Sunday, November 13, 2005

Title: The Alcohol Blackout
Sub-title: Walking, Talking, Unconscious... and Lethal
Authors: Donal F.Sweeney, M.D. with Robert A. Liston
Publisher: Mnemosyne Press, Santa Barbara
ISBN: 0-9747943-0-9
Genre: Non-Fiction/Medicine/Neuroscience/Law/Psyciatry/
Pesentation: Soft Cover
No. of Pages: 221

What happens when one consumes alcohol? Several things can happen. A sense of euphoria, a high, then loss of coordination, blackout, passout etc. All other stages except blackout are well understood and are well documented. Common people also are aware of almost all these stages but when it comes to blackout, it seems that the knowledge and awareness is rather low. Dr. Donal F. Sweeney, M.D., a board certified doctor of internal medicine, chest disease and addiction medicine, set out in this book to fill this gap in the knowledge. Together with Robert A. Liston, a former newspaperman and magazine journalist, Dr.Sweeney deals with a complex subject in a faily clear and cogent manner.

The authors define what is a blackout and explain what factors probably cause the blackout, the difference between a blackout and a fadeout, the difference between a blackout and a passout, the probable mechanism of a blackout and its implications in the legal systems of a country. They forcefully argue the need for further research into a subject that is not well undestood by the community of scientists (including doctors and psycologists, psychiatrists etc.), lawyers, police and the judges. A good number of cases involving alcohol induced blackout are presented. The difference between immediate memory and short term memory is crucial in understanding the phenomenon of alcohol blackout. The case of Henry, who was operated for epileptic seizures and was left with only immediate memory and no short term memory made interesting and poignant reading. The parallel between alcohol blackout and Henry's lack of memory is really striking. The comparison between drug induced blackout and alcohol blackout is also interesting, esp. because of the difference in terms of the type of memory and duration affected.

While the treatment of memory and its formation and the description of brain anatomy and the role of neurotransmitters etc., may need rereading and or additional reading (for which the authors do supplement the book with a list of resources), the subject matter and its treatment is not beyond the understanding capacity of an educated layman.

Dr.Sweeney is frank and forthright in his views on the subject and while he is no lawyer, his analysis of Paul Cox's case, made me think that he could have made an excellent lawyer or detective if he ever wanted! I feel that he would make an excellent expert witness now for many cases of alcohol blackout related crimes.

The print quality is average and the editing could be better. You will be able to check out the contents, excerpts etc., at a local book store or at Amazon and similar on-line bookstores and so will be able to make a fairly quick decision to buy the book or not.

I would strongly recommend this book to you if you need to deal with the problem of alcohol blackout in any capacity, including as a friend, a policeman, a lawyer etc.

About myself: I am a physicist and a metallurgist, not a medical man. Thus I am a lay reader as far as health books are concerned. I have tasted alcohol out of curiosity but luckily came of a possible addiction at an early stage. I never experienced a blackout myself. However, I have taken up this book because I am interested in health (partly because of my own health challenges) for long. I have studied Homeopathy, Biochemic (Schussler's) Tissue Remedies, Bach Flower Remedies, Reiki (I am a certified Usui Reiki Master Healer), Crystal Healing etc. I would strongly advise you to seek the advice of a health professional when trying to understand and implement any knowledge gained from books.

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