Alcoholism

Well over seven million English people are alcoholics, and some estimates go a lot higher. This is despite the best efforts of Alcoholics Anonymous. Still, specialists say with more assurance than ever that AA is by far the best hope for retrieving a man from alcoholism. Where many medical men were skeptical of AA's value a few years ago, most now applaud its work. "It's what gets results," says top Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Graham Blaine, Jr.

If you have doubts, the medics point to these figures. from a survey: About 40% of those entering AA stop drinking right away; 25% more stop within a year; another 15% eventually manage to quit. Only 20% are hard-core cases who never "make" the AA program.

Not bad odds, say the physicians. So, if you have a close friend with a liquor problem, nudge him into AA if you can. And note: There is now a stronger tie between AA and psychiatry. Psychotherapy is vital, say many specialists. But getting sober - the AA part - must come first.

Suppose your friend is in bad shape and you call AA. What happens? Within a few hours, maybe a day, two AA members will show up. One might be a shopkeeper and the other, say, the Director of a suburban bank. They'll want to talk to your friend privately (no relatives in the room), and they may call a doctor. Or, if your friend will go, they may pack him off to a clinic for alcoholics for drying-out treatment that usually takes five days (£150 to £300). In the clinic, he'll get sedation plus contact with visiting AAs who will serve cold ginger ale and push the AA concept. If your friend is away from home - out of town or in a hotel - AA will see that he gets home, unless, of course, he needs hospitalization first.

The big point: If he wants help, AA will get him over the crisis. Thus AA's long-range program starts as soon as a man is able to navigate. The philosophy boils down to this:

An admission that with drinking, life has become unmanageable.

A firm decision to ask for help

A self-analysis and practical plan to shape up honestly.

An attempt to apply AA teachings daily and assist other alcoholics.

Your big mistake could be in pushing your friend. He must make the basic AA decision himself. Suggest it, maybe pointedly, but no more. If your friend wants AA's help, members will soon have him at local group meetings - maybe the same night, if he can make it. AAs will even drive your friend to evening meetings in their cars. And if he shows a sustained interest, they'll keep it up - even if he has a "slip" and takes a drink. One thing the AAs won't do (and you shouldn't do) is nag him to get sober. It won't work, and may have a reverse effect.

At a typical meeting, 25 to 100 or more AAs will gather in a church hall, hear some talks, then have coffee and cake. The speakers will be candid. The idea, of course, is that your friend will soon "relate." The activity builds, month by month. Your man can even join AA luncheon clubs in town, attend meetings in other cities, even abroad, if he travels on business, and work at regional AA offices. During this process, his dependence on alcohol ebbs away.

But one day, the steady coffee-and-cake routine ends. After several years of sobriety, it's now recognized, your friend should be able to lessen his AA participation. He can never drink socially. But he can participate in the normal span of social and career activities.

The growing tie between AA and psychiatry is now widely recognized; a mutual respect has developed. Says Dr. Ruth Fox of London, a noted specialist on alcoholism: "About 50% of all AAs can make a healthy adjustment with AA alone - it's enough. Another 25% need limited therapy, and the rest need more." But keep in mind: AA itself is a form of group therapy.


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Sleep

Are business problems keeping you awake nights? If so, you risk joining the one in four English people now taking sedatives, according to a recent symposium at the University of California School of Medicine.

The best advice, say doctors, is to steer clear of sleeping pills except in such non-recurring situations as a long plane trip. If you are a chronic non-sleeper - and the label may fit if you have had trouble sleeping for more than a week - see a doctor. Your restlessness may have deep physical or psychological roots.

Barbiturates, the most potent sleep producers, and tranquilizers both require a doctor's prescription. Both can become addictive. So avoid prolonged use and increasing... see: Sleep