Alcoholics and Loss of control of drinking

Alcoholics and addicts can attest to their countless attempts to stop or cut back on their drinking or drugging. They learn but cannot really accept that they have no power over alcohol or drugs.

The following research of the 1970’s began to explore this phenomenon and in the process confirming a basic tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous.

We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals – usually brief – were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better. Alcoholics Anonymous, pp 30.

Abstract of research report; This study evaluates the ability of alcoholics to regulate their blood alcohol levels (BAL) within a designated range by relying primarily on interoceptive (internal) cues. Forty male alcoholics and 20 control subjects were exposed to an initial training session in which they received sufficient ethanol to maintain them within a designated BAL range over a 2 1/2-hour period.

They were then exposed to two experimental sessions, one providing "overfeedback" and one "underfeedback." During each session, subjects had ten drinking decisions to make with respect to regulation of their BAL.

The results indicated that alcoholics displayed greater "loss-of-control" than control subjects.

This finding supported the hypothesis that alcoholics may possess a neurophysiologic feedback dysfunction that contributes to their relative inability to regulate ethanol intake.

A. M. Ludwig, F. Bendfeldt, A. Wikler and R. B. Cain. Loss of control in alcoholics. Archives of General Psychiatry. Vol. 35 No. 3, March 1978.

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