September/October 2006 / Issue No. 24

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

There is something for everyone!

Doug has designed a unique double-sided business-sized card. The heading on one side is, “Behavioral Indications of Early-Stage Alcoholism Include:” and its opposite reads, “Sobriety Can Be Characterized By:”. The indications include “An inflated ego” and “Verbal & emotional abuse”; the reverse reads, “Humility” and “Respect for others”. In all, there are 16 indications of early-stage alcoholism and 16 opposites. The bottom of the card reads, “Early identification of alcoholism can help prevent tragedy.” We think it could be a great card to give to the suffering codependent. We’ll send five cards free to each of the first ten people who ask, after which we’ll send five for a dollar.

Unless something comes up of a compelling nature, we’ll be taking a break in October. We hope you enjoy this double-issue!

ImageTerrorism and Addiction

The absence of actual evidence of addictive use of drugs by the current regime of terrorists is not surprising. The probable motive force behind the horrific behaviors is, none the less, psychotropic drug addiction.

The fifth anniversary of 9-11 reminds us what terrorists are capable of. The question that begs to be answered, yet is rarely asked, is what is the root of hatred that results in the wanton murder of helpless innocents? The first Czar of Russia, Ivan lV Vasilievich, was one of history’s grand terrorists. A sampling of his countless atrocities shows that terrorists vary only in their methods—and provides clues to what drives them.

James Graham, in his masterpiece The Secret History of Alcoholism, describes the vengeance Ivan took upon the citizens of Novgorod, whom he suspected were no longer loyal to him. He surrounded the city with troops and began executing a thousand inhabitants a day with ingenious inventions of torture and death. Graham quotes Jules Koslow in his 1961 book, Ivan the Terrible: “Wives were forced to witness the quartering of their husbands; husbands were forced to see their wives roasted alive.” The executions, which proved too slow for Ivan, were soon “supplemented by mass drownings in the Volkhov River” by tying victims to sleighs and dragging them under water. Ivan decided that he’d had enough only after killing as many as 70,000 citizens, the equivalent of at least 700,000 today.

He later turned against his own thugs. Graham reports, “Like Alexander [the Great] and Henry VIII, Ivan turned on those whom he had used as instruments of destruction…in mass public executions.” His chancellor “was strung up by his feet and cut into little pieces.” His treasurer “was placed repeatedly in iced water and then in boiling water until his skin ‘came off him like an eel’s.’” He and his son then raped and murdered the widows.

Graham reports that “at alcohol-drenched banquets, he would set ferocious bears loose on human prisoners.” He had at least seven wives, murdering some and murdering only the families of others. His nickname, “Ivan the Terrible,” was an understatement.

There’s no question about Ivan’s alcoholism. At 17, he was already drinking “too much,” and the middle-aged Ivan was united with his son “by love of wine, debauchery and blood,” before killing him in a drunken rage. He is reported to have “drank himself into insensibility” on numerous occasions and prematurely aged due to countless “drinking bouts.” There is similar evidence of alcoholism in Alexander the Great and Henry VIII.

The question is what do earlier terrorists have to do with Muslim extremists carrying out Jihad? Alcoholism causes megalomaniacal misbehaviors, but the current string of terrorists doesn’t seem to consist of alcoholics, particularly since Islam forbids the use of alcohol. There are several hypotheses that may explain the seeming paradox:

• Some Jihadists drink or use other megalomania-causing drugs secretly.

• Alcohol or other-drug addiction in a parent causes all manner of dysfunctions in children, which in the right environment can take hold in a particularly virulent form in adults.

• Some of what we might call IslamoNazis may be exhibiting dry drunk syndrome, common among abstinent addicts who fail to deflate their egos. Sobriety requires both, without which the misbehaviors often continue.

• Terrorism may require addiction only in leaders, because addicts are able to wield tremendous control over others. Such followers probably consist largely of people seeking “answers” to their problems, including children of addicts and addicts in very early recovery, who are particularly susceptible to charm and charisma. It may also include many Idealists, a Kierseyan Temperament (iNtuitive Feelers in the Myers-Briggs personality type paradigm), who are described by Kiersey as credulous.

• Some combination of explanations may be at work, all of which include addiction to a psychotropic drug at some level in the hierarchy of terrorists.

