Monday, December 29, 2008

An Unexpected Cure- Anabuse

Jack Dini

(From a series on Unintended Consequences)

Scabies is an itchy condition of the skin caused by tiny mites. The severe scratching brought on by this infection can often trigger infections, which leave scars. Scabies was endemic during World War II in Europe. Swedish researchers discovered that it could be treated by using disulfiram (tetryethylthiuram disulfide), a chemical that had been used in the rubber industry), as an ointment. (1)

In Denmark, Drs. Jens Hald and Erik Jacobsen, were interested in finding a pill that would be effective against intestinal worms. They had reasons to believe that disulfiram might be the solution so decided to run some tests. They first experimented with rabbits. As far as they could tell, rabbits infected with the internal parasite and then fed disulfiram pills showed no adverse reactions and the drug seemed to work.

What to do next? They undertook what is a taboo in medical research—self -experimentation. Lawrence Altman, in his fascinating book on this topic Who Goes First?, says this about Jacobsen, “He lived by a strong moral code. In his work, he believed that pharmacologists should test a drug on themselves before doing so on another human. He practiced what he preached.” (1)

So Jacobsen and Hald began taking disulfiram pills on a daily basis in their different laboratories. Shortly after the experiment began. Jacobsen decided to have a bottle of beer with the sandwich his wife had made for him. By the time lunch was over, Jacobsen felt groggy and nauseated, and his head throbbed. The next day he ate another sandwich and was fine. Then he had lunch with his managing director. During this event they had consumed a glass of aquavit in a friendly gesture of comradery. Once again, the symptoms re-appeared, but then after a while were gone. So he went on about his business. (1)

Later that same week, Jacobsen had a beer with a meatball sandwich his wife had made. Again he had another attack so went home early. He wanted to blame the meatball sandwich but found that the rest of his family had eaten similar sandwiches with no ill effects. The attacks continued but Jacobsen shrugged them off until he met Hald in the corridor at work one day. As Jacobsen related his observations and problems with nausea, etc., Hald said, “That’s funny. I have had the same bug.” (1)

Hald told of a recent visit of one of his friends where they shared some cognac. Hald had become sick and the friend had not. These shared experiences got them both to wondering if there could be some relation between disulfiram and alcohol. They decided to do more tests; avoid both the drug and alcohol, drink alcohol but avoid the drug, take the drug but avoid alcohol, and lastly, have alcohol while on the drug. Bingo! Both had the symptoms return when mixing the drug with alcohol.

Then they repeated the experiment on a fellow laboratory worker. After a few days the same result was obtained. It did appear that for some reason the body needed a few days to trigger the disulfiram-alcohol reaction. As a final test, Jacobsen took some pills before injecting himself with a small amount of alcohol. His blood pressure fell almost to zero and he nearly died. There was no longer any question about a reaction between alcohol and disulfiram. Soon after this, a chemist friend identified the odor on Jacobsen’s breath as acetaldehyde, a toxic product of oxidation of alcohol. (1)

As far a Jacobsen and Hald were concerned there went the grand scheme for the proposed cure for intestinal parasites, and since they felt alcoholism wasn’t an important medical problem in Denmark, they saw no reason to continue with this project. That is, until Jacobsen attended a civic affairs meeting in October 1947. He was asked to fill in for a speaker who cancelled at the last minute and during the course of his talk he mentioned the experiences he and Hald had with disulfiram and how as a result of this neither could stand alcohol while on the pills. John Emsley reports, “A journalist from the Copenhagen newspaper Berlingskee Tidende was present, and reported the story. Alcoholics who read about disulfiram realized that here was a treatment that might wean them off alcohol, and several of them wrote to Jacobsen, asking for disulfiram tablets. Clinical tests on alcoholic volunteers showed that the drug could be used to break the addiction to alcohol. Antabuse, the trade name Jacobsen gave the drug was launched.” (2)

