not every alcoholic kills. It probably requires a tweaking in early life, usually involving an alcoholic parent, as well as a particularly virulent form of the disease. A hint of the combination of alcoholism and abusive past life can be gleaned from Sodini’s blog. He writes: “My dad never (not once) talked to me or asked about my life's details and tell me what he knew. He was just a useless sperm doner....Brother was a...useless bully.” (sic) While this doesn’t usually impel even an alcoholic to commit murder of any kind, much less mass murder, it once again reminds us of the admonition on page 163 of Drunks, Drugs & Debits that we cannot predict how destructive a practicing alcoholic may become, or when.
Jesse James Hollywood, runner-up in the June 2009 TAR, convicted of first-degree murder in the 2000 slaying of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz even though he didn’t pull the trigger. The jury found that “friends,” eager to clear the books of drug debts, followed his orders to kill by shooting Markowitz nine times. The gun, which was buried with Nicholas, belonged to Hollywood. One journalist reporting the conviction reminded readers that the case inspired the 2006 movie “Alpha Dog,” which “depicted a dark side of middle-class suburbia, a world of frequently stoned young people who were willing to take orders from a criminal mastermind.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems to imply that this middle-class world consists of stoners taking orders from others “willingly.” Have you ever known an addict who was willing to take orders from anyone unless his life was at stake? And by the way, this “dark side” is, simply, addiction at it worst.
Former New York Mets and, later, Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Lenny Dykstra filing for bankruptcy the day before his mansion was to be auctioned in a foreclosure sale. Dykstra, who reported an estimated $58 million in net worth as recently as early 2008, listed less than $50,000 in assets against $10-$50 million in liabilities. His storied career includes a DUI after demolishing his Mercedes roadster in 1991 in a 1 a.m. spin-out with his BAL at .179 percent, an arrest for making sexual advances to a 17-year-old worker at his Simi Valley car wash in 1999 (for which he was later cleared), being the target of at least two dozen legal actions since 2007 and a business empire that appears to have imploded. A GQ article by Kevin Coughlin details Coughlin’s 67-day employment with Dykstra, accusing him of credit card fraud, failure to pay rent on the magazine’s Park Avenue offices, bounced checks and the use of offensive terms when speaking about blacks, women and gays. In yet another example of alcoholism helping to fuel the real estate bubble, Dykstra purchased hockey great Wayne Gretsky’s Thousand Oaks, California home for $18.5 million with almost $13 million in loans. The home appears to be practically empty in this video, in which Dykstra makes a pathetic attempt to defend his actions (the good part begins about 6 minutes into the video). Here, he shows off his stock-picking acumen, with Jim Cramer as chief enabler. Here, we can see that alcoholics provide material for use by late night comedians in this Comedy Central video with Jon Stewart.
Scott Kernan, 47, appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2008 as undersecretary for prison operations for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, suspended for six weeks without pay as punishment for driving his state-provided car while under the influence. Kernan, whose position places him as the second-ranking administrator of California’s prison system, says he is “deeply remorseful” and will plead guilty. But Mr. Kernan, will you seek sobriety? And will you begin to inspire those serving under you to do the same?
Pro football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, 45, charged with DUI for the third time in 12 years. The first time, in 1997, charges were dismissed. The second time, in 2003, he was acquitted. This time he says he plans “on taking steps to ensure that this never happens again.” Mr. Smith, can we assume this means you will make sure you’re never convicted again, or begin attending a program in which you seek sobriety?
Two-time American Idol contestant Alexis Cohen, 25, struck and killed while walking to her car at approximately 4 a.m. Her bizarre performance in front of the American Idol judges and profanity-laced tirade after being rejected is worth viewing here. The odds that large quantities of alcohol and/or other drugs were often in her system are estimated by this addictionologist as very high. The driver of the car that hit and killed her fled, suggesting yet another tragic incident of likely alcoholic v. alcoholic. See the next entry.
