Alcoholism: The Volitional Disease
By: Officer S. Garry Nowak
Continued from page 1
The construct of disease theory alcoholism is closer to being a religion
than it is to being a disease. Why do I say this? Because in order to believe
in the different tenets of disease theory alcoholism, similar to religion,
you must have faith. None of the tenets of disease theory alcoholism have
ever been supported by scientific or doctoral level research. It is faith
alone which allows these tenets to exist. If you support disease theory
alcoholism, you have to have faith and believe in the following:
Alcoholism can afflict anyone regardless of race, creed, religion, etc. This
is not true. Alcoholism is statistically so low in Jews, Cantonese Chinese,
and Amish that it is safe to say that alcoholism does not exist in those
cultures. Why? Because studies show that where either a strong religious
base where alcoholism is not accepted or a cultural base where alcoholism
is not accepted, alcoholism simply does not exist. It may sound simplistic
but it is true.
There are no protective factors against alcoholism - everyone is a potential
alcoholic. This is not true. As shown by Jews, Cantonese Chinese, and Amish,
a strong religious or cultural grouping that refuses to support the tenets
of disease theory alcoholism offers very protective factors against alcoholism
since alcoholism is non-existent in those religions/cultures. Also, by
definition, if alcoholism is a heritable, genetic trait, then there will
be those who do not possess that heritable, genetic trait. Therefore, those
who do not possess the gene for alcoholism would in fact possess a protective
factor against alcoholism. This tenet contradicts other tenets of disease
Alcoholism is genetic. Cantonese Chinese and Ojibwa Indians are considered
to be genetically similar if not identical regarding alcoholism. Why? Because
both of these cultural peoples manifest a 'Chinese flush' after consuming
alcohol; i.e., a reddening of the face. If alcoholism is genetic; and if
both of these cultural peoples are genetically similar then both groups should
suffer similar rates of alcoholism. Yet, alcoholism is nonexistent within
the Cantonese Chinese while absolutely decimating the Ojibwa Indians. What
is the difference in belief systems? The Ojibwa Indians believe that alcohol
is stronger than a parent's love of his/her child while the Cantonese Chinese
believe that drunken misbehavior is a manifestation of one's personality
regardless of one's sobriety. The individual takes responsibility for his/her
behavior whether sober or inebriated.
Alcoholism is heritable. This tenet completely disregards learned behavior;
i.e., a child learns how to drink from parents, role models, peers, etc.
IF alcoholism were a 10% heritable or genetic trait, then it would be immutable.
Why? Because genetics cannot be changed volitionally and statistically 85%
of all alcoholics volitionally stop their alcohol consumption without any
outside interventions, therapies, hospitalizations, etc. One cannot volitionally
change their eye color, hair color, or skin color volitionally, yet alcoholism
has a significantly higher success rate through volition than through any
other means. There is no research that scientifically supports alcoholism
as being heritable.
What is the possibility that alcoholism is genetic and heritable? Per the
Human Genome Project, there are 80,000 genes with approximately 3 billion
different interacting combinations that exist in the human genome (the sum
total of heritable, genetic material in a human being). Even the proponents
of disease theory alcoholism have acknowledged that finding the gene that
causes alcoholism would be like finding the gene that causes one to like
basketball. The idea that alcoholism is 100% genetic and heritable is highly
unlikely by all studies and statistics.
Loss of control. Studies have consistently shown that alcoholics drink to
achieve a certain level of intoxication that they personally find desirable.
Alcoholics will alter their drinking pattern (consume less) if so doing benefits
them. By definition, IF alcoholism were a disease that was truly an irresistible
impulse of uncontrollability then alcoholics would consistently drink until
they are unconscious or until they overdosed on alcohol. That is simply not
Denial. A major tenet of disease theory alcoholism is denial. Denial is an
unconscious defense mechanism that in theory is implemented to protect the
ego from unpleasantness. If one is to believe in denial then one has to believe
that in spite of everything that is obvious and negative in an alcoholic's
life; i.e., divorce, loss of employment, loss of family, medical problems,
legal problems, etc., the alcoholic is incapable of associating these negatives
in his/her life with his/her consumption of alcohol. Even AA's Big Book addresses
this as conscious lying, not denial. Also, it has to be noted that a typical
alcoholic is not the stereotypical skid row type. Statistically, alcoholics
are slightly smarter than average, hold better jobs, hold professional jobs,
managerial positions, etc. Yet, according to this tenet of alcoholism they
are not smart enough to associate the obvious negative aspects of their lives
with their consumption of alcohol.
