November 2004 / Issue No. 4

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Letter. Each month, you can look forward to several sections, including:

1. Top Story of the month
2. Movie or Book 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 from Randy Cassingham's on-line newsletter, This is True

There is something for everyone!

Could addiction explain the life of Yasir Arafat?

ImageTop Story: Entire texts have been written about alcohol or other drug addicts without mention of any drinking or using. A friend who grasps the concept of using behavioral clues to identify the possibility of early-stage alcoholism told me that as he read Mary Wilson's 1986 autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, he kept thinking the behaviors of fellow Supreme Diana Ross had to be rooted in this disease. Yet, her drinking and using was never mentioned. The fact that Ross went into rehab long after the book's publication is just one more example of the power of this idea.

Biographers are almost uniformly unaware of the relevance of drug addiction in explaining behaviors. My three favorite philosophers, American revolutionary Thomas Paine and writer-philosophers Herbert Spencer and Ayn Rand were all addicts, which explains their bizarre personal lives even if their biographers didn't make the connection. Not one pundit EVER suggested the idea that President Bill Clinton's irresponsible adolescent-like misbehaviors might be best explained by alcoholism. (My two-part retort to those who find such a suggestion ridiculous or offensive is: 1. Clinton is too smart to have engaged in these behaviors UNLESS he's an alcoholic and 2. we give the benefit of the doubt by assuming addiction, since either he was really stupid to have behaved that way, or he's an addict.) Similarly, hardly anyone has ever identified the most infamous terrorists in history as alcohol or other drug addicts.

One of these is Yasir Arafat. He should have been convicted for criminal activities; 90% of convicts are addicts. He seemed more satisfied to utter defiance than be sworn in as head of a very small state, allowing for far greater ego-inflation than if peace broke out. He was a prodigious liar and never kept his promises, symptomatic of addiction. Enablers surrounded him, including even the United States, which rescued him more than once. That there is enabling is compelling evidence of an addict at the center, because addicts, unlike non-addicts, have an amazing ability to cajole others into protecting them from consequences. He thrived on turmoil yet had nothing to show for it except his own survival, typical of alcohol and other drug addicts.

Arafat had many opportunities to win without self-aggrandizement, but instead threatened to turn himself into a martyr. He refused offers that would have given him his country, along with $20 billion in foreign aid. Promises to never return to violence were repeatedly broken. While he pretended to oppose terrorism, he paid salaries of terrorists, bought weapons for terrorists and, by many accounts, invented modern-day terrorism.

He feigned paranoia, repeatedly suggesting in interviews that he was on the verge of being assassinated, a game also played by alcoholic Josef Stalin, which served as his excuse to assassinate others. He appealed to the world to protect him while he asked that others pray for him to become a martyr. He made repeated false accusations, inciting hatred for Israelis among his own people for massacres and war crimes that didn't occur. As biographers Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin (Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography) wrote, he always survived, was always in serious trouble and never achieved his professed goals. These are classic clues to alcohol or other drug addiction.

While he may have been among the 20% or so of the population exhibiting awful behaviors who are not addicts, there are two reasons why I'd give even Arafat the benefit of the doubt. First, except for Fidel Castro, I have confirmed alcohol or other drug addiction in almost every other leading terrorist or despot I have studied. Second, the only three pictures I have seen of him show a pupil size dramatically larger than normal, including one on the cover of the aforementioned book and another on page 43 of the October 18, 2003 edition of "The Economist" magazine. Normal pupil size for adults in light is about one-quarter the size of the iris. His take up 80% of the iris. According to Drug Recognition Experts, the odds that something other than amphetamine or cocaine addiction explains this physical phenomenon are close to zero. And the likelihood that something other than amphetamine addiction explained Arafat's apparent god-like sense of omnipotence and corresponding behaviors is also very small.

Runner-ups for top story of the month: Rip Torn, actor, acquitted O.J.-like on DUI charges. Tatum O'Neal, actress and daughter of actor Ryan O'Neal, published a tell-all on everyone else with barely two years of sobriety. Mitchell Page, hitting coach, St. Louis Cardinals, apparently fired due to misbehaviors rooted in alcoholism. Phil Spector, finally arraigned on charges of murder. Jose Habie, charismatic Guatemalan businessman reported by David Boies in the November 2004 "Vanity Fair" as having inflicted tremendous abuse on ex-wife Amy Weil; he also forged and backdated documents relating to their divorce. Wesley Blake Edwards, brother of vice presidential nominee John Edwards, repeatedly arrested for DUI. Ken Caminiti, 1996 National League Most Valuable Player, dead at 41 of a drug overdose.