Daniel Bark, 23, was fleeing the scene of an accident when he allegedly struck and killed Alexis Cohen. Police caught up with him an hour later and, after refusing a breathalyzer and being charged with a DUI for the first incident, was released at 7 a.m. He was rearrested the following night after police linked his vehicle to the second hit and run in which Cohen was killed. Bark says he is distraught and doesn’t “comprehend” his responsibility for Cohen’s death. The addictionologist in me identifies a blackout, during which time Bark will never remember a thing (the events didn’t even enter the memory banks). He probably doesn’t recall much of the events leading up to his 2004 DUI, either. He will, however, remember his time in jail (assuming he is found guilty, of course).
Alexandria, Virginia police chief David Baker, arrested on charges of DUI after crashing his unmarked city vehicle. Baker’s blood alcohol level was .19 percent, for which anyone Baker’s age, 58, is almost certain proof of alcoholism. Baker has been with the Alexandria police department for 19 years after a 21-year stint as a D.C. police officer. The driver of the other vehicle suffered whiplash, neck and back injuries. The addictionologist might inquire as to the number of incidents there were prior to this near-miss of a tragedy for which close peopleor the lawcould have intervened, but didn’t.
In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economis magazine mentioned 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, a litany of recent cases follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the crime itself.
Disgraced lawyer Marc Dreier, sentenced to 20 years after admitting to selling $700 million in fake promissory notes and to stealing client funds. Dreier, who was featured in the January 2009 TAR “under watch” section, explained that his crimes “in part” grew out of his finding himself in great debt, the collapse of his 15-year marriage and a crushing sense of underachievement. He may find, post-conviction and with plenty of time for deeper introspection, that the “other part” is related to alcoholism and, in fact, this is the “only part.”
Former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, convicted on 11 counts of bribery and corruption in a case in which FBI agents found $90,000 of cold cash in his freezer. Most of the eight-week trial consisted of government testimony; his defense wrapped up its case in a matter of hours. While proof of alcoholism eludes, we must always keep in mind the example of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Jefferson would not be the first or last very functional egomaniacal hidden alcoholic.
44 people netted in a federal corruption probe, including rabbis and elected officeholders from New Jersey and New York. One of the men, Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, who allegedly bought kidneys from impoverished people overseas, is described as a “thug” who reportedly pulled a gun on any kidney donors who got cold feet, telling them “You’re here. A deal is a deal. Now, you’ll give us a kidney or you’ll never go home.” Those arrested include the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, Jersey City’s deputy mayor, two state assemblymen and four other rabbis. The arrests occurred three years after Solomon Dwek, the son of a rabbi, was charged in connection with bouncing a $25 million check he deposited in a bank’s drive-through window. Whenever we shake our heads and wonder, “What was he thinking?” we must look for addiction. Usually, we’d find itbut only if able to dig where the public isn’t invited.
John J. Bravata, a former police officer from Brighton, Michigan, and Richard J. Trabulsy, alleged to have raised more than $50 million since 2006 from 440 investors for a real estate investment fund and using at least $7 million to pay for their own luxury homes, exotic vacations, gambling debts and a Ferrari. The alleged fraud began at the fund’s inception: according to the SEC, Bravata used about $90,000 from the first two investors to buy himself the Ferrari. Bravata and Trabulsy allegedly used at least $11 million of new investors’ funds to pay distributions to earlier investors. The promised returns of 8% to 12% on the $20.7 million in funds actually used to buy real estate are not likely to materialize, particularly since the real estate is leveraged with liabilities exceeding $128 million. It hasn’t yet been reported how they managed to blow $14 million soliciting and marketing their offering, but the addictionologist might speculate that they threw some pretty extravagant parties in a bid to (allegedly) con their marks.
Alcoholic victim of the month:
Lily Burk’s body was found in a car in downtown Los Angeles. Her neck had been slashed a bit over 12 hours earlier. Shortly after her murder, Charlie Samuel, 50, was apprehended for public intoxication and having a crack pipe in his pocket. Two days later, Samuel was charged with Burk’s murder after police matched his fingerprints with those found in the car. Samuel was a drug addict with a “colorful” criminal history, including convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and robbery. He was given early parole because California’s prisons are arguably filled with too many non-violent offenders and, while he should have been tried and convicted on a third strike under California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law, wasn’tbecause a clerk wrongly identified one of his prior crimes. Burk, 17, may well have been a victim of the failed war on drugs and a clerk’s incompetence.