When we are able to dig deeply into the secrets of those who act badly in America, we find addiction far more often than would be expected by mere chance in a population in which only 10% are addicts. By extrapolation, this probably holds true for other cultures. The challenge in digging is overcoming the reluctance of close people to discuss possible addiction, the cost to such people of “outing” secrets and the gross unawareness of addiction as the cause of troubling behaviors. Even those whose misbehaviors are extreme enough to enter the public eye often keep their secrets, not only because high positions promote enabling on the part of subordinates, but also because alcoholism and its relevance to current events is not taught. As a result, journalists ignore the role that alcohol or other-drug addiction may play in stories, including those involving terrorism. In addition, since most have cause and effect backwards, believing that poor behaviors and morals cause addiction, if drug use is noticed at all it’s mentioned only in passing.

Various drugs do different things to different people. Those genetically predisposed to alcoholism often experience a sense of invincibility that impels them to do things they would never consider when sober, including even murder. This seems to be true for other psychotropic drug addiction. For example, members of the Mohammedan order of Assassins, founded around 1090 and flourishing during the Crusades, used hashish before slaying Christians. In fact, the word ‘assassin’ is derived from the earlier word for hashish, “hashashin.”

One of the numerous challenges in dealing with and describing the behaviors resulting from addiction is that not everyone engaging in vile behaviors is an addict. This is particularly true when many people, addicts and non-addicts alike, are subservient to an addict in a position of power. Sober alcoholics tell us they were the world’s greatest salesmen when using, which could explain how amphetamine/barbiturate addict Adolf Hitler remained in power and amphetamine addict/alcoholic Jim Jones talked 900 men, women and children into committing Kool-Aid suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. We might infer that while terrorism requires psychotropic drug addiction, not every terrorist needs to be addicted. Misbehaviors on a grand scale may require only a few addicts wielding power from a position of ultimate authority.

Such addiction can easily be hidden from followers. Leonard L. Heston, M.D. and his wife Renate Heston, R.N., in their 1979 book, The Medical Casebook of Adolf Hitler, provided virtually incontestable proof that Hitler’s most vile behaviors were driven by addiction to amphetamines. They also proved he used barbiturates—alcohol in pill form to the alcoholic—which is how he may have triggered the equivalent of alcoholism long before his amphetamine use began. The book serves as compelling evidence that proof of even severe addiction in public figures may surface only decades later, if at all (and that historians often miss the role that addiction plays in their chronicles).

Yasir Arafat was likely one of these addicts. Despite the fact that he exhibited countless behavioral indications of addiction, neither journalists nor pundits ever suggested the possibility that addiction provided the best explanation for his heinous behaviors.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Entire texts have been written about alcohol or other drug addicts, completely missing the diagnosis. Mary Wilson's 1986 autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, never once mentioned fellow Supreme Diana Ross’s drinking and using, even though the misbehaviors described indicated an extremely high probability of addiction. (She entered rehab years later.) Even if mentioned, it’s only as an afterthought without any idea of its significance, as was the case of B. D. Hyman’s expose of her famous mother, actress Bette Davis, in My Mother’s Keeper. In Arafat’s case actual evidence of addiction stared us in the face: his pupil size in numerous pictures was four-fifths the size of his iris, providing all but incontrovertible proof of addiction to either amphetamines or cocaine. (Among other pictures, check out

While news reports often omit the use of alcohol or other drugs by those who commit heinous crimes, they occasionally and usually incidentally link drugs and terrorists. While rare, such remarks provide valuable clues to those of us who understand that drug addiction and even the dry-drunk syndrome can fuel horrific atrocities.