Under watch: Teresa Heinz Kerry, reported to have had "little trouble finding the bar in every stop on the campaign trail;" reportedly erratic, chronically late, demanding of attention, causing husband John Kerry to "walk on eggshells" (see question # 6 of the Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator - click link at bottom of article); to have not even shown up when scheduled on a number of occasions during the Presidential campaign due to "mysterious ailments" and because of such illnesses termed a "hypochondriac." California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who reportedly "belittled employees during vicious personal rages" according to Los Angeles Daily News columnist Jill Stewart, October 17, 2004. William Kennedy Smith, nephew of Senator Edward Kennedy and founder of the Center for International Rehabilitation, reportedly known as "The Creep" for allegedly obnoxious behavior and sexual innuendos among employees, and recently accused of raping Audra Soulias (or his accuser, if a false accusation). Victor Yanukovich, with two criminal convictions, running for President of Ukraine. Alexander Lukashenka, President of Belarus, whose corrupt regime provides cover for illicit arms trafficking. Bill O'Reilly, whose accuser described him as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality, "paternal and engaging at one instant, tyrannical and menacing the next" (or his accuser, if a false accusation).

Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator

The Medical Casebook of Adolf Hitler, by Leonard L. Heston, M. D., and Renate Heston, R. N., with an introduction by Albert Speer, published in 1979. Available used, unfortunately out of print.

ImageBook Review: Adolf Hitler was variously diagnosed as bipolar, schizophrenic and paranoid schizophrenic. He was also diagnosed as having had Parkinson's disease, which Yasir Arafat reportedly suffered from. Yet Hitler had none of these disorders: he was an amphetamine and barbiturate addict.

This marvelous little book, which reads like a medical mystery novel, slowly dismantles every other explanation for Hitler's increasingly reckless behavior. We can conjecture that he may have triggered barbiturate addiction long before amphetamine addiction. However, the reader is left with no doubt that injections given to him by the doctor without whom he "could not live," Dr. Morell, included large quantities of amphetamine, beginning by 1937. (Because Hitler can be seen moving his hands back and forth on his upper legs in a way consistent with amphetamine use, called "stereotypical behavior," in 1936 Olympic Games videos, use likely began a bit earlier.)

The authors offer numerous clues to addiction. When injections, widely believed to be multi-vitamins "specially compounded for the Fuhrer," ceased on occasion, Hitler experienced severe depression, a common symptom among newly abstinent amphetamine or cocaine addicts. He engaged in all-night monologues with an endless repetition of stories, along with increasingly disorganized thinking and confused syntax. The latter would not be expected of someone considered to have been a supreme orator. His mood swings became more volatile, paranoia increased (a common side effect of amphetamine addiction) and, while early on he accepted blame for tactical errors, he developed a tendency to project blame onto others.

Intravenous injections of the "special compound" increased from one to as many as five daily. While intravenous amphetamine use has the same effect as injecting cocaine, it is much longer lasting: the half-life of amphetamines is twelve times longer. He took barbiturates every night during WW2, no doubt needed to offset the effect of amphetamines to allow for sleep. Hitler also used narcotics from 1938 onward, in particular, Eukodal, an early version of Percodan. A potent mix of drugs such as this has adverse effects on a person's personality, thinking, perceptions and behaviors.

Over-confidence and intoxication with his own early successes, common to early-stage addiction, fuelled a propensity to risk-taking and impulsive behaviors. As his use progressed during WW2 he experienced tremors, often attributed to Parkinson's disease. However, heavy amphetamine use mimics Parkinson's, probably because the neurotransmitter dopamine is affected by both. A stereotypical behavior very common to amphetamine addicts, an incessant scratching (the description offered by amphetamine addicts is "bugs are crawling under their skin"), began by 1943.

The fact that no one figured this out until 1979, 34 years after Hitler's death, provides some of the most damning evidence ever of how completely unaware biographers and historians are of the role of addiction in determining the course of events. They don't look for it because they don't know it's relevant. In my first book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, I wrote that someday historians and biographers would view their subjects in a new light. Judging from the current treatment of Arafat, there is still a long way to go.

The only flaw in The Medical Casebook is that barbiturates are only mentioned in passing, explaining that Hitler didn't take them in large enough pharmacologic doses for addiction to have occurred. However, the mix of drugs, the fact that drugs potentiate each other in remarkably potent ways (two plus two equals ten) and continuous use strongly suggests that this addiction intertwined with amphetamine use to create the most reviled monster in history. It is an irony of history that Hitler chose never to drink because of the vile effects that alcoholism had on others. However, barbiturates are alcohol in pill form for the alcoholic. Hitler, then, was likely an alcoholic who used only other drugs.

Image Dear Doug: Drunk daughter loses privleges

Dear Doug,

After our 17-year-old daughter Mandy came home from a party drunk, we grounded her. She now complains she will lose all her friends, tells us everyone thinks we're rotten parents, says she hates us and limits her conversation with us to monosyllabic responses.

We can't trust our own daughter. Mandy has repeatedly lied to us. However, while we know we must be firm, we are afraid of losing her. We are in counseling but wonder if there is anything else we can do.

Suffering Parent

. . . . . .

Dear Suffering Parent,

Other columnists might say that the punishment is fair and discipline must be offered with love and concern, not anger, and that she needs to know you care. I would agree with those sentiments. They would add that counseling is a good start. However, if Mandy is a young, early-stage alcoholic, counseling her would only enable. Countless addicts in recovery report that their biggest enabler was a therapist, giving them all the excuses in the world while failing to treat the underlying disorder.

