Alcohol dependance and body chemistry

Alcohol problem or hypoglycaemia?

Functional reactive hypoglycaemia is a common problem, though not accepted as such by most medical doctors. It frequently precedes as well as coexists with alcoholism, accounting for some of the common mixture of anxiety and drinking.

Acute alcohol poisoning can cause dangerous hypoglycaemia, but less severe glucose disturbance is a much more common problem. Frequent small meals of low glycaemic index² foods, are likely to be acceptable and may be enough to help.

In a recent study¹ of male twins, two interviews a year apart were used to improve diagnostic reliability, and the hereditary influence was estimated at 71%.

The authors commented "the study moves alcohol dependance into a class of disorders that are highly dependent on genes, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder."

Hypoglycaemia is likewise.

People with this syndrome frequently give a family history of diabetes, and the disturbance of liver gluconeogenesis commonly contributing to this has a genetic cause.

For more on this and its treatment, see the anxiety chest pain page.




The aim of the game

Some of my alcoholic patients have been hell bent on killing themselves, but mostly people just want to feel OK even if by guaranteeing long term harm.

It's not just politicians who are addicted to short term goals. We are probably all guilty of this at times.

Feeling better is a perfectly reasonable goal to focus one's attention on. I remember one chap who improved a bit when his wife acted on advice to get good, top shelf booze. This improved his self esteem enough for him to take a bit more care of himself.

The aim has to be towards something positive, not just controlling a damaging habit or addiction. It might be a trip to see grandchildren in a months time.




Acute alcoholic poisoning

Intravenous vitamin C can take a person from comatose to sober in 20 minutes. This was the experience at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center near Melbourne in the 1980's.

They mostly used oral vitamin C as they were dealing with people who were used to giving intravenous opiates to themselves. Here they used 4gm hourly for the first 3-4 days, combined with a zinc and vitamin supplement 6 times a day. Doses were then reduced. The expected anxiety, abdominal cramps, sniffles and general aches no longer happened. They were just slightly edgy for a day or so. After two days they slept well without sedatives, and after two to three days they started to "eat like horses." Their thought processes had cleared in 10 to 14 days instead of the expected 3 months of foggy mind.

Dr Archie Kalokerinos described his experience...

"Now if we have a patient who is under the influence of a drug or alcohol and we pour in vitamin C quickly intravenously, then the results can be quite dramatic. A patient who is unconscious may wake up very quickly. And if I stop the drip running, the vitamin C, the concentration of the vitamin C in the blood will fall very quickly and the patient will go under the influence of the drug again. And I can start the drip again and he will wake up and I can stop it and he will go back to sleep and this will go on for quite a long time until eventually the body gets rid of the drug through other means. So the effects appear to be in the opiate receptors - the cerebral receptors and so forth - but, obviously , nobody has (1979) actually looked at this, so we can't be certain, but it would be very hard to imagine another mechanism."




References and notes.

1. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. Published online June 15, 2011.

In this study, reliability was improved by asking for... previously seeking treatment at some point in their life; increased time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol use; and a long duration for their most severe episode, and large numbers of symptoms related to alcohol use.

2. Foods which are digested and absorbed more slowly, so not upsetting blood sugar levels as much. Examples are rolled oats instead of minute oats, stone ground wholemeal flour products rather than steel milled, leafy greens rather than potatoes etc.

There are lots of lists of food by glycaemic index, but one is really more interested in the "glycaemic load" of a meal overall, and particularly in the overall effect of the meal on blood insulin levels.

See Mendosa.com for a start on this.




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