A new theory on the causes and treatment of alcoholism. Recently I was told by a couple of eminent consultant surgeons on different occasions that alcoholism, in it’s physical manifestations, was dehydration.Alcohol dehydrates the brain and this causes the hangover. Drink plenty of water before, during and after consumption of alcohol and that’s it. No hangover. End of.
I have always been curious of how does one become dehydrated by drinking vast quantities of liquid one ends up with a shortage of the stuff.In the 1980’s I was listening to the radio one hung-over day and a brief news bulletin carried the following story. A Swiss researcher has made a breakthrough in the treatment of alcoholism. He claims that when alcohol is drunk the body breaks it down into a poisonous chemical called acetaldehyde and stores it while the person continues drinking.
Between 12 and 18 hours after the person stops drinking the body starts to breakdown the stored chemicals and this is when the hangover kicks in.
If one starts drinking again during this time the metabolism ceases, the partially broken down chemicals are again put into temporary storage.
Also a fried breakfast containing a large amount of fat has the same effect. The fat absorbs the chemicals so preventing the liver from having to break them down.’The hangover is cured and the dependence cycle has begun.
What is getting high or intoxication?
Our bodies have senses. Touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing.These are defensive. We can smell, hear, and see trouble coming and leg it if necessary. The flight or fight response.
When we take drink or drugs which affect the workings of our minds we alter our senses working abilities. Or rather we turn off our defensive radar circuits.We do silly things like walking along walls and climbing scaffolding in the dark.
The brains’ control centre is in a mad panic trying to rewire the emergency circuits and restore sanity as fast as possible.But the whole point of getting smashed is to get rid of worry. It worried caveman that he might be eaten by a sabre tooth tiger any minute now.
It worries the modern commuter that his house might get repossessed and his wife might be shagging the gardener while he is working his socks off.
Alcohol makes it better. It turns off the radar. If the chair you are sitting in smells of burning- never mind! Who cares? Your higher senses do! The alarm bells are screaming into over drive. The damage control centre is pumping electricity down the back up wires. ‘By pass the alcohol. Get this sod sober or we have all had it.’This is why the purely physical part of dumping the waste alcohol by products at a later date is regarded as of secondary importance. Getting the radar back up and working is of over riding importance.
All psychoactive drugs are really only fun the once. That first time the body’s defensive radar is shut down and all the worry goes away.
Next time the control centre is ready and waiting. As soon as the drug comes pouring in the brain’s emergency circuits try to prevent it taking over.
The perfect harmony is reached when after a couple of glasses of wine the mind is relaxed and isn’t going to worry about this month’s pay cheque. The bills can wait until tomorrow.At the same time if one’s bed suddenly caught fire the senses of smell panic and alarm are still up and functioning. The ability to run to the window shouting “fire!” un-impaired.This is the ability to savour a drink. Judge just the right amount. Prolong life through the controlled absence of stress. A deep restful sleep and fit to work bright and early in the morning.
That sounds like a drinks commercial. If only. Instead the liver will be pounding away all night. Sleep will be light and disturbed. The drinker will awake exhausted. Like the lyrics of Bruce Springstein’s song;
“Sheets soaking wet and an express train running through the middle of my head”. A fair amount has been written on the causes of drinking excessively and the impact of psychological factors.
The view of the Mills Doctrine is that while in some cases mental illness and traumatic events can play a part, the physical side has been under reported.
We all suffer stress and distress at times. About 5% of the population drinks to a dangerous level. Can a truly traumatic event bring about alcoholism? Undoubtedly. Will a traumatic event always bring on alcoholism. No.
For example the First World War was as traumatic as its gets. Horror stories of gluttonous mud filled trenches-semi decomposed bodies grotesquely poking limbs at the sky, as if accusing God to reason why this horror.
Across Europe 30 million men went through this traumatic event. Very few became alcoholics. The rest went home and screamed in their nightmares and picked up the threads of their lives. After WW II the German generation growing up complained how their parents’ generation never mentioned the war and what happened.
Well, not surprising really. How do you answer young Hans question;
“Father. If we are the greatest nation on earth, how come the Americans have bases all over one half of the country and the Russians occupy the other half?”
“Well, son. It’s, er, like this. Just as we were recovering from the previous war which we also lost, we accidentally elected Adolf Hitler to rule over us.
A mistake really. Seemed a good idea at the time. It didn’t go according to plan. We got bombed back to the stone age. Vilified around the world. But never fear, one day a new leader will come….”.
