by Michael Goodman




Moreover, because alcohol is such a strong and toxic drug, prolonged regular use can cause tremendous physical damage. Cirrhosis of the liver, in which normal liver cells are replaced by useless fibrous tissue, is a direct and common result of overuse of alcohol and leads to many distressing symptoms, among them loss of sexual potency and inability to digest food. The other organs that bear the brunt of alcohol's poisonous effect are the brain and the peripheral nervous system. Alcoholics develop shakes, amnesia, and loss of intellect, which may reflect permanent damage to nerves. The list of medical problems associated with excessive drinking is much too long to reproduce here. It includes adverse effects on unborn babies of alcoholic mothers ("fetal alcohol syndrome") and increased susceptibility to such infectious diseases as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Hospitals around the world are filled with chronic medical patients whose bodies are ravaged by alcohol.

Alcoholism is also one of the most stubborn forms of drug addiction, very resistant to treatment. Many doctors who work with alcoholics admit they have little success with them. The only groups that seem to be able to help are Alcoholics Anonymous, which depends on an almost religious adherence to a group ethic, and the Native American Church, which uses peyote in religious rituals and vigorously crusades against drinking among American Indians.*

Not all regular drinkers become alcoholics. In fact, most regular drinkers are not addicted. Possibly, some people inherit tendencies to become addicts because of peculiarities of their bio-

(Copyright © 1982, Univer sal Press Syndicate. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved)

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