Alcoholism - A Natural Cure

(Introduction by Abram Hofffer, M.D.:

Ever since I met Bill W, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous and we became close friends, I have had a personal interest in the treatment of alcoholism. Bill taught that there were three components to the treatment of alcoholism: spiritual, mental and medical. AA provided a spiritual home for alcoholics that many could not find anywhere else and helped them sustain abstinence. But for many AA alone was not enough; not everyone in AA had achieved a comfortable sobriety. Bill recognized that the other two components were important. When he heard of our use of niacin for treating alcoholics, he became very enthusiastic about it because niacin gave these unfortunate patients immense relief from their chronic depression and other physical and mental complaints. Andrew Saul's article on alcoholism outlines the importance of the nutritional factors which have been shown to be very successful on treating this condition. When alcoholics are able to abstain on their own, this is the way to go. Some of them can even become social drinkers on a very small scale. I have not found many who could. But I think that if started on the program very early, many more could achieve normalcy. I know of many alcoholics who did not want to stop drinking, but did agree to take niacin. Over the years, they gradually were able to reduce their intake until they brought it under control. I suspect that treatment centers using those ideas will be made available one day, and will be much more successful than the standard treatment today. This all too often still consists of dumping them into hospitals and letting them dry out, with severe pain and suffering. When they are discharged, most go right back to the alcohol, the most dangerous and widely used street drug available without a prescription. - A. Hoffer.)

ALCOHOLISM by Andrew W. Saul

She was a very nice lady, the wife of a surgeon, and an incurable alcoholic. Betty, aged 56, had been into and out of every rehab facility you can name. The famous ones, the expensive ones: all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't seem to stop her drinkin' again.

But its no joke, not at all. One in three American adults does not drink alcoholic beverages at all. One third drinks very moderately and responsibly. And one third of all American adults drinks too much. Ten percent of our population can be classified as very heavy drinkers, putting down half of all alcohol consumed in the nation.

So Betty is not alone. But is seemed strange at first as she sat there in front of me, gracious and poised, telling me all about her bottomless misery due to her drinking. Most of my experience with alcoholics came from volunteering at a downtown Rochester, NY soup kitchen. There the winos fit the stereotype much better: an unshaven, shabby man slurping from a bottle of "Mr. Boston Blackberry Brandy" in a filthy paper bag.

Truth is, you will not recognize most alcoholics. Most manage, somehow, to cope. This is easiest if they have money, free time, and, surprisingly, gray hair. Believe it or not, "70% of elderly hospitalizations in 1991 were for alcohol related problems." (Newsletter of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, 1:1, Sept.- Oct. 1992)

"Is there anything you can do for me?" Betty asked.

"Maybe," I said.

Yeah, right. Nobody, but nobody had had any lasting luck getting this lady off the sauce. And you think you're going to do it, fella? Pull the other leg.

Then the little cartoon angel whispered in my other ear. Roger J. Williams!

"There is a proven nutritional treatment for alcoholism," I said. "Roger Williams, PhD, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas and former president of the American Chemical Society, has written extensively on the subject. His work dates from 1950 to the mid-seventies."

"What does he recommend?" Betty said.

"Megadoses of vitamins and an amino acid called L-glutamine." I stood up and walked over to a bookcase, pulled down a couple of references, and returned to my squeaky brown swivel desk chair.

"Here we go," I said. "You might want to write this down. Thousands of milligrams of vitamin C a day, in divided doses; all the B-vitamins, especially thiamin, in a B-complex supplement, five times a day; and about three grams of L-glutamine. This, a general good diet, with an avoidance of sugar, is essentially it. Can you do it?"

Betty smiled. "The real question is, will I do it, isn't it?"

"Yes," I said. "You've tried everything else."

Some weeks later I got an encouraging phone call from Betty.

"Things are going great," she said. "Haven't had a drink since the day I saw you."

"Terrific!" But will she keep it going, I wondered. It's up to her. "Remember that the supplements won't do any good in the bottle. You've got to stay with this permanently, you know."

Months passed. A Christmas card from Betty: still clean and sober, thanks to me, she wrote.

Next year, another Christmas card told of her continued success. "I'm going back to school," she wrote. Nice! Suddenly the bottom fell right out of my happy mood: "I've been able to have a drink or two now and again," Betty added. "But I stop when I choose, and do not want any more than that. I'm still taking all the vitamins. Thank you again!"

Once more, my understanding of alcoholism was overturned. Professional dogma tells us that "once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic." I've taught alcohol and substance abuse classes at the college level as part of a certified alcohol counselor (CAC) training program. I know the drill, and Betty's experience did not fit well. She should not drink at all! Never! Yet here she was, able to have a drink, just like a normal person. She could choose to have a drink, and stop. No compulsion, no addiction. Betty wasn't just coping better; she wasn't just recovering. Betty was cured.

Dr. Williams is responsible for at least two key nutritional concepts that are utterly ignored by the medical and dietetic professions: biochemic individuality and genetotrophics.

Biochemic individuality is easy to understand. Different people need differing amounts of nutrients. One size never fits all; anyone who has ever bought underwear will tell you this. An alcoholic needs vastly more of certain vitamins than a non-drinker. There is a reason for this

Beverage alcohol is ethanol, C2 H5 OH. It is a simple carbohydrate, much like sugar, supplying lots of energy and no other nutrients. Thiamin, vitamin B-1, is needed for carbohydrate metabolism. Extra carbos, including extra alcohol, require extra thiamin.

