Issue # 76 - Winter 2014

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

Alcohol and other-drug addiction explains so many newsworthy items, it’s hard to know where to begin, which stories to include and which ones are worthy of inclusion in TAR. There were several stories we deemed important enough to inspire us to make a last-ditch effort before we get really busy with Tax Season to write an issue worthy of our readers’ time. We hope you find it, as always, timely and stimulating!

BTW, How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics is now available as an e-book. It’s a great gift idea for those dealing with someone whose addiction is all-too-obvious to you but for whom family, friends or associates are blind.


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

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2014 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

North Korea has managed to out-Stalin good ol’ Uncle Joe, as Joseph Stalin was called by those who were blind to his atrocities. In running the most totalitarian state ever—rife with mass starvation, under-nourishment and devotion of an estimated 30-50% of GDP to weaponry—they have developed (or otherwise obtained) nuclear weapons. Worse yet, the man in charge of the country—and the nukes—is an alcoholic and, therefore, capable of anything. It’s no wonder the doomsday clock continues to run at 5 ‘til midnight.

So how does a totalitarian state pay for a nuclear program when its citizens are starving? In part, by drug trafficking. To sell drugs for export, government chemists became adept at producing high-quality drugs, especially methamphetamine. According to the U.S. State Department, production has recently shifted from drugs for export to drugs for internal use. North Koreans themselves have become some of the most voracious users of drugs, especially meth.

Meth, often called “ice” on the street, is the most dangerous of drugs, but not because it is addictive. Contrary to popular belief, meth is like any other psychoactive drug in its potential to create addicts—those predisposed to addiction become addicts, while those who are not can use it recreationally.* Rather, meth is more likely than other drugs to cause addicts to lose control and act crazy; the behaviors in which meth addicts engage are more erratic and destructive.

Even in its milder form, amphetamine, the drug can compel the addict to commit erratic and horrific behaviors. Suicide bombers are reportedly fed a cocktail of amphetamines and tranquilizers. The Japanese gave amphetamines to kamikaze pilots during WWII. Adolf Hitler became progressively more reckless after 1936, when he became addicted to amphetamines.

But amphetamine addiction doesn’t scratch the surface compared to meth addiction. I collect addict antics stories, categorizing what I call “non-famous addicts” as alkies, potheads, coke-heads, meth-heads or poly-drug addicts (the famous ones are generally categorized by occupation). Meth addict stories stand out as the craziest and most erratic. Recent stories include:
an addict trying to cook meth in a Walmart,
a mother murdering her own children,
roasting a raccoon in a big-city apartment,
sexually abusing a Chihuahua,
evading arrest in a high-speed pursuit while driving a semi-tanker gasoline truck,
a couple cooking meth in their bedroom on two different occasions, once while pregnant and once with their 7-month-old breathing in the fumes,
a meth-head tearing up a bar and then a girlfriend’s apartment where she lived with their two children (be sure to click on at least this story)
and…well, you get the idea.

The idea of an easily-available drug like this in North Korea is troubling. Further, North Korean escapees say there is little stigma to meth use in the totalitarian state. Reportedly, many North Koreans take it for colds or as an energy booster. In a country where food is scarce** and the drug plentiful, its appetite-suppressing qualities make it helpful in surviving. It’s offered to friends as casually as a cup of tea. One North Korean user said, “It is like drinking coffee when you’re sleepy, but ice is so much better.”

While there is currently no proof that the North Korean dictator is addicted to methamphetamine, several behavioral indicators suggest it is possible. First, Kim Jong Un, 31, is a known alcoholic. Second, those predisposed to alcoholism are almost always predisposed to other-drug addiction. Third, the drug is a pervasive, ubiquitous and accepted part of everyday life in North Korea. Fourth, Kim’s behaviors have become increasingly erratic which, because he is at an age when addicts are at their peak in terms of potential to be most dangerous to others, lends itself to the possibility he may have triggered meth addiction. Regardless, his recent behaviors alone are very troubling.