An anonymous journalist writing for The Economist magazine, in a piece July 16, 2005 entitled, “In Europe’s midst: Four young British Muslims became zealots, and the zealots became suicide bombers,” gets closest to pinpointing what may be one of the key underlying causes of such extremism. The author points out, “For every one of these footsoldiers of terror, tens of thousands of similar young men choose to lead uneventful and peaceful lives.” While they feel “it is vain to look for a simple cause that determines the conversion to jihad…there are subtle patterns and tendencies….Often they have grown apart from their family: some might have drifted into petty crime, or an unIslamic taste for alcohol and women. Something then leads them to religion and thence radical voices preaching the Utopia of worldwide Islamic rule.” He adds, “Frequently, a young Muslim man falls out of mainstream society, becoming alienated both from his parents and from the ‘stuffy’ Islamic culture in which he was brought up. He may become more devout, but the reverse is more likely. He turns to drink, drugs and petty crime before seeing a ‘solution’ to his problems—and the world’s—in radical Islam.” As Mark Almond wrote in a June 2002 article in The Wall Street Journal, “Why Terrorists Love Criminals and Vice Versa,” “Petty criminals and terrorists both feel they are supermen beyond ordinary laws and obligations.” He pointed out that both Jose Padilla, arrested for scouting sites where he could explode a dirty bomb and shoe bomber Richard Reid were “petty criminals who had run-ins with the law since their early teens.” And, we know that 80-90% of such criminals are alcohol or other-drug addicts who all admit when push comes to shove that they feel like “supermen” when they drank or used.

It wasn’t until the 14th paragraph in an August 12/13, 2006 piece in The Wall Street Journal, “Al Qaeda or Not?” that we learn a neighbor of one of the terrorists arrested over the recent plot to blow up a dozen or so airplanes enroute from London to the United States said, “He was looking outside his window at one of the Ali [one of the suspects in the case] houses and could see police removing what looked like marijuana plants, sunlamps and reflectors. He said people often came and went from the house day and night.” The average reader would have no idea that whatever cannabis Ali was growing might create a sense of invincibility and an “I am God” attitude, which because of his particular circumstances and environment impelled him to become a Jihadist.

While religion can help deflate that ego, particular sects may not. And there is evidence of continuing use of other drugs, including hashish, marijuana and khat in some terrorists. Khat, abundant in Yemen, is a mild stimulant on par with amphetamines and is known to cause abnormal behavior in a minority of users, just as alcohol does. The “abnormal behavior,” while described as relatively mild compared with that caused by alcohol, includes verbal outbursts and insomnia, along with triggering and aggravation of schizophrenia. Those experiencing insomnia as a result of khat often use counteracting agents such as tranquilizers and alcohol. Since psychotropic drugs potentiate each other, or create an effect far greater than the sum of its parts, there may be countless full-blown addicts who would never be identified as such except by their misbehaviors.

It’s also possible that many who stop using alcohol or other drugs are the most easily manipulated by the top echelon of terrorists. Sebastian Rotella, in “Before ‘Martyrdom’ Plan, Belgian Woman’s Faith Turned Radical,” in The Los Angeles Times December 2, 2005 edition, wrote, “The first female European Muslim convert to commit a suicide bombing in Iraq...had drug problems in her youth…[and] was fragile psychologically.” Her mother admitted she was “furious at those who manipulated her [daughter].” Similarly, children of particularly abusive alcoholics may have trouble recovering from abuse. The two sisters of Zacarias Moussaoui, who boasted he was to fly a fifth plane into the White House on 9/11, told his jury that their father “was an alcoholic who routinely beat their mother.” Moussaoui was diagnosed by at least one clinical psychologist as schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies, symptoms often triggered by amphetamine addiction that often do not subside in abstinence.

Many terrorists are known or believed to have used drugs immediately prior to the commission of an atrocity. The leader of the Japanese terrorist sect Aum Shinri Kyo, Shoko Asahara, who masterminded the sarin poison attack in Tokyo’s subway system in March 1995, is reported by D.W. Brackett in Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, to have been on LSD and “other drugs.” The use of amphetamines before committing violence pervades recent history. Kamikaze pilots in WW II were charged up with meth. Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot Pope John Paul ll in 1981, was on amphetamines when he attempted the assassination. Suicide bombers in the Middle East were given amphetamines in the 1980s. Dr. Aziz Al-Abub, the psychiatrist behind the torture of hostages by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980s, provided amphetamines for suicide-bombers. In Sierra Leone’s recent civil war, children were given cocaine, amphetamines and tranquilizers, driving murderous binges sometimes lasting for days. These children, as young as seven, became known and feared for their extraordinary energy, lack of control and brutality.

The world’s great despots have virtually all been alcohol or other-drug addicts. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Adolf Eichman and Hermann Ghoering were such addicts. North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is an alcoholic, as is his protégé Saparmurat Niyazov, the head of Turkmenistan. The de facto dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is a likely alcoholic, as was one of his heroes, Che Guevara. Raul Castro is alcoholic and Fidel Castro is known for seven-hour bombastic speeches, indications of either cocaine or amphetamine addiction. Saddam Hussein is alcoholic, as were both of his sons. All of these are monsters, terrorists masquerading as leaders of states.

