Further Reading

Do alcoholics have overprotective moms?

Dear Stanton:

How many alcoholics, in your experience, had overprotective moms? I read an article from a doctor at Menninger's, c. 1930, in which he said that about 9 out of ten of the alcoholics he'd treated had overprotective moms. Many told him that they were adept, as children, at charming their mothers into giving them what they wanted, and that this accounts for the "charming drunk" syndrome. I can't find the article now, but do you have any comments?

Bill Vogt

Dear Bill:

Well, I think more alcoholics had moms who neglected them. That is a social more than it is a psychological observation. The alcoholics who ended up at the Menninger Clinic were, I imagine, middle class or even better off — maybe they lived at home and their mothers sent them to Menninger. A more typical alcoholic is a person who never caught hold in life, who came from a broken home, and who had many antisocial indicators — like failure at school, criminal involvement, and fragmented relationships with others aside from his/her family.

My local paper recently reviewed the deaths of people who died of "heroin overdoses." While the claim of the newspaper was that heroin was attracting many young middle-class users of both genders, most of the dead people shown in a table were middle-aged men. However, the cases actually described in the newspaper (The Daily Record) were virtually all of young people. But these were not the types of middle-class kids the headlines trumpeted. Despite coming from a highly affluent county (Morris), they were virtually all from broken homes, had dropped out of school and had little economic security or social status, and were themselves divorced or separated and without social supports.

This is most often the sad story of substance abusers. One scale often used to predict the likelihood of addiction/alcoholism is the MAC Scale (by the same man, Craig MacAndrew, who authored the classic book, Drunken Deportment). The scale basically includes subscales from the MMPI (an inventory of psychopathologic personality traits) indicating antisocial impulsivity.