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Date: 13 Oct 1996 01:15:11 -0400
From: Ron Hoggan
Subject: Alcoholism ....... a disease

> In the early 1970's, a group of researchers discovered that alcoholics
> had several metabolic abnormalities, one of which now appears to be
> the result of a permeable intestine.

The genetic predisposition for alcoholism is characterized by depression, low levels of essential fatty acids, irritability, difficulty in concentrating, nervousness, and short-term memory deficiency. Sound familiar? We identify some of these people in childhood, and call it attention deficit disorder, then we can choose whether we attach another label called hyperactivity. Our current method of treatment is to drug them. Let me see now, we have a group that has an outrageously high incidence of substance abuse when they reach adulthood, and we make speed available to them as early as age six. Just whose fault is it that they become substance abusers? Did they choose to begin abusing methylphenidate? I don't think it is unfair to attach the blame elsewhere.

Now back to that group of researchers at the University of Texas in the early 70's:
They discovered that in addition to metabolizing alcohol into acetaldehyde, like others, alcoholics also use alcohol to produce a substance tetrahydraisoquinolines (I'm not sure of the spelling, but it is close). These THIQ's compete with endorphins for endorphin receptors. Finally, at long last, the alcoholic gets to feel like a normal person already feels most of the time, by having all endorphin receptors full.

Others may see something strange going on, but the alcoholic just feels okay. He knows that alcohol isn't a problem. It is a solution. One that he has looked for all his life.

Ultimately, of course, the brain stops producing *any* endorphins, and alcohol is the only means for the alky to feel at all comfortable. That is the beginning of the end for most alcoholics. About 10% to 15% manage to quit, and get involved in something that helps them find a way of coping with their illness, whether it be AA or religion, or other means. The rest of them die, end up in mental institutions, or in jail.

It is a pathology that shows itself by age 6 or 7 years. Some with that pathology are fortunate enough to witness a loved one in such a dramatic situation, that they are able to swear off of alcohol for life. A few others exercise an iron will, and live lives of quiet desperation. The remainder become alcoholic. The whole constellation is the result of a metabolism error.

Do normal drinkers experience hallucinations and black-outs? Only in extremely rare cases. Otherwise, these joyful experiences are reserved for the alcoholic.

Current investigations into exogenous opioids in autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder show promise of connecting with what is being learned about alcoholism.

My opinion is that the permeable intestine is a necessary precondition to alcoholism. It is usually the result of gluten intolerance, but it can also result from bacterial overgrowth in the jejunum and there may be some other causes also. I don't think we have much control over the permeability of our intestines. Ask any alcoholic how difficult it is to quit, and how many times they have tried.

If you will harken to any good dictionary, including a medical dictionary, you will find a similar definition to this: "a disorder with a specific cause and recognizable signs and symptoms; any bodily abnormality or failure to function properly, except that resulting directly from physical injury (the latter, however, may open the way for disease)

I don't see how you can suggest that alcoholism might not be a disease. It is only arrested, not cured, when an alcoholic doesn't drink. The genetic predisposition is, itself, a disease, by most definitions of disease.

I'm sorry to sound a little cranky, but I do get impatient with this debate. I will be happy to provide you with sources on this information, if you will give me a week or so to gather it. I am quite busy at the moment, which may not be very obvious from the length of this post.

Best Wishes,
Ron Hoggan