Alcoholism: A nutritional deficiency, probably genetically determined

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Scientific studies indicate that by treating alcoholism as a complex, multifactorial disease and correcting severe problems of malnutrition, alcohol treatment programs can dramatically boost their disappointing success rates. Most existing programs rely primarily on treating alcoholism as a mental illness, using psychological counseling, 12-step programs, and psychotropic medications. But current, objective evaluations of treatment programs indicate that only about 20 percent of alcoholics who are treated in this way manage to abstain from alcohol for three years after treatment. The rest return to drinking in some manner.

It is only in recent times that alcoholism has been recognized as a disease. For most of recorded history, persons suffering from alcoholism were considered to be morally weak and were punished. When, in 1966, the American Medical Association led the way in recognizing it as a disease, alcoholism was usually considered to be a behavorial disorder. It was believed that patients were mentally ill and that treating the mental illness would remove the need to drink.

Now, scientific studies indicate that alcoholism is a complex bio-behavorial problem. It is estimated 76 percent of persons with alcoholism have a genetic disorder in metabolizing alcohol causing them to crave the substance. In addition, it has been found that alcoholism is frequently accompanied by respiratory and food allergies and nutritional deficiencies. Other metabolic disturbances which may be linked to this alcoholism include insulin and adrenaline imbalances, which may cause alcoholic hypoglycemia, immunological problems, heavy metal toxicities, and probable inborn differences in metabolism of essential fatty acids and L-Glutamine and other problems. According to Joseph D. Beasley, M.D., author of How to Defeat Alcoholism, and director of Comprehensive Medical Care, a medical clinic in Amityville, New York, "Alcoholism is a disease that involves the body, mind and spirit. The latest medical evidence indicates that about three out of four people who suffer the disease of alcoholism have a genetic tendency to develop the problem."

In 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous, a 12-step program, was formed to help persons suffering from alcoholism come to terms with their problem. However, since this time, most medical programs for treating alcoholism have focused on treating it as a psychiatric disease, forgetting the admonition of Alcoholics Anonymous that attention must be paid to the "body, mind and spirit," not just the mind.

In the 1950s, the noted nutrition researcher, Dr. Roger Williams, performed experiments showing that while well-nourished animals would refuse alcohol, making them malnourished caused them to consume large amounts. Restoring adequate nutrition caused them to decrease dramatically their alcohol intake.

Since then, other researchers (including Dr. Beasley) have made use of Williams's theory to improve the treatment outcomes of drug and alcohol addicted patients. A carefully controlled study by researchers at the University of Texas in Austin, revealed that when alcoholics were offered nutritional education, nutrition therapy and vitamin supplementation as well as the usual psychological support, the recovery rate increased dramatically -- to over 60 percent, as compared to treatment without a nutritional element, which experienced less than a 20 percent success rate at the end of six months.

Similarly, a study conducted by Dr. Beasley with faculty members of a major university found that when more than 100 patients' nutritional, immunology, neurologic and chemical needs, as well as their psychological and behavioral problems, were treated three out of four patients who remained in the treatment program were still sober and stable without complications after 12 months. Of all the patients in the study -- including those who could not be followed -- more than 60 percent were sober and physically well at the end of a year. These were patients with a low probability of success since they had been treated unsuccessfully many times previously and were suffering from liver disease in addition to being addicted to other drugs.

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