The question should be why would Islamic terrorists be any different? Whenever we think, “That’s insane,” or “What could possibly fuel such hatred,” our antennae should go up. While an inherited predisposition to act in horrifying ways as a result of use does not excuse such behavior, it alerts us to the fact that we cannot predict what such people are capable of. If Ivan the Terrible turned sleighs into weapons of mass destruction, imagine what he might have done with current technology. Those who think we can negotiate and show any weakness whatsoever do not understand alcoholic or other-drug induced brain damage and resulting megalomania. Compromise serves only to further inflate the primordial, pre-human and infantile ego, resulting in behaviors that cascade in ever-more terrifying ways. Since as many as 20% of awful behaviors are committed by non-addicts, without proof of use we cannot be sure that drug-induced megalomania drives the likes of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassralah, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, or their handlers. However, considering what’s at stake—nuclear weapons finding their way into the hands of drug-addicted terrorists—they should be dealt with as if it does.

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Five American soldiers in Iraq who reportedly took turns raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, after which they killed her, the girl’s parents and her 5-year-old sister. The attack “followed a session of whiskey drinking and card-playing during which five soldiers plotted the…assault” 250 yards from their post. U.S. soldiers are banned from drinking alcohol while in Iraq, but such geographic-centered Prohibition has been proven a failure time and again. Who among us doubts that alcohol and other-drug addicts are responsible for war’s worst atrocities?

Brandon Menard, 21, a Boy Scout whose friends and remaining family were “dumbfounded” over his arrest for allegedly killing his parents and sister in Northridge, California. Headlines read, “Motive in killings remains mystery” over murder in what up to now appeared to be a perfect family. An article three days later mentioned, in the 18th paragraph, that Brandon had been adopted, substantially raising the odds of inherited alcoholism. The 29th paragraph in the same piece mentioned that Brandon and other Boy Scouts had a Scout meeting Thursday night, after which several went to Perversion, a “hard-core dance club on Hollywood Boulevard. They got tipsy…and went to IHOP in Hollywood to sober up,” meeting up with Brandon’s brother who was on his night-time job dinner break. The brother left at 4:30 a.m. The coroner reported that Brandon’s parents and sister all died about 6:30 a.m. Friday of multiple stab wounds. Motive? Try, “alcoholism-fueled rage.” No other motive necessary.

An article six days later, entitled “Trouble Beneath a Happy Surface,” reported that friends said Brandon “had a dark side.” There were growing tensions between the family and Brandon, who “frequently left home to live with friends.” When he returned, it wasn’t always with the best of intentions. A friend of his sister’s told reporters he had broken into his parents’ home more than once to steal jewelry, cash and credit cards. “Mrs. Menard kept giving him chances, saying, ‘Oh, he’ll change,” the friend said. “But he never did.” Indeed. If Mrs. Menard and others had understood addiction and uncompromisingly disenabled (a phrase coined in Drunks, Drugs & Debits), the Menard family might be alive today.

Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, described in The Wall Street Journal as “an ailing septuagenarian with a reputation for heavy drinking.” Raul was also described as “one of the most ruthless revolutionary leaders” and was associated with many of the executions and purges in Cuba. He was also the brother who befriended the alcoholic revolutionary donned on T-shirts across the land, Che Guevara. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.

Actor Robin Williams, back out of a 30-day stint in rehab after his wife Marsha gave him a choice: “Either you go into rehab, or it’s over.” Fortunately, Williams, who had been sober 20 years, made the right choice. He only hopes it’s not too late, because his wife was living with a drunk and, therefore, insanity, since he relapsed two years ago with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in a hotel room mini-bar. “I thought I could handle just one drink,” he said, after which he finished off the liquor in the mini-bar, “staggered to a local bar” and ended up back in his hotel room, having no idea how he got there. Here’s hoping that one of the most brilliant comedic actors ever stays sober, this time.

