The Danger of Secret Alcoholism

“He was never drunk when I interviewed him,” the late writer Truman Capote’s biographer told me.

“It was just a mistake. He didn’t hurt anyone,” a friend said of an acquaintance who got a DUI last year.

“She doesn’t drink much,” my husband said of me when a therapist asked about our drinking habits. “Just a little white wine.”

Alcohol is confusing. For one thing, it is selectively addictive. Some people can drink safely; others can’t. For another thing, although alcohol is a depressant, especially in large doses, new research shows that in moderate doses it can also act as a happy stimulant. The first few drinks make the world a better place. The next few have the opposite effect: The drinker “may not be able to grasp the thread of a conversation; his reflexes will be somewhat delayed, his speech slurred, and his gait unsteady,” writes Dr. James Milam in his classic study Under the Influence.

Because ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol, is a very simple and very tiny molecule, it is the Speedy Gonzales of addictive substances, zooming right through the protective blood/brain barrier and delivering?an immediate punch. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it triggers a series ?of responses that can last 24 hours. Many heavy drinkers are always in some ?stage of inebriation or withdrawal, and this changes the way they engage with?the world. There may be hours—entire mornings!—when they appear to be “normal,” but there is no “normal” in the body or brain of a heavy drinker.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.



  1. gutrod on

    Honest. I never drink and drive. Most alcoholics claim this and most are liars.
    My mother and father would say this at family get together’s and we would watch them drive away after drinking 5-6 glasses of wine over the course of a few hours. They have been doing this all their lives and getting away with it, many times with us as children along for the ride after visiting friends on weekends where we would have to sit and watch them drink. I remember us kids as young as six being locked out of the house while they entertained friends. My father eventually blamed our family’s dis functionality on my use of drugs, in particular marijuana when I was a teenager. Things got very violent with me on the receiving end and I left home for good at 16. When confronted in my later teens both parents were in complete denial of the violence which was was totally acceptable in the 60’s and early 70’s. I still smoke weed but am not chronic and will continue to due so no matter what our stupid laws say, while many of my old friends are in their graves as a direct result of alcohol and prescription drug abuse which is a lethal combination but legal none the less.

  2. pharmacologically informed on

    A drug addiction can’t be considered ‘normal’ unless a majority of persons are afflicted, which isn’t the case with any drug in any society past or present (even 100 years ago the majority in China weren’t opium addicts and the majority in the U.K. weren’t alcoholics).

    Alcohol certainly accelarates some signs of aging (e.g. skin health due to liver toxicity), however it’s complete rubbish to suggest that “Many of the accepted signs of ageing for example are just the signs of advanced alcoholism.”.

    Likewise suggesting the face of some person with questionable views in relation to other peoples rights, like Gil Kerlikowske, “shows the signs of a very serious alcohol habit”, is just plain WRONG (aside from being judgemental); since even if someone has very poor looking skin (wrinkles, liver spots, sagging etc.) and a bright red nose (both of which are caused/promoted by chronic alcohol use), it DOES NOT mean that person has ever consumed even a single alcoholic drink!!! Some people are just unlucky in relation to their appearance.

    It reminds me of the comments often directed towards very thin people with poor looking skin (e.g. acne, contrasting skin tones and/or pale skin); with no evidence aside from their physical appearance they’re labelled as a Crackhead or Junkie!

    I think that being judgemental based on peoples appearances is a normal and early ingrained (but not learned) trait most people have, but that doesn’t make it a good one; nor one we shouldn’t try to resist.

    Remember it’s judgemental ignoramuses who deny other people their right to consume cannabis!

  3. Anonymous UK on

    This article discusses when an alcoholic appears normal. I would argue that alcoholism and the symptoms of alcoholism are actually normality. Many of the accepted signs of ageing for example are just the signs of advanced alcoholism. I would also suggest that whilst some people seem to be immune to the negative effects of alcohol they may still be addicted and their bodies physically require the substance.
    Nearly everyone I know drinks alcohol but not one of them claims to be an addict. If you were to ask most of them to go for a meal, attend a party or spend a few days without drinking they would refuse to do it. To me that would indicate a dependency. I have many reservations about cannabis use but compared to what alcohol does it is much safer. It is just that alcohol addiction and it’s effects are institutionalised in our society. For example if the majority of people did not drink seeing someone like Gil Kerlikowske (the drugs tsar) would be disturbing (his face shows the signs of a very serious alcohol habit) – and he is in charge of keeping society safe from drugs…. we have a long way to go but cannabis legalisation may be a very good step towards sensible attitudes on drug use in our society.