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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Allergy Theory

The Allergy Theory

"Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks-drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery."

Obsession: A persistent disturbing preoccupation with an idea or feeling, compelling motivation.

Allergy: Altered bodily reaction to a substance in response to first exposure that does not affect the average individual.

(a) Phenomenon: An observable fact or event.

(b)  Craving: an abnormal desire greater than any other aspect.

Bottom: The lowest or last place in a point of precedence.

Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

Alcoholism: A complex chronic psychological disorder associated with compulsive drinking.

Drug: A substance intended to affect the function of the body.

Addiction: A compulsive physiological need

The Allergy Theory
(It's the first drink that gets you drunk)

This concept came into being in the early 1900s. Prior to that time Alcoholism and Drug Addiction were considered to be a Moral issue or mental problem. If the sufferer would just pull himself up by his bootstraps and drink like a gentleman his troubles would be over. Many forms of moral psychology, and religious were used as treatment.

Around this time Dr. William D. Silkworth, Medical director of Towns Hospital in N.Y. City and the Author of THE DOCTOR’S OPINION in the Big Book, began to notice a pattern in the patients there. Most would respond well to the treatment used at that time and would return to their family and occupations with no further problems and could drink like gentlemen if they choose to drink at all. Dr. Silkworth also noticed a second type of patient that would respond well to the treatment but would lose all control once he began to drink or use. Why was this? Why could one man regain control of his drinking and the other could not, even though he honestly wanted to? From these observations he developed the theory that the body of the Alcoholic/Addict, for some reason possesses an X-factor allergy to alcohol and drugs.

On page xxvi Dr. Silkworth writes….
We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.

This is how this theory works out…….

(Domination of our thoughts)

 On page xxviii in The Doctor’s Opinion, Dr. Silkworth describes obsession like this…..
“Men and woman drink essentially because they like the effect produced by Alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that while they admit it is injurious they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. They are restless, irritable and discontented unless they can experience the sense of ease and comfort that comes from a few drinks-drinks they see others taking with impunity.”…

What Doctor Silkworth is describing here is simply our way of thinking and feeling. Your view and outlook of the world and the people in it. When these thoughts begin to make us feel uncomfortable or out of place, we know what will fix the problem and let us relax and feel better for the moment. When these thoughts won’t go away, this is obsession
Obsession of the mind simply means that our thoughts become dominated by one particular idea or train of thought. You know like maybe “I’m an Alcoholic but I don’t have a problem with weed”. Or “I’ve been clean from Heroin for 6 months now so a few Beers won’t hurt me”. These obsessions may not even start with thoughts of drinking or using. It may start with something like “the boss has been an asshole all day I need a drink” or “my wife has been a bitch, I need a drink!” Or maybe it’s been a long hot day and “a beer sounds good”.

Sometimes these thoughts can be deceiving, such as “it’s the third drink that gets me drunk so I’ll just have one” or “I can’t drink so I’ll just smoke weed”. We don’t intend to go on a run, just chill and party for the night. That’s it, nothing more. I won’t slam it I’ll just smoke it. This time it’ll be different!
All in all these are only thoughts. Everybody has them and you don’t get drunk or stoned off of a thought. You have to actually drink or use for that. These obsessions are not what make you an Alcoholic or Addict no matter how unmanageable they make your life. There is more to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction then that. Let’s look a little further…..


(In this statement he confirms what we who have suffered alcoholic torture must believe-that the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind.)

On page xxvii in The Doctor’s Opinion, Dr. Silkworth continues…
…After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do (first drink)…

Here is an example of two seemingly similar people with one difference. One has an allergy to Alcohol and Drugs and the other one does not. Both are normal in every way except for the effect that Alcohol and Drugs have on them.

Two men dig a ditch in the hot sun. The boss has been on there ass all day. One man turns to the other and says “Hay let’s stop at Joe’s Bar on the way Home and grab a cold one” The day is done and off to Joe’s they go.
They both have a wife at home with dinner on the table. They won’t be long they only intend to have one. They order up a couple beers and drink them down. One man turns to the other and says “that was great but I got to go. Wife’s waiting with dinner on the table!” The other says so is mine but I think I’ll have another. I’ll see you early tomorrow. First man leaves, second man stays and has another… and another…and another. He doesn’t make it home for dinner. Or make it to work early the next day like he intended to. All he wanted to do was have one beer then go home to the wife and kids he loves. Just like his buddy did. Why didn’t he? The answer is simple. One man has an allergy in his body to Alcohol and Drugs and the other one does not. Both men had an obsession to drink a beer after work. The obsession had been fulfilled in both men, but one of them had a physiological reaction to the first beer he drank that does not happen in the average individual.

