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.

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