It’s a good case of a massively traumatic event shared by millions being simply blocked out. Not by alcohol, but by collective silence. Some will have succumbed to alcohol misuse. But perhaps they were already alcoholics.
The French suffered dreadfully. One only has to look at the German fortifications atDieppe. Coming off the ferry there are these concrete gun emplacements. Abandoned and forlorn.
In Jersey the same have been tidied up, and tourists charged for guided tours. The German occupation has been accepted as part of the island’s rich history.
In Dieppe, no. It is as if it’s ignored. Not destroyed and the past hidden, just left to grow weeds.
A sad time forFrance. But they didn’t all become alcoholics and give up. In fact no more than the usual percentage did. So poverty, war, death, destruction doesn’t cause alcoholism. The aforementioned make life miserable, but they don’t necessarily cause alcoholism, which is a physical illness.
A few years ago a Sunday newspaper supplement put forward this theory. It related how a body builder misused steroid drugs to enhance his performance. He became so ill that a liver specialist said it was pointless to try a transplant because he would die before they had a chance to operate.
In fact he lived. However he was a chronic invalid. For many years he shuffled around his home in dressing gown and slippers. He had long since left drugs behind. Alas, it was too late. The drugs had caused permanent, everlasting damage. One day, an old friend called to say he might have a cure. “Get yourself up. Force yourself to run around the block. No matter how painful, no matter how pitifully slow, keep going until you break into a sweat. Next go to a sauna and as hot, and as long as you can stand it, stay in and sweat it out.” The bodybuilder despairing of ever recovering, thought “why not?” Three weeks later this cripple made an appointment to see the liver specialist. After a series of exhaustive tests the specialist accused him of swapping the hospital records around because not only was there nothing wrong with his liver, there never had been anything wrong with it. The ex bodybuilder now tours his country lecturing on the dangers of drugs, and the benefits of healthy sensible exercise.The Mills Doctrine believes that when we ingest chemicals it falls upon the liver to break them down.
The liver stores them by converting them into other substances and they await their turn to be metabolised. The body’s fat absorbs them for temporary storage.
Some times rather like a prehistoric mammal which has been trapped in the arctic permafrost, the chemicals get struck and stay trapped until released. And as with the bodybuilder, this can be years later.
The central key is the old adage ‘sweat it out’. ALondonfootballer who now runs a clinic for drink dependent footballers said.
“When I was playing we used to get on to the field and sweat the previous night’s drinking out. However as soon as I retired from the game the drinking just took a hold of me.”
The theory is that when the body has sufficient exercise it uses up the available calories then breaks down fat for energy.In doing so it releases any trapped chemicals stored there. The first sign this is going to happen is when the body is undergoing violent exercise it breaks out into a sweat. This is the sign that it is about to start burning fat.
The recommended treatment for a hangover has always included a painkiller such as paracetamol or aspirin to treat the headache.
These mild painkillers are also anti-phyrics which reduce temperature and the resulting sweating. Exactly the opposite of what is needed. (spelling)
Sometimes the mind and body are tired from a period of work and stress and just need a break. Alcohol provides that break.
The strong painkillers, such as morphine, not only disable the mind but also the body. By this we mean that when someone has had an accident; perhaps a broken limb, they need to rest in order to let the injury recover.
Pain prevents the casualty from moving the injury and making it worse. When strong painkillers are taken the pain stops allowing the injured freedom of movement.
Some sports personalities have been criticized for continuing to play with an injury which would have had others laid up for weeks.
Many young stars have found to their cost in later life recurring injuries and disabilities setting in. It is a mute point as to whether they should have been allowed to continue playing whilst injured, cup final or not.
The narcotic painkillers prevent further injury simply because the casualty is too far intoxicated to stand up straight, let alone run around a playing field.The occasional alcoholic binge has the same effect of immobilising the over worked. It forces the drinker to have a day off to recover from over work.
However when this becomes the drinker’s permanent state, because he is always having a day off because he is out of work due to absence, change is needed.
The chronic drinker is likely to have a considerable amount of partially broken down alcohol trapped in the body fat.
Only violent exercise and profuse sweating with shift it.If the alcohol remains trapped it will gradually work free and this is what causes relapses with recovering alcoholics.
The liver reacts to find alcohols in the blood stream by flashing warning messages around the bodyWhen these reach the brain it reacts by saying “I haven’t received any yet. Where’s my share?” The individual then gets an immediate over powering craving for drink.
That’s how alcoholism works.
In part two we will explain the necessary steps to cure alcoholism for good.