1960’s rock group Love singer Arthur Lee, who died of leukemia. Lee was the first black rock star of the post-Beatles era, and fronted the band Love through several albums, including “Da Capo” and the gorgeous, haunting songs of the album “Forever Changes,” which was ranked 40th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant cited Lee’s influence in his 1995 acceptance speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Jimmy Hendrix reportedly took fashion cues from the “flamboyantly” dressed Lee. In classic alcoholic fashion, he could alternate charm and intimidation in order to win or get what he wanted. Love drummer Michael Stuart-Ware explained: “He liked people to acquiesce to his dominance. When he walked into a room, it was his room.” A recent incarnation, Love With Arthur Lee, included guitarist Mike Randle, who described Lee as “The sweetest, most giving man on the planet…when he was sober. But I would say he was sober 15% of the time. The rest was dealing with him and not trying to take it personally.” The last year before his diagnosis, he would often “miss gigs or show up only to stand on stage without singing.” Lee was 61.

Charles “Bud” Hayes, who dedicated the last 20 years of his life to helping addicts, dead of injuries from a motorcycle accident. After being a “stellar scholar” and student-body president of Chaminade High School in West Hills, California, he spiraled down, ending up homeless. In recovery, he assisted in the development of more than 100 alcohol and other-drug programs, sober-living centers and shelters, and recently served as executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of the San Fernando Valley. I never met Bud, but got a taste of his wisdom when I spoke with him on the phone over a year ago. One of our topics was Oracle president Larry Ellison, who he said had purchased five mansions in Malibu. I told him such extravagances were consistent with Ellison’s egomania, indicating alcoholism. At first he disagreed with me and argued that Bill Gates suffers egomania, but is certainly no alcoholic. While I couldn’t agree that Gates is an egomaniac, he suddenly said, “But Gates’ egomania is benign and Ellison’s is non-benign.” I said, “Eureka!” and clarified: non-benign egomania is a symptom of alcoholism. Thanks for the clarification, Bud. I’m so sorry we never met. Hayes was 55.

Under watch:

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, 80, recuperating from stomach surgery. His megalomania has always baffled me, since it’s believed he drinks little. However, as suggested in the “runners-up” section, he may be, like Yasir Arafat, an amphetamine or cocaine addict. Behavioral evidence that his emotional state is stuck in his teens (the emotional state of the addict gets “stuck” the day he or she triggers addiction) can be found in the fact that, as Pope John Paul II’s biographer George Weigel puts in a piece entitled, “Don’t cry for him, Cubanos,” in The Los Angeles Times, “I remember walking the streets of Havana [in January 1998]…thinking that this is what a country would look like if it were run for decades by a group of vicious teenagers.” He also recalls “the barren shelves in the pharmacies, with not even an aspirin to be had, despite the propaganda about Cuban healthcare.” He remembered a prostitute, a “well-spoken medical doctor who, when I asked why she was selling herself, told me that it was the only way to support her children.” Long live the revolution, Fidel. And a personal message to Mike Wallace, formerly of CBS’s “60 Minutes”: stop enabling despots. If you heard his recent despicable interview regarding “el maximo lider,” you know what I’m talking about.

Former Mexico City mayor and Mexican Presidential candidate Lopez Obrador, while contending that the recent presidential election was marked by fraud, promised to “make the country ungovernable.” His supporters have blockaded key roads in Mexico City for the last month and pledge to prevent winner Felipe Calderon from being sworn in on December 1. Obrador has vowed to keep the protest movement going until the government is brought down and to block moves to allow increased participation by private industry in everything from oil and electricity to pension funds. “If I don’t get my way, why I’ll huff and huff and blow your house down.” I’d suggest that Mr. Obrador grow up, but if I’m right, his emotional growth is stuck at about age 13.

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 proactively intervene.

Enablers of the Month:

Sheriff Deputy James Mee, who after arresting Mel Gibson excused himself for the arrest by commenting, “As in all DUIs…I don’t relish hurting people [by arresting them]…I’m out there doing my job,” and “I don’t take pride in hurting Mr. Gibson.” Excuse me Deputy Mee, but by doing your job you are helping him, not hurting him. It’s unfortunate that so many officers before you failed to do their job.