Already, Kim executed the second most powerful man in North Korea, his uncle (by marriage) Jang Song-thaek, followed by nearly every relative for the “crime” of sharing Jang’s blood-line, including women and children. Kim was reportedly “very drunk” when he ordered the execution of two aides close to his uncle; the addictionologist in us surmises he was also drunk when he ordered his family’s executions. Methamphetamine-induced paranoia may explain Kim’s need to eliminate the competition, although alcoholism-induced “paranoia” can (by itself) explain the executions. The alcoholic Stalin may have engaged in such purges feigning paranoia, his excuse to shed blood. Alcoholism is bad enough, but meth is much more virulent. With Kim, we may have Stalin’s alcoholism and Hitler’s amphetamine addiction wrapped into one.

Long ago, I was a non-interventionist libertarian, like Ron Paul.*** If I hadn’t realized that alcohol and other-drug addicts are capable of anything, I would still be in Paul’s camp (as I am on every other issue). However, a world in which alcoholics—and possibly methamphetamine addicts—have access to nuclear weapons is not safe. While interventions abroad should be narrowly focused and the exception to the rule, I would suggest the risk of taking out alcoholic despots is less than the risk of allowing them to remain in power. Kim Jong Un, an addict with nukes, would be a good start.

* Illegal drugs appear to be more addictive than other drugs because, generally, only alcoholics use them. They become brain-addicted almost instantly, which is not true of non-addicts. Physical addiction takes at a minimum months of heavy use, even for drugs like heroin. Decades of heavy use is required for alcoholics to go into the delirium tremens in withdrawal, while they are brain-addicted almost instantly.

** As Milton Friedman famously said, if you put a government in charge of the Sahara Desert we’d soon have a shortage of sand. The North Korean government controls nearly everything, including production and distribution of food; starvation and undernourishment is, therefore, rampant.

*** Paul is often incorrectly called an isolationist, which suggests a belief that both foreign trade and foreign wars should be avoided. Libertarians believe in free trade across borders, while non-interventionist libertarians believe in avoiding foreign entanglements unless attacked. Interventionist libertarians vary in the degree to which they would intervene; I would go only where alcoholic despots are believed to have access to WMD.

Runners-Up For Top Story of the Month:

Former NBA star and recent Kim Jong Un enabler Dennis Rodman, 52, reporting for rehab—again. Rather than recounting his story, which is fairly typical extreme for celebrity alkies, I’ll simply refer to his wikipedia page.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
, 44, nighttime comedian fodder, apologizing for his latest escapades while “hammered” in public. The nature of the escapades hardly matters—he’s been known to dance at city council meetings, puff on crack cocaine pipes, swear at aides, get “out of control” at parties and claim his car was stolen when in fact it was at home. While he acknowledged the need to “curb” his drinking, he has not acknowledged his poly-drug addiction. Hopefully he will. If he doesn’t—given his weight—sooner rather than later, he will die.

Justin Bieber
, 19, pop superstar to the under-16 crowd, self-destructing before the world. While it’s difficult to grow up in the spotlight, many young actors do so without problems—unless addiction is inherited. Only this explains an arrest for DUI with medical prescriptions and marijuana found in his system, drag racing at 3 a.m. in a 30-mile per hour zone and having his home searched on suspicion of egging a neighbor’s house. Hopefully rather than being sentenced to deportation, a wiser judge will require regular and random drug testing, along with an ankle bracelet for many, many years.


Quote of the month:

Peggy Noonan wrote in her “Declarations” column, “How Christie Ended Up in This Jam,” in the January 11-12, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

“Policy people are policy people—sometimes creative, almost always sober, grounded, mature. But political operatives get high on winning. They start to think nothing can touch them when they’re with a winner. They get full of themselves. And they think only winning counts, because winning is their job.”

Based on Ms. Noonan’s description, “political operative” is an occupation perfectly suited for alcoholics. Political operatives get high on winning—alcoholics use winning to inflate their egos. They think nothing can touch them—alcoholics think they are invincible. They are full of themselves—alcoholics develop an inordinately large sense of self-importance, ending up with hugely inflated egos. And for political operatives, only winning counts—alcoholics must win regardless of the cost to others.

I’ve long hypothesized that a large plurality of politicians are alcoholics. It’s even more probable their operatives are, since they can more easily hide their alcoholic drinking. And that explains much of the state of the country: it fuels their arrogance and the idea they know how to live our lives and spend our money better than we do.


