The Devastating Mayhem Caused by Alcohol

She was fifteen, ready to party, and got so drunk she passed out.

When she finally woke up she knew something was terribly wrong.

Her vagina was throbbing with pain. Looking down, she was horrified to see pen drawings on her abdomen with arrows pointing downward.

The next school day, there was a hushed group looking at pictures on someone’s phone.  From the smirks and furtive looks, she knew they were pictures of her.

She called her mother to come and get her.

Then she hung herself.

She had known her rapists since junior high; they were classmates.  How could they do such a dehumanizing, degrading thing?

Simple answer: They were drunk.

Alcohol abuse and the devastating mayhem caused by alcohol are at epidemic levels in our colleges, high schools, and even in our middle schools. Our only hope to stem this destructive tide is to educate our young people before they experience tragedy, and to make alcohol less available by:

  • taxing it
  • restricting how it is sold
  • restricting where it is sold.

In the next few months, I will offer suggestions as to how we can all help at our local level.  Stay tuned.

Alcohol Addiction Becomes Alcohol Obsession

No father ever loved his son more than Tito did Daniel. Strong as that love was, it wasn’t strong enough to keep Tito from drinking himself to death, leaving Daniel an orphan at ten years of age.

Everyone agreed Tito was a wonderful man, husband, father, and worker. He drank a fair amount, exclusively beer, but seemingly no more than most of his friends. Five years ago he began drinking every day. Three years ago he was drinking around the clock.

Sonya left him and took Daniel to California, praying he would stop drinking. He did and rejoined his family. Daniel idolized his father, and it was bliss to have him back again. After two months, Tito went back to his beer.

It takes an enormous quantity of beer to destroy a liver. It helps if you neglect your diet as Tito did.

Three months ago, Tito’s eyes turned yellow. He was constantly nauseated, undoubtedly from toxins his failing liver could not eliminate. Then came the uncontrollable diarrhea, and Tito’s abdomen swelled with ascites fluid secreted by the scarred liver.

He never stopped drinking.

Sensing how sick he was, Daniel clung to him.

A week ago Tito fell and could not get up. Sonya called 911.

From his hospital bed, in a lucid moment between hours of coma, Tito drew his family close. Hugging his beloved Daniel, he wept. Go to school, he said, study hard and make something of yourself. And, don’t ever drink.

Shortly thereafter, Tito lapsed into a coma. His liver failing, the ammonia building up in his bloodstream, his kidneys failed, and he took two final gasping breaths.

Tito died two nights ago. He was thirty.

How can it be that an addiction can cause a man to disregard everything he loves and holds dear?

Because the alcohol craving takes over one of the oldest parts of the brain, the limbus or midbrain where reside our most primitive urges. Somewhere in the dark recesses of that ancient brain, there is a hierarchy of needs. Breathing, drinking, eating, sex, fighting to survive, love: they are all are arranged in an order of priority. Alcohol corrupts that hierarchy; it stages a coup and becomes number one. The single most important thing, more important than love or life itself, is taking that next drink, until it is the last.

The term “addiction” doesn’t do justice to the profound obsession alcohol causes. Addiction comes from a latin word meaning “to favor”. That hardly describes Tito’s circumstance. A better word would be possession

KBMW Interview with Dr. Jeff Herten

May, 2011





Addicted Project Interview

May, 2011





Fascinating Authors Interview

May, 2011





KCBX Interview

May, 2011





Alcohol and Cancer: The Tragedy of Michael Douglas

It has been several weeks since Michael Douglas announced that he has advanced throat cancer. The media buzz has faded and Michael is left to his five per week radiation treatments and living with the fear that he has a deadly disease.

Michael has squamous cell carcinoma of the throat which has spread to lymph nodes in the area. The word “squame” is a latin word that means “plate”, describing the plate or scale-like cells of the top layer of the mucosa, or lining, of the mouth and throat. A mutation produced a malignant squamous cell and it grew into a tumor. At some point, malignant squamous cells from this tumor were able to invade through the wall of a lymphatic channel and traveled to local lymph nodes where they implanted and grew. Likewise, these cells can invade other lymphatics and blood vessels and travel or metastasize to distant sites in the body.

How did this first mutation happen to begin with?

Chemicals inhaled or ingested caused damage to the DNA of mucosal cells and produced a cancerous mutation. In the case of squamous cell carcinoma of the throat, tobacco smoke and alcohol are the two major causes. Almost everyone is familiar with tobacco as a cause of cancer, but not many people are aware of the cancer-causing potential of alcohol. Alcohol is not carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in and of itself. It’s first metabolic breakdown product, acetaldehyde, however is. Bacteria in the mouth and throat break alcohol down to acetaldehyde and it bathes the mucosa. Eventually, it may produce a cancer. Since alcohol travels down the entire length of the gastrointestinal tract, it is not surprising that alcohol contributes to the causation of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, and rectum. It has also been implicated in causing breast cancer, liver cancer, and, most recently, prostate cancer.

You can read more about alcohol and it’s role in producing cancer in my book, The Sobering Truth. You can also read about my friend Scott and his battle with throat cancer. It will give you some idea of the battle Michael Douglas is facing.

Our prayers go out to him.

Alcohol and Stroke

While all you read in the media is glowing reports of the health benefits of alcohol, the scientific data, buried on the back pages of medical journals, continues to incriminate alcohol as a killer.

In a recent article in Stroke: a Journal of the American Heart Association, investigators reported that people with high blood pressure who drink excessively are at much higher risk for death by stroke.

Studying 6100 South Koreans, scientists reported the risk of death by stroke doubled in hypertensive persons when six drinks were consumed in one sitting. When the consumption doubled to twelve drinks, the risk increased 13-fold over the control population.

BOOZE IN THE NEWS: Rip Torn’s probation denied following drunk break-in of bank

Rip Torn, 79-year-old Emmy winning actor, had his request for probation denied following a January, 2010 break in of a Connecticut bank. He allegedly broke into the bank after a night of drinking. He was carrying a gun and stated later that he mistook the bank for his nearby home because they looked alike.

At the time of the incident, Mr, Torn was in a court-ordered alcohol education program from a drunk driving charge which was later dismissed.

One of the charges carries a one-year prison sentence.

Perhaps the eventual sentence should include eye-testing and a new pair of glasses.

Welcome to the Sobering Truth Blog

Thank you for taking the time to stop by! In the future, I will divide my posts into two categories: Sobering Truth Facts and Booze in the News.

Sobering Truth Facts will describe new medical or sociological studies on alcohol as well as historical facts of interest. In addition, we’ll cover political and governmental issues relating to alcohol. Booze in the News will keep you up to date on the the ongoing tragedies of alcohol in daily life.

We need Sobering Truth Facts about the dangers of alcohol to keep reminding ourselves that the world is wrong for glorifying it. Too often, we’re told of alcohol’s supposed health benefits. The media acts like it is not the huge social problem that it is.

We need Booze in the News to transform the reality of alcohol’s dangers from the abstract to the concrete. We need to see the senseless insanity of people making idiots of themselves on a daily basis and the media’s relish for recording it digitally and in print.

In many ways, this blog will serve to continually update the information presented in my book, The Sobering Truth, and the presentation I made enumerating the health hazards of alcohol called Informed Consent which is presented on the DVD of the same name.

If you have children or friends who need to hear this message, send them a link to this blog. When it comes to alcohol it really is true that what you don’t know can kill you.

Jeff Herten, M.D.