Deputy Mee also decided not to handcuff Mel Gibson at the outset because of “who he is.” Mee was quoted as having told Gibson “that if he remained cooperative, I would transport him without handcuffing.” Listen up, Deputy Mee. Gibson’s blood alcohol level was at .12 per cent when stopped for driving 87 mph in a 45 mph zone. It was readily apparent that you were arresting an alcoholic and, therefore, a potentially lethal human being. Alcoholics in recovery admit they are capable of anything. That doesn’t mean, “Anything except…grabbing the wheel while you are transporting them…attempting to go for your gun…etc.” It doesn’t matter who he is: alcoholics should never be transported by law enforcers while under the influence without handcuffs. And if you don’t think that addicts are capable of anything, consider all the murder and mayhem committed by “nice” people who no one “ever dreamed could commit such an act.” And think of Bryn Hartman, comedian Phil Hartman’s wife. No one ever would have dreamed.

An unnamed Sheriff’s Deputy in Malibu, for having driven Mel Gibson ten miles from the station to a towing yard to retrieve his Lexus after the arrest. He should have walked.

Dina Lohan, coming to her daughter Lindsay Lohan’s defense after Morgan Creek Productions CEO James G. Robinson wrote, “We are well aware that your ongoing all night heavy partying is the real reason for your so called ‘exhaustion.’” Dina said, “I’m a mother and will do what I need to do to protect my child,” and accused Robinson of being “way out of line.”

Message to Mrs. Lohan: If we are right about Lindsay, your actions are increasing the odds that she will ruin many relationships and even destroy lives, ultimately culminating in her own. My book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, gives a “gut feel” for addiction and will help you to offer the love she needs: uncompromising tough love.

Public Policy Proposal:
Should Hand-Held Cell Phone Use be Banned While Driving?

The idea that cell phone use by drivers is dangerous was recently buttressed by studies purporting to show that such use is more dangerous than driving under the influence. Even California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is promising to sign such a ban into law. However, the study flies in the face of reason. When research findings don’t make sense, I always consider the classic book, How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff and ask, what’s wrong with the study?

One problem is that it tracked 40 people following a pace car using a driving simulator. Meth addicts have been studied, too—and were “proven” to be better drivers than non-users. Subsequent studies showed that such addicts have a far greater accident rate than do non-addicts. The best explanation for this contradiction is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal, which postulates that the observer changes the behavior of the observed. Addicts are far more careful if they know they are being watched. We should instead study whether those cell phone users driving erratically or aggressively are under the influence—in real life, not in a simulator.

There are many who seem extra careful when driving while using a cell phone. And there are lots of other distractions to consider, which can be every bit as dangerous or more so. We don’t hear about banning parents from having to deal with unruly children while driving, or eating, drinking, smoking or conversing with other passengers while behind the wheel. It turns out, the same researchers found there is no difference in accident rates between hands-free and hand-held cell phone use. The problem, according to the researchers, is the conversation.

Instead, we can use cell phone use—or doing anything else while driving—as an indicator of possible DUI if observed in conjunction with any driving misbehavior, just as we can use cigarette smoking as such a clue (clue # 1 in the chapter on “Physical Signs” in Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence). The road becomes safer if we keep mindful of the idea that any activity in a vehicle other than just driving should get our antennae up to a possible DUI or an addict between drinking episodes, who can be every bit as reckless as when drinking. Cell phone use, gesticulating and smoking have been my first clue on many occasions to possible DUI, which has allowed me to get safely out of the way. For that reason alone, I’d rather keep hands-held cell phone use legal, with perhaps enhanced penalties for using a cell phone while committing a traffic violation—under the influence or not. And, we could require that such violators using a cell phone be tested for DUI using non-intrusive Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, by which any trained officer can non-intrusively determine blood alcohol level within .02 per cent in less than one minute.


Dear Doug: Elder Abuse

Dear Doug:

In order to support our son, his wife and two children, my wife and I, both 76, still work. Our son just got laid off and his wife, who was supposed to go back to work when their first child entered Kindergarten, got pregnant again and, with the new baby, is unable to go back to work.

When our son was working, we had to help with $200-per-week day care for their older child and even more for the baby. When our son lost his job, we had to take over rent and car payments for which we had co-signed. They are behind on their utilities and have been threatened with being cut off, so we often pay the bills. We even help with groceries.

Our formerly pristine credit has been ruined. When we try to tell them this is too much for us, they become indignant. We have already used up our retirement savings helping them and the worrying is ruining our health. We don’t know what to do. Please help.


Elderly Abused

. . . .