Idiot comment of the month:

“It still isn’t clear exactly why she ended up Saturday at the house next door to her own.” So wrote a journalist reporting on Duluth college student Alyssa Jo Lommel surviving outside overnight in 17-degree-below zero temperatures in boots, jeans, a sweater and a medium-weight jacket. The 19-year-old sophomore had been out with friends playing a drinking game with cards and, near midnight, was driven to the front of her house by friends, who told police “she was buzzed but not intoxicated…talking and walking.” They drove away without watching her go inside. She was later found outside the unoccupied house next door. It’s quite clear why she ended up there: that she appeared only buzzed when she was so drunk as to get confused over which home was hers is virtual confirmation of alcoholism. And with cold so severe, that can be a death sentence.


Journalistic malfeasance of the month:

An unnamed journalist in The Economist, writing “Trouble in Little India: Nearly unbelievable: a full-scale riot in the obedient city-state” of Singapore, said: “Booze seems to have fuelled the affray, and as a stopgap a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in Little India will apply this weekend. But alcohol alone would not have turned hundreds of usually peaceful workers into a belligerent mob.”

Oh? Show me a riot NOT fuelled by booze. Why would this riot be any different than the 1964 Watts riots (TAR # 74 “Codependent of the month”), the 2011 London riots (TAR # 66 Top Story) or the 1992 Rodney King-triggered riots (TAR # 70 Top Story)? Of course the riot would not have occurred without the alcoholic trigger.

Alcohol compelled alcoholics to wield power over others which, given the setting and circumstances, manifested as violence. This influenced others to engage in violence, which they ordinarily would never consider.

The idea applies not only to riots, but also to war and cults. Consider Jim Jones, an addict who got 900 men, women and children to commit suicide. Consider Adolf Hitler, who got a nation to wage war against Jews and everyone else. Consider Josef Stalin, who got his henchmen to steal food from Ukrainians, starving as many as 7 million. Not every follower of Jones, German or underling to Stalin was an alcohol or other-drug addict, but at least one was essential to get the ball rolling.


Reviewer malfeasance of the month:

Margaret Wente, in a The Globe and Mail review of Ann Dowsett Johnston’s Drink, repeats Johnston’s claim that she drank “moderately” for decades, without questioning her use of the term. Yet, she writes: “Both her parents had serious problems with alcohol. She did all the things people do before they quit for good. She made solemn vows to cut back. She kept drinking diaries. She went on the wagon for weeks at a time. She tried the geographical cure by moving to another city. Meanwhile, life threw her a bunch of wrenching challenges, both professional and personal.”

Where to begin? She was a “moderate” drinker for decades? Try again. “She made solemn vows to cut back,” which suggests immoderate drinking. “She kept drinking diaries,” which suggests the same. “She went on the wagon for weeks at a time,” suggesting her drinking must have caused problems or she wouldn’t have tried to stop. “She tried the geographical cure….” No, Ms. Wente, by her own testimony she was a full-on drunk the entire time. And by the way, if life’s “wrenching challenges” caused alcoholism, we’d all be drunks.


Naïve judge of the month:

Tarrant County, Texas District Judge Jean Boyd, who sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years of probation, with a mandatory stint at a long-term “treatment” center, for striking and killing youth pastor Brian Jennings and three others, who were helping to change a flat tire in Burleson, TX. Couch had been driving his dad’s F-350 with seven passengers and had just stolen some beer at a Wal-Mart. Nine others were injured, including two of his passengers, one of whom suffered a severe brain injury and is no longer able to move or talk.

The victims’ families were understandably irate at the sentence, noting that the judge seems to have bought the defense’s case that Couch, whose blood alcohol content was .24 per cent (which would require about 11 shots of 80-proof liquor—the equivalent of nearly two bottles of wine—over four hours for a 140-pound person), fell victim to “affluenza,” described by a defense psychologist as “being unable to link his bad behavior with consequences due to his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege” and “growing up in a house where the parents were preoccupied with arguments that led to a divorce.”

Couch couldn’t link bad behavior to consequences because his parents and the law didn’t mete out consequences severe enough to get his attention. His parents let him drive at age 13 and let him “slide” on a ticket for being found at age 15 in a parked pickup with a passed-out, undressed 14-year-old girl. And why did his parents fail to inflict consequences and why were they so “preoccupied”? Because they are likely alcoholics, too. Ethan's father was previously charged with criminal mischief, theft by check and assault, but charges were dropped; Ethan's mother was convicted of reckless driving, costing her $500 and six months of “community supervision.” If the parents are alcoholics, of course they were preoccupied—they have a love affair with a drug, which takes precedence over everything else. Unfortunately, the odds are high that Ethan’s parents passed their alcoholic genes to their son.