Here’s one more. Two college girls are studying for finals. Time is running out and they need a little help to stay up and finish. One of their friends has been has been using Adderall to help so they try it. They have no intention to keep using it. They finish studying and pass their exams. One of the girls never uses it again. The other girl can’t stop using it and she moves on to meth.  After cleaning up in treatment a couple times she finds that every time she starts to drink she ends up using Meth again

Here’s one more. A young man in his 20’s started drinking and smoking Pot in his teens. After a couple of DUIs and one time in treatment he makes up his mind to quit drinking because he blacks out every time he gets drunk. After being clean and sober for a while he’s at a party and someone sparks up a joint. The thought crosses his mind that Pot never made him blackout so he takes a hit. Within a few weeks he’s back to smoking pot every day and in a couple months he’s back to drinking and blacking out.

It’s just a theory, but it holds up to reason doesn’t it?

How do you know if you have an Allergy? A bee sting will put you in shock, strawberries will give you hives. What’s the reaction to Alcohol and Drugs? Let’s have a look…..

Phenomenon of Craving

(The Allergic Reaction)

On page xxvii in The Doctor’s Opinion, Dr. Silkworth continues…

…And the phenomenon of craving develops…

Dr. Silkworth describes this allergic reaction best on page xxvii in the Doctors Opinion like this:

“I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is entirely a problem of mental control. I have had many men who had, for example, worked a period of months on some problem or business deal which was to be settled on a certain date, favorably to them. They took a drink a day or so prior to the date, and then the phenomenon of craving at once became paramount to all other interests so that the important appointment was not met. These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control.”

Phenomenon meaning that you can see it happening but cannot explain why it’s happening. Craving meaning a desire that is greater than any other aspect of your life such as your family, job, home, legal issues or even your health.

All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.

This is the Allergic reaction to Alcohol and Drugs. Not a rash like with strawberries or a sneeze like hay-fever, but a deep longing for more Alcohol and Drugs that is beyond our mental control. It’s just that simple. Just one drink or toke and off on another run we go, weather we want to or not.…

The Bottom
(How low can you go)

On page xxvii in The Doctor’s Opinion, Dr. Silkworth continues…
…they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

It can be marked by deep remorse and incomprehensible demoralization with a true desire within the sufferer to end the run, a heartfelt belief that "I can't go on like this" or simply busted and locked up in jail. No matter how ends, by choice or by force, It always comes to an end.

A little note on Drug of Choice

This is a tricky one. Treatment centers are full of Addicts that don't believe they have a problem with Alcohol. They drink a beer at a party or a glass of wine on a date and next thing you know their back at the dope mans house. Then you have Alcoholics that don't believe they have problem with pot. They start smoking and there drunk again.
Heroin addicts switch to speed. Speed freaks turn into drunks. Drunks turn into Dope fiends. You can mix and match all you want.
The point is if you begin to use substance and louse control, then maybe have a Psychological allergy in your body and are experiencing Phenomenon of craving.
There is a saying in N.A. that goes "A Drug is a Drug and Alcohol is a Drug." How do you think they came up with that one? They didn't need a doctor to teach them. They learned that the hard way like we all do!
If you can detoxify from whisky and switch to weed without going back to whisky or smoking weed without experiencing craving. Then you may not be Allergic.
But if you are Allergic then you don't have a Drug of choice. You may have a Drug of preference, but not a drug of choice. In fact you may have no choice.


  1. Very interesting . . . I wondered at N/A why they used the term allergic.
    But as with alcohol, there is a reasonable way of drinking (like a gentleman) . . . Do you think this is possible with Heroin, for someone who is not allergic? Or is the nature of Heroin such that it creates an allergy . . cravings and physical illness until you use again.

    1. More is reveled in my book "the inside job" I'd be happy to send you a copy if you would like...

  2. lots and lots of stuff to sift through here... I relate to this stuff so strongly. I am grateful to know in my heart of hearts that I am undoubtedly an alcoholic and addict. That's the most important thing I know about me. I pray that I never forget this fact, so I go to meetings to be reminded.

  3. Dr. Silkworth’s theory was based upon his observations and familiarity in working with alcoholics - not with drug addicts. Arbitrarily adding "and drugs" to the narrative totally contaminates this article, immediately destroying all credibility. Alcohol is not a drug. It is a food. A carbohydrate, in fact – not unlike sugar. Equating alcoholic "allergy" – the “phenomenon of craving” that an alcoholic experiences with chemical addiction is a very long stretch. So much so, furtive doubts remain in the mind of prospect for the 12 step solution this discrepancy imparts is enough to cause relapse. I would rethink this entire representation with conscience if I were you. Please.

    1. "Dr. Silkworth’s theory was based upon his observations and familiarity in working with alcoholics - not with drug addicts"

      If you Study Dr. Silkworth's Work you'll find That he works drug addicts as well. In his writing for AA he stuck to the subject at hand.

      In the the "Doctors Opinion" in AA's Big Book Dr. Silkworth Stated " I say this after many years experience as Medical Director of the oldest hospitals in the country treating alcohokic and drug addiction."

      Today Treatment is an Industry. It has come up with it's own Theory's of a disease concept... This is simply one of the first. and it holds up to reason .... Simple reason perhaps but, reason all the same...

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