There is a chemical imbalance of the brain. This is one of the newer theories
pertaining to disease alcoholism. It is questionable how there can be an
imbalance of the brain when there are no standards of what a chemically balanced
brain is; i.e., what chemicals comprise a balanced brain in terms of percentages
or weights, qualities, quantities, etc. What is a normal, chemically balanced
brain? It is assumed that a brain becomes 'balanced' when drugs alleviate
symptoms. The alleviation of symptoms never includes the adverse side effects
of the prescriptive drug. Side effects may include one or any combination
of dry mouth, drooling, diarrhea, constipation, sleep disturbance, eating
disorders, sexual dysfunction just to name a few. Yet proponents of this
theoretical construct do not look at these very serious side effects as being
included as an imbalance of brain chemistry.
Neurotransmitters. This is another new theoretical construct of disease
alcoholism. This theory proposes that neurotransmitters such as dopamine
and/or seratonin become particularly influenced towards alcohol consumption;
i.e., these neurotransmitters require alcohol in order to trigger their function
within the body. What this theory fails to address is how a generic
neurotransmitter such as dopamine (the continuum of pleasure) or seratonin
(the continuum of mood, affect and sleep) become highly specific and targeted
towards alcoholism? There is merely associative, anecdotal evidence to support
this tenet of alcoholism. Also, this theory fails to address how genetically
similar people such as Cantonese Chinese and Ojibwa Indians can be so different
in terms of the effects of alcohol and alcoholism yet be genetically similar?
This theory implies that if a Jew becomes an alcoholic, then his
neurotransmitters or brain chemistry has spontaneously become altered. Not
only is this not a compelling theory, it tends to contradict itself.
Brain Waves or images. No similar brain waves have been found between different
alcoholics. All brain waves appear to be more similar to fingerprints; i.e.,
each person's brain waves are unique unto themselves.
Addictive Personality. Addictive personality is defined as having an existing
premorbid condition prior to the onset of alcoholism. There are no studies
that have found any existing premorbid condition prior to the onset of alcoholism
among alcoholics. Therefore, this tenet of disease alcoholism falls flat.
There does not appear to be any such entity as an addictive personality.
This is a media construct, not a scientifically based construct.
It the first drink that gets you drunk. An AA aphorism meaning that once
an alcoholic consumes the first drink, he/she is then an alcoholic. This
is not true. This is not even supported by proponents of disease theory
alcoholism. Even the proponents of disease theory alcoholism acknowledge
that alcoholism takes at least several years to develop. There is no scientific
foundation or substantiation for this saying.
Alcoholism is a behavior. Behaviors are not disease entities, they are bad
habits perseverated by obsessive repetition and habituation. Habituated,
substance induced behaviors cannot be reduced to a single etiology anymore
than non-substance induced behaviors can be reduced to a single etiology.
Sex, eating, gambling, computers, computer games, and unrequited love are
normative behaviors that have been declared diseases. Sex, gambling, computers,
computer games, and unrequited love do not involve the ingestion of any substance
yet abstinence from these habituated behaviors may incite withdrawal symptoms
identical to substance withdrawal symptoms. The answer to the eradication
of alcoholism lies in our national perspective of alcoholism. Do we want
to perpetuate the myth of alcoholism being a disease entity that is out of
the realm of one's discretional, volitional control or do we tell the truth?
Do we let the dirty secret out of the bag and tell everyone that, like Dorothy
in the Wizard of Oz, they already possess the power to hole dominion over
"The doctor said: "You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never
seen on single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent
that it does in you." (Carl Jung to Bill W. - Chapter 2, p.4, html version
The Big Book).
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by Officer Nowak.
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Last updated 2006/06/13 - Nowak submitted his canned response letter.