Assistant district attorney Richard Alpert predicted future tragedy in his closing arguments: “There can be no doubt that he will be in another courthouse one day blaming the lenient treatment he received here.” If previous judges had meted out appropriate sanctions to the parents for their indiscretions, this tragedy might never have occurred. Society had already earned the right to put an ankle bracelet on Ethan and to subject him to regular and random other-drug testing; if it had done so, four deaths and nine injuries would never have occurred.


Statistic of the month:

An estimated 80% of addicts trying heroin for the first time previously used prescription pain pills. This is due to a crackdown on prescription narcotics (synthetic opiates, or opioids), which has pushed addicts to seek alternatives (opiates, especially heroin); the demand for opiates has been happily met by suppliers who make the same high available for about one-sixth the price (one oxycodone pill good for one high sells on New York streets for about $30; for about the same price, addicts can get six glassine bags of heroin, which supplies six highs). When supply is constricted for one drug, the demand and supply increases for another. When the war on cocaine was at its height, methamphetamine supply and use exploded. Now, opioids are restricted and opiates take their place; in the meantime, the percentage of the population addicted to such drugs remains the same. It’s time to end the wars and instead stop the enabling. Rolling back HIPPA, which allows addicts privacy in medical affairs that serves only to kill them (see below), would be a start.


Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Don Everly, 74, dead from COPD brought on by a lifetime of smoking. He and his brother, Phil Everly, performed as The Everly Brothers while addicted to speed, alcohol and other drugs.  When a very drunk Don flubbed the lyrics to “Cathy’s Clown” at a concert in 1973, they split up and refused to talk to each other. A decade later they again began to perform together, despite a mutual hatred that was so vitriolic their contracts required separate dressing rooms and stage entrances.

While drunk and drugged, their extraordinary harmonies strongly influenced the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, The Bee Gees and the Hollies. The Beatles once referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers;” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where they were one of the first ten artists inducted, Neil Young observed that every musical group he belonged to had tried and failed to copy the Everly Brothers’ harmonies. As part of the birth of rock and roll, they hold the record for the most Top-100 singles by any duo (35). Theirs was, however, a classic alcoholic tale of rocketing up and quickly flaming out; their successes of the late ‘50s and very early ‘60s were followed by decades of mediocrity.


Tennis star Steffi Graf’s father Peter Graf, 75, dead from pancreatic cancer after doing time in the mid-‘90s for tax fraud. Graf, a used-car salesman, placed a sawed-off tennis racket in his three-year-old daughter’s hands and rewarded her with ice cream when able to sustain long rallies on a family living room make-shift mini-tennis court. It quickly became obvious Steffi had natural talent and Peter, as many put it, over-guided her early career.

Peter was hard-driving, which helped Steffi win the German junior 18-and-under championship when she was only 13. She turned pro at 14 and nothing stopped her. The fact that observers noted she was “robotic” and nearly emotionless on the court was blamed by many on her father, who was also known for driving hard bargains on fees for tournament appearances. There’s little doubt the lack of emotion for which Steffi was known was a reaction to her father’s alcoholism, which compelled him to wield power by driving his daughter, along with “hard bargains.”

Steffi came to her father’s defense in numerous interviews, until 1995 when he was charged with tax evasion on Steffi’s taxes; he was subsequently found guilty for evading taxes on her earnings in what one legislator called “the biggest tax scandal ever in Germany involving a private individual.” Peter kept a low profile for the rest of his life—we might surmise he got sober—but his relationship with his daughter was irrevocably “strained.”

I’ve long said, the odds of a child becoming a star increase substantially if a parent is an alcoholic. This holds in Hollywood, on the field and on the court.


