Garth George: The enigma of alcohol

NZ Herald 3 November 2013
I read this week that American experts on alcohol abuse have devised new medical guidelines that could classify nearly one in 10 New Zealanders as having trouble with the booze.

That should surprise nobody, for it has been accepted for decades by those in the alcohol abuse treatment business that for every 10 people who ever imbibe alcohol, one will end up seriously disabled physically, mentally and emotionally through addiction to the stuff.

It was my misfortune to be that one out of 10 – yet had I been shown a list of symptoms I would have rationalised it away on the basis that “I’m different” or “It can’t happen to me”.

The trouble with alcohol addiction is that it is a disease that tells you you haven’t got a disease. It is alcohol itself – a mind-altering chemical – that makes the addict able to deceive him or herself.

As an internationally renowned physician said a few years ago: “If alcohol were invented today, it would be available only on prescription, and then only from hospital pharmacies.”

But, he went on, alcohol remained the safest, most readily available and cheapest tranquilliser known to mankind.