Dear Abused,

Other columnists might suggest that your son is living high on the hog relative to what he can afford and that as long as you play bailer, he’ll never learn he cannot get something for nothing. They’d tell you to stop the gravy train, to be unconcerned when they become indignant and to tell them to contact a credit counselor.

Other columnists would be missing the most likely root cause of the misbehaviors: addiction to a psychotropic drug. Let’s look at the behavioral clues.

First, you paid an extravagant amount for dependent care when your son was working and your daughter-in-law was a stay-at-home mom. Where is she during the daytime?

Second, your son lost his job. Third, the economy has been decent and if he was employed in one of the few weak sectors (manufacturing, real estate or construction), he should have been saving for a rainy day.

Fourth, it’s incredible they are indignant for the love and concern you have shown them. We give the benefit of the doubt by assuming one or both are addicts. If true, the “love” you have shown has been enabling, which has fueled their egos by granting them control. This has served only to guarantee that the misbehaviors continue.

While the uncompromising tough love I suggest in my book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, is the only love an addict will understand, without leverage it could take years or even decades for your son and daughter-in-law to get the message. You don’t have the luxury of waiting and, while you do, the children could be suffering from similar or worse psychological abuse. Therefore, the best thing you can do, for your sake, your son and daughter-in-law’s sake and, most important, for the sake of your grandchildren, is to first confirm addiction and then help create a crisis that forces them to get sober. Do everything you can to create pain in their lives, even to the point of seeking custody of your grandchildren. If there’s a reason to talk to your local Department of Children and Family Services and police, do so, alerting the latter to the possibility that your son or daughter-in-law is driving while under the influence, perhaps even with the children in tow.

(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, August 9, 2006.)

Prevent Tragedy Foundation

Three seemingly disparate statements in recent news reports have one thing in common: reporters have it backwards.

“Aggressive or withdrawn youths—and those who struggle in school—are more likely to abuse drugs.” -- Marnell Jameson, “Anti-drug overdose?” The Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2006.

“Key to understanding the relationship between early drinking and alcoholism risk is whether…early drinking reflects an underlying predisposition for risky behavior in [certain] young people.” –National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism news release, “Early Drinking Linked to Higher Lifetime Alcoholism Risk,” July 17, 2006.

“On the heels of a five-year boom in weight-loss surgeries, researchers are observing an unusual phenomenon: Some patients stop overeating—but wind up acquiring new compulsive disorders such as alcoholism, gambling addiction or compulsive shopping.” -- Jane Spencer, “The New Science of Addiction,” The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2006.

The trouble with these statements is that correlation is not causation. There are other explanations for the observations other than those that are implied (aggressiveness leads to alcoholism; if we can reduce risky behavior in young people, we might prevent early drinking; alcoholism is a replacement for food addiction).

Youths who create problems for others, kids who themselves have problems and young people who engage in unnecessarily risky behaviors are frequently from broken homes or have an abusive parent. Broken homes are often a result of alcoholism in at least one parent and abuse is almost always rooted in alcoholism. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to inherit alcoholism than children of non-addicts. Addiction can cause aggressiveness, withdrawal, lousy grades and risky misbehaviors.

Compulsions are often responses to and compensation for abuse, including psychological abandonment, by an alcoholic parent. Many compulsive eaters, gamblers and spenders are themselves addicts. But why would compulsive eaters suddenly trigger addiction after they lose weight? Maybe because triggering addiction becomes far easier after losing weight.

Consider the possibility that a certain Blood Alcohol Level must be reached to trigger addiction. There’s probably not enough of a “buzz” and feeling of godliness to trigger addiction at a .02 per cent. This could be true at BALs up to .06 and perhaps .08 per cent or even higher, depending on the addict’s particular brain chemistry. This could explain why only about half of alcoholics report that addiction was triggered during the first drinking “episode,” any definition of which is imprecise.

Recall that each drink (5 ounces wine, 1.5 ounces 80-proof liquor or 12 ounces beer) increases the BAL of a 120-pound and 200-pound person by .03 and .02 respectively. Approximately .015 per cent (a half drink for a 120-pounder and three-quarters of a drink for someone weighing 200 pounds) is assimilated each hour regardless of other factors. Four drinks over the course of two hours are needed to bring the BAL to .09 per cent for a 120-pound person, which is probably enough to trigger addiction in most who are so predisposed. However, a 200-pounder’s BAL will get to only .06 per cent. I have been unable to confirm the numbers, but we might guess that a 300-pound person’s BAL increases at .01 or .015 per cent per drink. Four drinks over the course of two hours might result in a BAL of .03 per cent for this person, probably not enough to trigger addiction.