And so long too to Philip Seymour Hoffman, dead of a drug overdose at age 46 with at least 50 bags of heroin found in his apartment. It’s rumored his relapse was triggered by a prescribed drug (Oxycontin, Vicodin or other psychotropic drug). If the rumor proves true, and if there were no plans for rehab after any essential short-term treatment, the prescribing doctor should be charged with manslaughter. If Hoffman failed to inform the doctor that he had been sober nearly 24 years, the Congressmen who drafted HIPPA, which prevents medical personnel from actively obtaining medical information from those who know the patient, should be charged (ok, that’s overboard but you get the idea). Recovering addicts should never be given psychotropic prescription drugs unless there is no other course of action, and then only with planned rehab, because this is precisely the sort of tragedy that can easily occur. HIPPA needs to be relaxed so that doctors can ascertain whether their patient is an addict. Hoffman’s family has lost someone who was, no doubt, a wonderful father when sober and the world has lost a great actor (his roles included parts in Scent of a Woman, Capote, Boogie Nights, Doubt, Mission Impossible III and many more).

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. Instead, many do 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.

Skeptic Magazine: They Get a Lot of Things, but Oddly Not Alcoholism

Michael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptic Society and editor-in-chief of its magazine Skeptic Magazine. Despite my disagreement with Shermer over anthropogenic “global warming” (I think the idea that puny little man could have any appreciable effect over something as grand as the climate is arrogant), the magazine is interesting, usually timely and very well-written.

Shermer provided what may be to this day the most glowing testimonial of Alcoholism Myths and Realities. Despite this, the magazine he edits and often writes for has recently published several pieces that completely miss the obvious connection between the subjects of the articles, the behaviors described and substance addiction.

One of these was an interview in Skeptic Magazine volume 18, number 2 (2013) with anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon largely regarding the subjects of his book Noble Savages, the Yanomamö (also spelled Yanomami) Indians of Brazil. Chagnon himself believes he was controversial in part because he was among the first anthropologists to challenge the myth that native peoples are pacifistic and altruistic. In the 1960s he lived among the Yanomamö and found they were incredibly violent, attributing their violence to competition over women. Chagnon describes the Yanomamö as snorting a variety of drugs, at least one of which causes strands of green snot to drip or hang from their nostrils, “strands so long that they drizzled from their chins down to their pectoral muscles and oozed lazily across their bellies….” Even though the drugs have hallucinogenic, analgesic and amphetamine-like properties, Chagnon does not implicate them in creating more violence than would occur absent the drugs, and Skeptic’s interviewer, Frank Miele, doesn’t broach the possibility. It doesn’t dawn on either one that the best explanation for the women’s non-violence is that the women generally don’t use and, according at least one source, are forbidden from using these drugs. And because not all of the males act out as badly as others (and those that don’t are probably eliminated from the gene pool early on), the best explanation for the level of violence they experience (roughly half of the men die by violence) is psychoactive drug use. Because their use arguably causes horrific behaviors, we refer to it as addiction.

In another case of being blind to addicts likely everywhere, in an article in the same issue of Skeptic (“Anthropology No More”), L. Kirk Hagen writes that Patrick Tierney, in his book Darkness in El Dorado, had falsely accused Chagnon of committing genocide in Amazonia by unleashing a deadly epidemic among the Yanomamö. Hagen explains: “That was just the most outrageous of Tierney’s innumerable fabrications” and cites medical historian Alice Dreger as persuasively arguing that the American Anthropological Association (AAA) had been complicit in the promulgation of Tierney’s falsehoods. False accusations are nearly always made by alcoholics, which suggests that Tierney and those complicit in the AAA could be addicts.

Harriet Hall, M.D., in Skeptic volume 17 number 3 (2012) writes about multiple personality delusions, focusing on the story of Sybil and the book by the same name, which caused popular awareness of what was at the time called multiple personality disorder (now referred to by the DSM, the psychologists’ bible of disorders, as dissociative identity disorder). Hall describes “Sybil” (Shirley Mason) “remembering” horrific abuse by her mother and, over time, “becoming” 16 personalities; detective work by Debbie Nathan in Sybil Exposed proved the stories were a complete fabrication. Hall describes Sybil’s psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia “Connie” Wilbur, as essentially a publicity whore; MPD made her famous and she became the “expert” on the subject. While Hall mentions the fact that Wilbur “heavily drugged Sybil with narcotics and other psychoactive medications,” “browbeat her patient into admitting things she initially denied” and developed “an inappropriate personal relationship with her patient,” she doesn’t suggest the most likely underlying motivation for having done so: alcoholism-fueled egomania. Hall concludes that the “MPD/repressed memory story is a good example of what happens when people fail to subject their ideas to scientific testing.” Recognizing alcoholics as the world’s greatest salespeople because of their an insatiable thirst to wield power over others, this is a classic case of a likely addict pulling the wool over the eyes of otherwise rational people (as previously suggested in the “Review of the Month” of issue # 67 of TAR).