Co-dependent of the month:
Former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who announced she is resigning as Alaska’s governor without an explanation that makes sense. When something doesn’t make sense, addictionologists know that addiction likely lurks just beneath the surface. Evidence supporting the idea that Palin’s reaction is to alcoholism in those close includes: 1. Daughter Bristol has been reported to be a dope-smoking underage drinker and party girl. 2. Bristol’s estranged boyfriend, with whom she bore a son, appears to consume alcohol and other drugs addictively. 3. The boyfriend’s mother Sherry was arrested and charged with six felony drug charges late last year. Addiction sheds light on the behaviors of many politicians. The behaviors of many non-addicted politicians could be explained by an addict or two nearby.
Enabler of the month:
Jermaine Jackson, who continues to insist that his brother Michael Jackson didn’t “abuse” drugs.
Disenabler of the month:
Marina Fanouraki of Crete, who turned herself in to police, asserting she acted in self-defense by setting fire to a 20-year-old Briton’s genitals after repeated advances were flouted. The intoxicated male, Stuart Feltham, had taken his pants down and was “waving” his genitals at women in a bar at the seaside resort of Malia, Greece, which boasts a tad over 6,000 permanent residents and 63 bars. Not surprisingly, Malia is notorious for attracting young people (especially Brits) looking for bacchanalia, but I digress. After he “forcefully fondled” the 26-year-old woman and asked her to take hold of his genitals, she responded by “soaking” them in liquor. Much to his later regret, she claims he persisted. She allegedly grabbed a lighter and made alcohol flambeau. He suffered “considerable damage.”
Admission of the month:
Kid Rock, telling Q Magazine after being sentenced to anger management classes, “I think that the judge made a mistake when he sentenced me. I think he probably should have sent me to Alcoholics Anonymous because I do have a drinking problem….None of these fights would have ever occurred without drinking.”
Quote of the month:
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, admitting to drinking at a bar where compromising pictures were taken last January, explained that if he thinks he can have one or two drinks it inevitably snowballs to 10 or 12. In the words of a fellow alcoholic: “I'm allergic to alcohol. Every time I drink it, I break out in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs.” Hamilton has otherwise been sober since October 6, 2005.
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
TV infomercial king Billy Mays, dead from heart diseasewith “cocaine use” listed as a contributing cause of death. Vicodin, Oxycodone, Xanax, Valium and alcohol were also found in Mays’ system. Mays, who was known for shouting in an abrasive manner while promoting OxiClean, Orange Glo and other household cleaning and maintenance products, had been in chronic pain for more than two years and was about to have his third hip surgery within 18 months. According to his (second) wife, Deborah Mays, prescription pain medications were at doctor-recommended usage levels. However, the labels on pains meds explicitly warn against the use of alcohol which, if ignored, is an excellent indicator of alcoholism. In addition, as explained in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, combining various drugs potentiates their effect, making them far stronger than merely a double or triple dose of just one medicationand he was found with, essentially, four very different drugs in his system (opioids, benzodiazepine, alcohol and metabolites of cocaine). The tentative verdict is, despite his family’s protests (who might not protest after reading Hidden Alcoholics), poly-drug addiction. Sometimes it takes an addict to take the risks he did to become successful.
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 addictswhich 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.
Since this issue includes a bonus “Dear Doug” and “Myth of the Month,” we’ll skip this month’s review.
My 19-year-old cousin had a rough road through adolescence and a tough time in high school, but graduated. Her graduation party, however, was unpleasant.
She barely acknowledged any of her guests except for several friends she left with to “take a walk.” They returned after at least an hour, laughing, cursing and carrying on, inhaling all the food they could find. Oh, and their eyes were bloodshot and they reeked of dope and booze. Her mother, my aunt, joked about their absence and their having the “munchies.”
For my cousin’s graduation gift, I purchased tickets to an event with the intention of taking her. Now I don’t want to go with her. I’m wondering if I should just give her the tickets and let her take someone else. Although I’m disgusted with the behavior of both my cousin and aunt, I’m thinking about bringing up the subject with my aunt.
Should I say something?
. . . . .