Because alcohol is filling, it displaces more nourishing foods in the diet, causing malnutrition and specifically causing thiamin deficiency. So the heavy drinker is much less likely to get even the usual dietary amount of thiamin, at a time when she needs much more. Add to this the fact that alcohol destroys the liver and brain gradually, but profoundly. This damage increases the need for nutrients to repair the body at a time when the drinker is eating fewer and fewer good foods. Still worse, alcohol causes poor absorption and poor utilization of what B-vitamins there are. Alcohol can literally destroy folic acid.

A deficiency of thiamin, just thiamin, produces the following symptoms, according to the respected textbook, Nutrition and Diet Therapy:

Gastrointestinal: anorexia, indigestion, severe constipation, gastric atony, and insufficient HCl secretion. All the above result mostly from a lack of energy to the GI tract cells; no thiamin, no energy, no function.

Cardiovascular: dilation of peripheral blood vessels (edema), weakened heart muscle, and heart failure.

Neurological: diminished reflex response, reduced alertness, fatigue, apathy. Continued deficiency produces damage or degeneration to myelin sheaths (fatty nerve cell insulation material). If you see an obvious tie-in to M.S., you are right. A lack of thiamin causes increased nerve irritation, pain, prickly sensations, deadening sensations, and if unchecked, paralysis. Thiamin-deficiency nerve damage can result in the DT's and hallucinations.

All this, mind you, from a deficiency of just one vitamin.

The US thiamin RDA of a milligram or two is not even remotely close to being enough. A very strong case can be made for 25 to 65 mg per day even for non-alcoholics. The heavy drinker's poor diet plus ensuing alcohol damage plus increased thiamin need proportional to carbohydrate intake points to an optimum B-1 intake of several hundred milligrams a day.

The 1975 MRCA study of about 2000 households for a full year showed that, of adults 19 or older, over 65% got less than the RDA of thiamin. This means that half to two thirds of Americans probably are thiamin deficient even if they do not drink at all. Thiamin is found in almost all natural foods, but in very tiny amounts. Precious few sober Americans, let alone alcoholics, eat quantities of the whole grains and legumes (peas, beans and lentils) that are modest food sources.

Therefore, vitamin B-1 supplements are essential. And to get maximum results, additional nutrients must also be provided in abundance through supplementation.

Which ones, specifically?

1. Vitamin C to saturation (on the order of 10,000 to 20,000 mg per day and more). Beverage alcohol (ethanol) is chemically just one carbon and two hydrogens either way from methanol (windshield washer fluid) and propanol (rubbing alcohol), both of which are poisons. In quantity, vitamin C is an antitoxin. High doses of vitamin C chemically neutralizes the toxic breakdown products of alcohol metabolism. And, vitamin C increases the liver's ability to reverse the fatty build-up so common in alcoholics.

2. B-complex (comprising 50mg of each of the major B-vitamins, 6 times daily). Extra thiamin and extra niacin may be helpful. Unlike drugs, the B-vitamins work best together.

3. L-Glutamine, (about two or three thousand milligrams). Decreases physiological cravings for alcohol.

4. Lecithin (2 to 4 tablespoons daily). Provides inositol and choline, related to the B-complex. Lecithin also helps mobilize fats out of the liver.

5. Chromium (at least 200 to perhaps 400 mcg chromium polynicotinate daily). Chromium greatly reduces carbohydrate mis-metabolism, and greatly helps control blood sugar levels. Many, if not most, alcoholics are hypoglycemic.

6. A good high-potency multi-vitamin, multi-mineral supplement as well, containing magnesium (400 mg) and the antioxidants carotene and d-alpha tocopherol.

Dr. Williams second Nobel-worthy contribution to nutrition is the genetotrophic concept. Simply stated, the reason different people need different amounts of vitamins to be optimally healthy is due to their genes. And more importantly, any genetic deficiencies can be compensated for with larger than normal (megadoses) of nutrients. Dr. Ruth Harrell elegantly confirmed Dr. Williams theory when she gave huge doses of vitamins, especially B-complex, to severely mentally handicapped children. She obtained extraordinary improvement in learning and IQ in a matter of months, including spectacular advances in Down's Syndrome children. This work was done in 1981, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Bet you never heard of it until now.

Why, then, does the medical establishment keep Dr. Williams' knowledge filed away, out of your sight? The answer is classical: follow the money.

In America, there is a vested interest in disease. There is no profit in prevention. You make a whole lot more money treating alcoholism than you do not having alcoholism. It is the very "social cost" of this, and other diseases, that makes them profitable. It is a tough concept, but think about it: There is a shortage of special education teachers! America's courts and prisons are backlogged and overcrowded! Nursing homes have waiting lists! There are waiting lists for organ transplants! Medical costs are through the roof! What can we conclude? Simple: Business is good! In the PBS news program Affluenza, the point is made that every time a person is diagnosed with cancer, the nations Gross Domestic Product goes up.

So what are we to do, at least those of us who want results? The first rule of fishing is to put your hook in the water, for that is where the fish are. Try Roger Williams' protocol, and see what I saw with Betty.

I have taught college students the physiology and consequences of alcohol use and abuse for some time now. You know, when someone becomes unconscious from ethanol, they may have had just enough to pass out, or they may have had more than enough to die. One can not afford to take a chance and see if they sleep it off, or never wake. We also can not afford not to use vitamin therapy.