The most egregious omission of alcohol and other-drug addiction as the best explanation for horrific behaviors is found in a Skeptic article about mass murders (volume 18 number 1 2013). Alcohol or other-drug addiction isn’t mentioned once, even when there is absolute proof of addiction. In “The Mass Murder Problem,” David Hill Shafer mentions that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh met Terry Nichols, who taught McVeigh how to make improvised explosive devices. He fails to mention the crucial fact that the third bomber, Michael Fortier, introduced McVeigh to crystal meth. Shafer discusses Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killing 15 and injuring 21 in the Columbine shooting, and Sung Hui Cho’s hope to “repeat Columbine” at Virginia Tech in 2007, without mentioning the fact of Harris’s addiction to vodka, whiskey and Luvox, or Cho’s numerous behavioral indications of substance addiction, described in TAR issue # 29.

According to Shafer, these mass murderers demonstrate “how specific, violent delusions are the defining feature of people who commit mass murder” (italics added). No, they are not; substance addiction is almost always the key feature, which in turn causes violent delusions in some addicts, compelling them to commit mass murder. Shafer points out that clicking on Wikipedia pages listing “rampage attacks” leads to biographies of attackers whose motivations are sometimes criminal, drug-related, political or unknown, but that these are the exceptions; “most people who commit mass murder have at least one major mental disorder.” He omits that most are proven alcohol and other-drug addicts even though, as pointed out in the TAR story on Cho, most journalists are unaware of the importance of identifying addiction in their subjects and many addicts hide their use even from close people, often for years.

Likewise, in the same issue, Michael Shermer himself omits discussion of the likelihood of alcoholism-fueled egomania and other-drug addiction fueled delusions as the trigger for mass shootings in his discussion of Adam Lanza, in “The Sandy Hook Effect.” While no drugs were found in Lanza’s system, his mother was clearly alcoholic and, as I point out in issue # 73 of TAR, if there’s no addiction in a murderer we’ll almost always find it close by. Additionally, Lanza, whose non-lethal behaviors alone indicate addiction, may have gotten sober only long enough to be more sure-footed when committing the atrocity.

Shermer points to research showing that “three of the most common characteristics of mass murderers are” psychopathy/mental illness, a feeling of victimization or ideological cause, and a “desire for fame and glory.” As I show in all of my books, what appears to be mental illness is nearly always in reality alcohol/other-drug addiction (or triggered by it). In addition, a feeling of victimization is usually a delusion caused by alcoholism—recovering alcoholics often tell how they “blamed everyone else for everything and anything.” This is especially true when the blaming of others leads to the commission of atrocities; a need for fame and glory regardless of the cost to others is almost always rooted in alcoholism-fueled egomania.

In his attempt to predict who might be pre-disposed to commit such violent acts, Shermer points out that millions of people could have the requisite gene complex—a set of genes that might be required for such violence—yet never act out on such tendencies. I suggest that without alcohol and other-drug addiction, they won’t. However, substance addiction catastrophically increases the odds of such horrific behaviors.

While it’s possible some mass murders are committed by non-addicts who are unaffected by addicts, based on dozens of reports of mass murders, I suggest this is exceedingly rare. Shermer points out we might be able to screen for a propensity to commit violence, but this would result in numerous false-positives. Since alcoholics commit 80-90% of felonies and, as a percentage of those committed, as many serious misdemeanors and unethical behaviors, we should start any screens with substance addiction, followed by additional testing. On the other hand, as I’ve often pointed out, we cannot predict how destructive a practicing addict may become or when; Bryn Hartmann murdered her husband comedian Phil Hartmann and then killed herself, shocking everyone who knew her. However, perhaps a good follow-up screen to a propensity to commit violence, after confirming addiction, may have been able to predict heightened risk in her case, as well as others.

President of homeowner’s association authorizes improper expenditures

Dear Doug,

I’m on the board of directors of my homeowners’ association. Receipts from our management company for which reimbursement was requested included a $20 bottle of tequila. I showed this to the board and told them there was no way should we pay for this. The president of the association joked, “Tequila is best with lime, so we should add a bit so they can buy some limes, too,” and authorized the reimbursement.