Other columnists might respond that it’s pretty obvious why your cousin has struggled so much and that it’s challenging to rise above neglectful parents. They’d suggest that if you are close to your aunt, express not disgust but concern and be prepared to have little discernible effect. No question about that.
However, I’m not convinced it should be tried. Your aunt is either an enabler which, after raising her daughter for 19 years is not something you’re going to stop with an expression of “concern,” or a co-addict. I’m inclined to think the latter, but could be wrong. How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in its Early Stages would help you diagnose your aunt.
I would object, however, to columnists who might suggest that you continue with your plans to attend the event with your cousin. They’d say the experience might help to connect you, influencing her in a positive way.
I don’t think so.
I’d expect her to try to get high as a kite during the event, whatever it is. Why should you subject yourself to the likely unpleasantness of such an evening?
(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, July 8, 2009.)
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And yet another bonus Dear Doug because, well, Dear Annie deserves it:
I recently married my boyfriend, Danny, with whom I have a 5-month-old baby. Danny has promised to end his ways of partying with friends and to spend more time at home, but nothing has changed despite his many promises.
Danny sleeps until noon and doesn’t help with the household chores. We argue almost every day. I’m trying to keep things together for the sake of the baby, but I think a man who keeps breaking his promises is a liar. Would it be best for the baby if we leave him?
Incredibly, other columnists might ask if Danny has a job and is helping to support the family. We know he’s spending any income he might earn in the late afternoon on booze and, likely, other women. Even more remarkably, other columnists might also suggest that the two of you discuss and decide on the healthiest environment for your baby. Since your husband is an alcoholic and is, therefore, incapable of making rational and logical decisions that are best for anyone but himself, he should not be included in making any decisions regarding you and the baby. Such other columnists would advise you to seek low-cost counseling. The only counseling you need is how to safely leave him. An alcoholic’s actions are unpredictable and your primary focus should be on how to protect yourself and your child from what could turn into lethal physically abuse. Get the heck out of that hellhole you call homeand do it now.
(Source for story idea: Dear Annie, August 5, 2009.)
“Russian man survives drinking 8 bottles of vodka.”
So read the headline about a Russian man who “miraculously” survived drinking eight bottles of vodka, in which it was reported that the percentage of alcohol in his blood was at least twice the lethal dose. Sorry, I thought, but eight bottles is far more than twice a lethal dose. Then I read, “The man’s blood tests showed that he had drunk at least four liters, or eight bottles of vodka.” Ok I figured, at least they were small (roughly 16-ounce) bottles. Still, I surmised, 132 ounces is too much. Reading further, I learned that the “man’s bulk” saved him, since our alcoholic “hero” is “two meters’ tall and weighs over 100 kilos.” Sorry, but height is irrelevant and 100 kilos is roughly 220 pounds, which still doesn’t wash.
Let’s run the numbers. A lethal dose, though undefined in the article, is often considered .35 per cent, but let’s go with .45 per cent. Twice the lethal dose would be .9 per cent. A 200-pound person requires 1 standard drink, which equates to 1.5 ounces of 80-proof vodka, to increase the blood alcohol level (BAL) by .02 per cent. Let’s go with .018 per cent for a 220-pounder.
Divide .9 by .018 to get the number of standard drinks required to get to that toxic BAL, not including the effect of time. We get 50 drinks, which is 75 ounces of liquor, or about 2 ¼ liters. Since our bodies assimilate alcohol at roughly .015 per cent per hour, his BAL would increase to about twice the lethal dose after consuming this much liquor over a six-hour period.
This is a dangerous article, since many reading it might think they can drink nearly four liters and not die. Considering how competitive alcoholics can be and their need to win regardless of costs, many could die trying. Perhaps myths like this account for the fact that 40,000 people die from alcohol poisoning every year in Russia.
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And a bonus myth this month:
“It was the custody battle ‘that really made Heath snap.”
So said actor Heath Ledger’s mentor, Terry Gilliam, in a Vanity Fair interview. Gilliam essentially claimed that the unraveling of a romance with Michelle Williams, resulting in a custody battle over their child, led to Ledger’s fatal overdose.