Coming home from a party drunk may be common even among non-alcoholic teenagers, but few will do the driving. Fewer still will belittle and hate to the degree your letter implies. Such attitudes, especially if vitriolic, are usually rooted in alcoholism. Repeated lying is almost exclusively the domain of alcoholics, and if there were several occasions of her having been obviously drunk, there is little doubt the two are connected.

This can be confusing because the alcoholic doesn't have to appear inebriated to lie. The alcoholic's Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) can be as high as .24%, three times the presumption for DUI, before she begins showing classic signs of drunkenness such as staggered gait and slurred speech. (This is true regardless of weight or age; weight determines the quantity of alcohol that must be consumed to reach a given BAL.) Nor does she even have to be under the influence to lie. Poor behaviors often occur between drinking episodes.

If she has triggered alcoholism, you needn't worry about losing her, because you already have. If alcoholic, her love is now the drug. Only consequences, combined with intervention, will bring her back. If she has triggered alcoholism, do everything possible to coerce abstinence and get her into a program of sobriety, before tragedy happens.

(Source for story idea: Annie's Mailbox, October 2004.

Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month: "This defendant's actions are another tragic example of what can occur when bravado and machismo overtake judgment."

So said Deputy District Attorney Tom Rubinson, after sentencing Pete Marron, 20, found guilty of shooting 25-year-old Marc Antenorcruz to death in a Dodger Stadium parking lot after an argument in September 2003. However, it's also what can happen when confronted by an alcoholic.

Rubinson described Antenocruz as having been drinking and belligerent the night of the shooting. Marron may simply have overreacted, after words were exchanged between the two. On the other hand, it may have been a classic case of alcoholic v. alcoholic.

In research I conducted for the section on probabilities of alcoholism in convicted criminals in my first book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, cop after cop told me the same story: very often, there's heavy drinking on the part of both parties to a dispute. The fact of such drinking is not, in itself, conclusive, but we can increase the odds of alcoholism when there are bad behaviors, regardless of which side is legally at fault.

There is a possibility that both Pete Marron and Marc Antenorcruz lived their short lives as undiagnosed alcoholics. If this is true, because parents, friends and - prior to this murder - law enforcement ignored it, made excuses for it or didn't attempt to coerce abstinence, tragedy was inevitable.

Instead of being "another tragic example of what can occur when bravado and machismo overtake judgment," the actions of both may have been another tragic example of what can happen when alcoholism is allowed to progress unimpeded.

Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors
You'd better voote "right" or else!

Story from This is True by Randy Cassingham, with "tagline:"

"DEBATE TACTIC: Steven Soper, 18, tried to convince his girlfriend Stacey Silveira that she should vote for George W. Bush but, then he couldn't get his point across, police say, he grabbed a screwdriver and held it to her throat. Police in Boynton Beach, Fla., say he threatened that she "won't live to see the next election" unless she changed her voting preference. Police, called by a neighbor who heard the ruckus, arrived to find him holding the screwdriver to her throat, and refused to drop it. They Tasered him to subdue him. Soper, who recently enlisted in the Marine Corps, will likely be discharged, a Marine spokesman says. He is being held without bail on charges of aggravated battery, false imprisonment and resisting arrest. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
...Though if Bush is re-elected, Soper expects to be pardoned.

Although drinking isn't mentioned in the story, since 90% of convicts are alcoholics (and Soper, based on the evidence thus far, certainly deserves a conviction) the odds are, Soper is an alcoholic. If true, there are several interesting aspects to the story.

First, alcoholism has no preference for conservative, liberal, libertarian or socialist leanings. Intolerance of others' beliefs is a terrific clue to alcoholism, regardless of political or religious persuasion. Second, Soper is only 18. If he's alcoholic, this is just one more example proving that age and illegality of drinking do not impede alcoholism. Third, Soper recently enlisted in the Marines. By some estimates, half of enlisted men have had alcohol or other drug "problems" by the time of enlistment. This can be explained by the fact that, due to the alcoholic's need to inflate his or her ego, heroism is more common among alcoholics, and especially by those who take reckless risks and unnecessarily put oneself in harm's way. There are plenty of opportunities for such risk taking in the armed services. This is not meant to demean the brave men and women serving our country. It does, however, explain atrocities such as those occurring at Mi Lai and Abu Ghraib. Most important, understanding the sometimes-grotesque manifestations of early-stage alcoholism suggests ways of avoiding such tragedies: early intervention and required abstinence by those in the armed forces. While such a goal may be considered a pipe dream, such treatment of likely addicts could be made part of the program for those who display the more egregious behaviors.

("This is True" is copyright 2004 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. See for free subscriptions.)


To view reader's comments on last month's Thorburn Addiction Report and Doug's responses please visit the Thorburn Weblog at

Doug frequently posts alcoholism-related articles, as well as his responses, so be sure to check back often.

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* Speaking of which, one of our goals is to make space for a few thousand copies of Doug's fourth book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease. It will be available for pre-publication sales by late December or early January. Here's one review:

"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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