It’s not the first time the president has authorized questionable reimbursements. Looking at past records, I found authorized reimbursements of over-the-counter drugs, candy, cigarettes, party supplies and pet food.

The management company claims the board authorized all these purchases and, therefore, they must be proper. The president protects the company—nobody is answering any questions from me—and the board’s majority does nothing. Yet, there are no minutes, motions or votes that ever authorized such purchases. I’m livid, but what can one board member do about this ongoing theft?


Concerned over lawsuits by fellow homeowners

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might say that if there was ever a reason for non-board homeowners’ association members to regularly demand to see association files and minutes, this is it. They would point out the entire board is exposed to liability for inappropriate actions by the management company, president and other complicit board members. This is true even for something as seemingly inconsequential as a $20 purchase. Such columnists would suggest that you insist on an independent audit. The fiduciary duties to homeowners extend to everything spent, whether by employees, third party vendors or a management company.

Other columnists might add that the president appears to not “fully comprehend” his duties. Nonsense. Of course he understands; he, along with the owners or employees of the management company, are very likely alcoholics and, as such, are much more likely to spend other people’s money inappropriately. The fact that booze was improperly purchased with other people’s money increases the odds to a near certainty.

The insidious problem is you are dealing with probable alcoholics who are, therefore, capable of anything. By interfering with their criminal behaviors and, potentially, with their perceived right to drink, you are at great personal risk. You need to be on guard for violations of your property, including vandalism and theft, as well as physical harm. More disconcerting, the risk of harm extends to your family. Protect yourself and them in any way you can until this is dealt with and, if there are any threats or actions taken against any of you by the president or his minions, don’t hesitate to report it to proper authorities.

(Source for story idea: The Los Angeles Times, “Associations: Funds were misspent on tequila and pet food,” by Donie Vanitzian JD and Zachary Levine, Esquire, January 26, 2014.)

“The brothers' animosity may have derived from being forced to sing together during childhood.”

So wrote Ray Connolly about the Everly Brothers’ famous, nearly life-long feud in a The Daily Mail piece, “Why DID the Everly Brothers hate each other?”

Fighting, feuding and animosity go hand-in-hand with alcoholism. As kids, they may not have liked being forced to sing together, but if sober they would have grown up, grown out of their child-like attitudes and might have learned to love making beautiful harmonies together. Connolly is yet another unaware journalist with no understanding of the subjects of his piece. The brothers’ animosity derived from their substance addiction, from which nearly all irreconcilable animosity in its nastiest forms stems.

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

Gimme My Keys: Jennifer Grooms, 29, called police from a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., restaurant. She complained that parking valets refused to give her car keys to her because they thought she was drunk. The responding officers agreed with the valets, but Grooms insisted she was OK to drive. She refused offers of a taxi or calling friends, and allegedly told the officer he was obligated to drive her home because she had left her two children there alone. Despite warnings, Grooms allegedly got into her car, daring the officers to arrest her, which they did. Once they got Grooms to the station, someone was dispatched to her apartment, where they found Grooms’ children, ages 6 and 10, who were alone while she was out drinking. She was charged with disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest without violence, escape, and two counts of child neglect. She was released the next morning, and unable to be reached for comment. (MS/South Florida Sun-Sentinel) ...Have you checked the bar?

Ordinary people might think Ms. Grooms would learn her lesson after such a harrowing experience. However, practicing alcoholics don’t learn in the same way or nearly as quickly as the rest of us. Due to damage to the frontal lobes of the brain they cannot link the “cause” of heavy drinking with the “effect” of bad behaviors, or even that the behaviors were awful. They don’t “learn” from past mistakes, but instead must suffer consequences so severe they are driven to consider “trying” sobriety. Often, they must be coerced into abstinence, making sobriety possible. Grooms may well have gone back to the bar—which, unfortunately, isn’t a joke.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2014 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:




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

Rave reviews include:

"Every policymaker in America needs to read your book exposing the myths of chemical addiction...Excellent book."
— 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

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Have you visited the Prevent Tragedy Foundation" The Prevent Tragedy Foundation is a tax-exempt 501c-3 organization, the goal of which is to educate the general public on the need for early detection of alcohol and other drug addiction. The Foundation is intended to answer a question that has been all-but-ignored by similar organizations: what does alcoholism look like before it becomes obvious"

Click here to visit the Prevent Tragedy Foundation


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