For many, obesity begins during childhood. How many might have had several drinks on a number of occasions, only to feel a slight buzz at most? Perhaps some, used to having several drinks, continued at this rate as weight was shed.

The subject of Spencer’s article, Patty Worrells, was never a heavy drinker before her surgery at age 48. Eighteen months later and 134 pounds lighter, she was downing 15 to 20 shots of tequila almost every night. Her father was an alcoholic who died at age 54 and her younger sister struggled with addiction for her entire life. We might hypothesize that Ms. Worrells, from a family with at least two very close addicts, may have finally triggered addiction at age 48 because only then was she able to. Those who became compulsive in other ways may be untreated children of alcoholics, reacting to psychological abandonment in any way they are able.

Addendum to last month’s myth, “Alcohol is a revealer, not a creator of human behavior.” “Alcohol is truth serum.”

This variation of Myth # 63 in Alcoholism Myths and Realities (“His real personality comes out when he drinks”) was repeated ad nauseam in regards to Mel Gibson in the days following his arrest. It was repeated even by psychologist Joyce Brothers, who is quoted as saying, “We are much more likely to tell our own feelings when we are drunk.” While this may be true for non-alcoholics, it is flagrantly false for alcoholics. I even heard the myth bandied about by recovering addicts, who surprisingly often don’t understand their own disease. They are, in fact, the greatest perpetrators of the myths that “alcoholism requires a loss of control over use,” “I drank because of stress/problems/etc.,” “I drank to escape,” “I drank because of a loss of spirituality.” This is nonsense. Alcoholics drink addictively because the drug makes them feel powerful and even invincible, and because they can drink without ill-effect to far higher blood alcohol levels than can non-addicts. It hadn’t dawned on me until the Gibson arrest and its aftermath that Myth # 63 was so pervasive, or I’d have greatly expanded my discussion in the book. A good friend of Gibson’s, producer Dean Devlin, was quoted as saying, “I have been with Mel when he has fallen off [the wagon], and he becomes a completely different person. It is pretty horrifying.” Because of damage to the neo-cortex, the seat of reason and logic, when alcoholics drink Mr. Hyde makes an ugly appearance in all his glory.

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

Meth-Heads do the Craziest Things

Whenever I run across a story of somebody doing something really stupid, I look for alcoholism. If it’s really, really stupid, I look for crack cocaine. And if it’s incredibly idiotic, I look for methamphetamine. I’m usually not disappointed. Here’s a classic, which also involved quite a bit of creativity.

“DUH DRUGGIES: The Missouri Highway Patrol says Joseph Seidl, 39, and Michael Sullivan, 41, thought up a great method to ditch a cargo of illegal drugs in case they got pulled over: a 4-foot rocket. The device, the police agency said, was packed with two pounds of methamphetamine and set up in the truck of their car. It was wired to a switch in front; when activated, the trunk would pop open and the rocket would move to a vertical position and take off with the criminal evidence. Sure enough, trooper Tommy Wally pulled the pair over in Callaway County. They flipped the switch -- but nothing happened: the drug-dealing duo forgot to plug the rocket in to the car's power. Seidl and Sullivan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and face up to life in prison and $8 million in fines. What brought them to the attention of the trooper in the first place? They were speeding. (Columbia Tribune) ...Obviously they're no rocket scientists.”

No, they’re not rocket scientists, but consider this creative genius channeled into more productive endeavors. According to Sara Agnew of the Missouri-based Columbia Tribune (, “The rocket was controlled by an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys designed to lift it into an upright position once the trunk was popped from inside the vehicle. The bottom of the 4-foot-long rocket…had eight explosive charges connected by a series of wires to a homemade switch in the front of the car,” which was powered by the cigarette lighter. The bomb squad from the Missouri Highway Patrol said the system was functional but disconnected from its power source. The “rocket” contained two gallon-size Ziploc bags containing two pounds of methamphetamine.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2006 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. See for free subscriptions.)

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