How To Spot Hidden Alcoholics
Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction
in its Early Stages


Review by Harold McFarland
June 2004 issue of Reviewer's Bookwatch

Author Doug Thorburn is not a medical doctor, nor does he have any psychological background that would make him an expert on alcoholics. However, after becoming involved with one he dedicated himself to studying the problem and with the help of several addiction experts has produced this fascinating book. One of the problems with alcoholism is that it has a tendency to not be diagnosed until it is too late and the person has ruined their health and their life. Doug takes the view that by recognizing the behavioral clues we can find the hidden alcoholic while there is still time to prevent tragedy.

The book is divided into three distinct parts. First is a section that redefines alcoholism so that earlier diagnosis and prevention is possible. The second section is a detailed examination of the various clues that point to early-stage alcoholism. The last section discusses middle-stage clues and clues of multiple drug use.

Many of the behavior items listed and detailed are indicative of addictive behavior in general and not necessarily just alcoholism. The primary value in this book is that it is the first one I have seen that is designed for the general public and focuses on the early signs of alcoholism. In fact, many of the professional level books do not deal with recognizing alcoholism at this early stage. "How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics" should be required reading for everyone and especially so for those who deal with counseling others whether in a professional, volunteer, or pastoral capacity.

Review by Jen Oliver
June 2004

How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics takes a look at how to attempt to recognize alcoholics early on in their illness. How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics is different from most other books on alcoholism, as it takes a look at early warning signs instead of looking at individuals who are deep into the disease. How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics provides medical and other clinical professionals, along with regular everyday people, with clues of how to tell when a loved one or client is possibly facing an alcoholism problem.

Mr. Thorburn provides a great insight with the lists of clues to help pinpoint early alcoholism. However, many of the warning clues can be described to fit almost every person. The warning signs are described with detailed accounts that Mr. Thorburn had seen or other professionals have seen in their practices. The detailed accounts help show readers how they themselves can try to see if they know people who might be alcoholics.

How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics should be a must read for professionals who are in the field of dealing with alcoholics and their families.

Review by All Book Reviews
March 2004

A step-by-step guide to aid the reader in identifying one of the most misunderstood illnesses, alcoholism, Mr. Thorburn takes the reader through the various stages, beginning with identifying the problem, redefining alcoholism, early stage and middle stage clues, using comprehensive case studies and examples. The final and most important chapter for anyone who has a family member, friend or co-worker that is addicted to alcohol, is: So What Do You Do? The book includes an in depth chapter on biochemistry which helps explain why alcoholics drink in spite of the social, physical and emotional ramifications.

How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics provides the tools for spotting the signs and aids the reader in making an informed decision to intervene. It provides insight and understanding of the condition, allowing the best possible solutions to avoid tragedy.

Alcoholism has no social or economic boundaries. To be useful, a guide to spotting this problem must be in layman's terms. This book definitely fits within these parameters. Research is without reproach; writing style is simple and concise, all in all an excellent book for people of all walks of life — from professional counselor to family member.

Author and addiction expert, Doug Thorburn is president and founder of the PrevenTragedy Foundation, a non-profit organization. He is one of the world's foremost experts in identifying alcoholism.

Review by Bookviews
March 2004

[A] book I found of interest is How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics by Doug Thorburn ($14.95, plus $3.00 shipping from Galt Publishing (POB 7777, Northridge, CA 91327, 800-482-9424). The author, an addiction expert, discusses why most attempts to conquer problem drinking fail, citing case histories. More specifically he points out those subtle, seemingly innocuous behaviors that are often early indicators of alcoholism that occur long before the alcoholic has lost control over drinking. Most interesting is the way he reveals that such destructive behaviors often co-exist with what seems like normal conduct. The idea is to intervene and prevent the tragedy.

Review by Henry Berry
March 2004
The Small Press Book Review

Thorburn puts forth a radically different perspective on alcoholism than the common one held by professionals and lay persons alike. His methods enable individuals to deal with alcoholism in its early stages, before addiction becomes destructive with regard to relationships, employment, health and even lives as a result of violence or automobile accidents. Thorburn formulated his unique ideas from a close personal relationship with an alcoholic, which led to numerous interviews with and observations of alcoholics, as well as an extensive study of alcoholism.

As an alternate to the definition of alcoholism found in psychiatric manuals placing psychosocial and environmental factors on par with genetic ones, Thorburn proposes a re-definition of alcoholism as a "genetic disorder that causes the afflicted to biochemically process the drug alcohol in such a way that causes the person to engage in destructive behaviors." Such misbehaviors can be periodical or frequent. Certain behaviors, then, are seen by the author as symptoms of alcoholism. Identifying the telltale signs allows early intervention and treatment, for the benefit of both the alcoholic and those who are or would be affected by the behaviors.

With Thorburn's toolkit, treatment of alcoholism would not wait for the commission of violent spousal abuse, serious injury or death in a car accident, or the gambling away of a family's savings. The desirable benefits of early diagnosis for society and individuals, including the alcoholic, are self-evident. After critiquing the definition of alcoholism in current use and putting forth his own, more germane definition based on his experience and studies, Thorburn identifies the behaviors found in alcoholics at various stages of the disease. Among these are a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude, volatile mood swings, a sense of invincibility and a need to win regardless of cost. Such behaviors are commonly chalked up by others as simply characteristic of a particular individual rather than considered as signs of alcoholism. With Thorburn's view, others, including psychiatric and health-care workers, would no longer be mislead into trying to remedy the behavior, but instead focus on dealing with the alcoholism that is causing it.

For its revised perspective and identification of behavior symptoms, How To Spot Hidden Alcoholics is a welcome analysis and guide for lay persons and health-care workers alike on dealing effectively with the troublesome problem of alcoholism in society and the lives of many individuals.


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