Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Write a Little Bit About Alcoholism.

Although I write about alcohol all the time, I rarely write about alcoholism and other alcohol-related harms. I don’t think doing one creates any duty to do the other but just because I usually don’t write about it, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it.

In every society that consumes alcohol, which is just about every society on the globe, there are individuals who cannot metabolize ethanol safely. There is increasing evidence that this condition is genetic.

If you cannot consume alcohol safely then you should not consume it at all. If you need help to either stop drinking or maintain abstinence, you should get it.

I wanted to write a little something about that side of drinking so I did what any writer would do, I Googled it.

First, the premium paid links. There are three of them, all from private-pay rehabilitation clinics. Tip: If you are going to have a substance abuse problem, the best exit strategy is wealthy parents.

The first unpaid link is to Alcoholics Anonymous. That makes sense. Nobody gets more or better PR than Alcoholics Anonymous. But I’m not planning to stop drinking. I’m looking for something a little broader, about the negative effects of alcohol on the human body and on communities.

Next up is something Google calls the alcoholism home page, which is actually the alcoholism entry on After that is a sampling of timely news stories involving alcoholism, followed by the Wikipedia entry.

Not counting the news stories, the Medline page on alcoholism comes up fourth. Medline is the Federal Government, specifically the National Institutes of Health, the official word on the subject. It’s interesting that AA, About, and Wikipedia all beat the government.

Next is the Mayo Clinic and one of WebMD’s sites. The Illinois Department of Human Services and another WebMD site wrap up the first page.

Based on that quick survey, I think someone looking for information about alcoholism, for whatever reason, would be well served by Google. AA has a bit of an attitude, but all of the rest are reliably neutral and science-based; not a neo-dry crusader among them. Only two of the first page sites are government-sponsored. They mostly talk about the personal effects of alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse, not the societal effects. But I probably can get there using one of the personal health sites as a portal.

I was wondering when some phony-baloney outfit like the Center for Science in the Public Interest would show up and am gratified to discover that by page six, it still has not, though it is likely that some of the site sponsors I don't recognize are similarly self-serving donation mills.

Since the top sites on Google are the ones people use most, it looks like people researching alcoholism are getting their information from good sources. Government policymakers should start their research the same way.

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