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Doug Thorburn is a researcher and the author of several books on alcoholism and addiction. The first of these books, published six years after Thorburn began researching alcoholism, is Drunks, Drugs and Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse. He followed it up with a primer on identifying DUIs before they become tragically obvious, Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence, and then How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Identify Addiction in its Early Stages. His fourth book is Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease.[1] Thorburn focuses in his works on the relationship between alcoholism/addiction and destructive behavior, the most effective means for identifying and treating alcoholism/addiction, and the best methods for protecting society from alcoholic/addict misbehavior.


In his books, Thorburn argues that although an alcoholic may drink alcoholically for years or decades before he or she becomes an obvious drunk, early-stage alcoholism can be detected by destructive behavior alone. Once detected, Thorburn argues, alcoholics can be avoided or convinced (via disenabling) to undergo treatment. Thorburn departs from the traditional definition of alcoholism as requiring loss of control over use. He states that this is a late-stage symptom and argues for a redefinition of alcoholism as a loss of control over behaviors, in particular destructive ones that can be associated with use.

In his fourth book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease, Thorburn states that identification of alcoholism is hampered by the social stigma of the disease. Commonly perceiving alcoholism as weakness, people resist applying the label to specific individuals.

Thorburn's ideas are consistent with the disease model of alcoholism, but with some variance. Thorburn has stated:

  • Alcoholism is a genetic disease and thus is the cause, rather than the effect, of its associated symptoms. Most similar experts argue that, therefore, alcoholics can never learn to drink in moderation and total sobriety is necessary for treatment. While Thorburn largely agrees, he asserts that many alcoholics can control their drinking for extended periods and that it is more accurate to state that alcoholics cannot, in the long run, drink without acting badly.
  • Rather than passively waiting for the alcoholic to "hit bottom" on his own, we should take steps to ensure an alcoholic feels as many of the painful consequences of his behavior as possible. This includes cutting off all financial and emotional support, communicating his problem to other friends and relatives, and getting a DUI conviction. He argues that until every person in the addict's life stops protecting him from logical consequences (in other words, stops enabling), we greatly reduce the odds of permanent sobriety.
  • Alcoholism can mimic many personality disorders, including schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and Narcissistic personality disorder. In this case, therapy for the disorder only treats symptoms and often provides excuses for the addict to continue drinking, or even drink more.
  • 80% to 90% of incarcerated prisoners have alcoholism or other drug addiction. Thorburn is an advocate of treating the underlying cause of most criminal activity, alcoholism, by requiring abstinence in those who have proven to society they cannot safely use alcohol or other pharmacological drugs, whether legal or not. He also advocates ending the war on drugs so that society can focus its resources on those who cause problems for others: addicts. He also states a belief that after a period of sobriety many alcoholics and addicts will return to proper behavior. Thus, Thorburn argues that the goal of the criminal justice system should be to inspire in the addict a need to get and stay sober, providing the means and support to do so.

Published works

  • - (June 2005). Alcoholism Myths and Realities : Removing the Stigma of Society's most Destructive Disease. Galt Publishing. ISBN 0-9675788-2-5.
  • - (April 2004). How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in Its Early Stages. Galt Publishing. ISBN 0-9675788-6-8.
  • - (August 2002). Get Out of the Way!: How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence. Galt Publishing. ISBN 0-9675788-4-1.
  • - (February 2001). Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse. Galt Publishing. ISBN 0-9675788-3-3.


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