Yes, stress can lead to relapse or heavier-than-usual drug use by addicts. But any addict can overdose. It’s one of the risks associated with addictive use, especially poly-drug addiction, regardless of levels of stress.
The article also asserted that “chronic insomnia may have led to his death,” along with, according to vocal coach Gerry Grennell, who worked and lived with Ledger during the filming of “The Dark Knight,” “a combination of exhaustion, sleeping medication…and perhaps the aftereffects of the flu.”
Gerry, you lived with this wonderful actor. It’s time to come clean: just how much did you know and when? Did you use with him? Were you co-addicts and co-enablers? As recovering addicts often say, one finger outand three fingers back. It’s time to look at your contribution, Gerry. And if I sound a bit upset, you betchawe lost a great actor to a disease for which there were likely dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people like you could have intervened, but didn’t.
“ANOTHER FINE MESS HE'S GOTTEN HIMSELF INTO: A conservation officer from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources stopped a boater on the Geist Reservoir at 11:00 p.m. for failing to have working navigational lights. The boater ‘repeatedly’ told the DNR officer he was a police officer and demanded ‘professional courtesy,’ the DNR officer said, but he gave a citation to Adam Goldstein, 37, anyway. Allegedly angered, Goldstein went home, changed into his Lawrence Township police officer uniform -- he was in training as an unpaid reserve officer -- grabbed a squad car from the station, and drove it to the Geist Marina to confront the DNR officer. The officer arrested Goldstein for public intoxication. Prosecutors have added other charges, including drunk driving in the squad car, and, because he was still in training and not yet commissioned as a police officer, falsely presenting himself as a police officer ‘with the intent to mislead and induce [police] to submit to official authority’ -- a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison. Goldstein has been fired by the Fortville Police Dept., but he still has a fall-back position: despite his legal troubles he remains on the Lawrence Township School Board. ‘We will let due process run its course before we decide anything,’ the Board president said. (Indianapolis Star) ...Good plan: this is a great ‘teachable moment’ for the district's students.”
My early research on alcoholism included interviews with a number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), who are by far the most addiction-aware and addiction-educated law enforcers. When asked what percent of active-duty police officers were practicing alcoholics, the DREs didn’t hesitate: 20-50%, depending on the force. It immediately dawned on me that these constituted the bad cops and they should be weeded out through testing.
Before they gain an “in” with their fellow officers, cops have little prospect of being enabled. However, once they are on the force, the odds of intervention or loss of job dramatically decrease. The code of silence and buddy system protects them, so much so that many alcoholic cops rise in the ranks, even becoming top cops (i.e., chiefs of police).
Indiana has been protected from one alcoholic cop. Unfortunately, Goldstein is in a position to wield power capriciously on the Lawrence Township School Board. The best thing for everyone involved would be to draw a line in the sand: no more drinking, Mr. Goldstein, if you want any job at all. That just might get and keep you sober, which will make your lifeand the lives of those around youfar more happy and productive.
(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2009 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)
To view reader's comments on last month's Thorburn Addiction Report and Doug's responses please visit the Thorburn Weblog at PrevenTragedy.com.
Doug's new book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities, is now available at
"Every policymaker in America needs to read your book exposing the myths of chemical addiction...Excellent book."
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Jim Ramstad, Member of U.S. Congress (MN)
"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."
Michael Shermer, publisher, Skeptic Magazine and columnist, Scientific American
Buy your copy of Alcoholism Myths and Realities for only $14.95 or get the whole collection PLUS a two-hour audio cassette from Galt Publishing for just $49.95 plus tax and shipping. That's a $72.75 value for only $49.95.
To order online, click the following link (be sure to put "TAR SPECIAL" in the comments section of the order form.) Orders can also be placed by phone: 800-482-9424 OR fax: 818-363-3111.
If you wish to pay by check, send the appropriate payment with your shipping information and the words "TAR SPECIAL" in the "memo" section of your check to: PO Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327.
Click here o purchase any of the above Thorburn books
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
The Thorburn Addiction Report is a free newsletter published by Galt Publishing and PrevenTragedy.com. Subscibe by visiting our web site at www.PrevenTragedy.com.
The Thorburn Addiction Report is available to newspapers as a regular feature column.
Inquiries are invited.
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