So how does disulfiram (Antabuse) work? It blocks the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde to acetic acid and as the body builds up acetaldehyde, it produces a condition know as acetaldehydemia. This usually results in a very unpleasant reaction. Again from Emsley, “Even a little alcohol taken by someone on Antabuse produces enough acetaldehyde for their body to react unpleasantly to it. They feel very ill because they are in effect experiencing a severe hangover, the symptoms of which are nausea, vomiting, labored breathing, flushing, chest pains, and throbbing headache. The experience is so dreadful that they will usually avoid alcohol while they remain on Antabuse, although it has been found that some people become tolerant of the drug and its effect is diminished. Most people who take Antabuse find it effective, but they must also be alert to the fact that some common household products contain alcohol, such as vanilla extract (35% alcohol), cough medicines (up to 25% alcohol), and mouth washes (around 25% alcohol.)” (2)

Walter Gratzer rightly notes that this is an example of a heroic experiment conducted by doctors on themselves that could never have come about by design. (3) One- they weren’t even looking for a treatment for alcoholism, two- if they hadn’t experimented on themselves they would never have known of the consequences of mixing alcohol with the drug, and 3- if Jacobsen hadn’t been asked to be a substitute speaker at a civic meeting, the results would probably been buried in laboratory notebooks and never revealed to the public.

A final word of caution. Mixing Antabuse and alcohol can be deadly. Joe and Teresa Graedon highlight the fact that ‘in some cases, the reaction could be lethal, so anyone on Antabuse really needs to watch out for alcohol.” (4)


1.Lawrence K. Altman, Who Goes First?, (New York, Random House, 1987), 98-104

2.John Emsley and Peter Fell, Was it something you ate?, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001), 28

3.Walter Gratzer, Eurekas and Euphorias, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002), 163

4.Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Deadly Drug Interactions, (New York, St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997), 146

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Religion of Global Warming

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

(From Hawaii Reporter, 12/1/2008)

Do you want to position yourself as a humanitarian concerned with the grandest issue of the planet’s survival and capture the high ground as a defender of the interests of humanity? If so, embrace global warming. And if you seek even a higher level, allow global warming to be your new religion.

Why? In the words of Dean James P. Morton of the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, “the environment is not just another issue but an inescapable challenge to what it means to be religious.”(1) Global warming provides a cosmic scenario that has found expression in almost all religions of the world, from the Jewish legend of Noah and the Christian vision of the Apocalypse to the world-ending Ragnarok of the Norse sagas and the Teutonic Gotterdammerung, the twilight of the gods,” report Christopher Booker and Richard North. They add, “The appeal of global warming is that it fits so neatly into the plot of a story with which everyone is familiar. Man in his selfish and reckless exploitation of the planet has committed a great and unpardonable sin, if not against God then certainly against Nature. Unless he repents and learns to mend his ways, he and all life on the planet will face unthinkable punishment. The seas will rage, on a scale never before known. Vast tracts of fertile land will be reduced to barren deserts. Nature itself will lie stricken before the onslaught. Billions of human beings will die.”(2)

Many religious leaders have joined the crusade. On June 15, 2001, the nation’s Catholic bishops unanimously approved a statement urging as a ‘moral imperative’ taking action to end global warming. “At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory nor political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures,” said the bishops. “It is about the future of God’s creation, and the one human family.” Several days before, the Greater Boston Coalition on the environment and Jewish Life released a letter signed by 19 local leaders, which said that the Bush administration’s energy plan “does not yet meet biblical standards for stewardship and justice.” It called on Jewish communities to “raise awareness of how fossil fuel use contributes to global warming.” (3, 4)

The religion of global warming is moving much faster than traditional religions. For example, as Ann Coulter observes, “It took the Catholic Church hundreds of years to develop corrupt practices such as papal indulgences. The global warming religion has barely been around for 20 years, and yet its devotees are allowed to pollute by the simple expedient of paying for papal indulgences called ‘carbon offsets.’” (5) As with the system of papal indulgences introduced in the late Middle Ages, anyone with enough money can buy their freedom from damnation by purchasing enough ‘credits.’ This gives them an official license to continue sinning, by emitting excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, regardless of what a corrupt sham the whole system has become.(6) I recently saw a one-act skit in Oakland, CA, highlighting the absurdity of this practice. In the skit, folks who wanted to commit adultery could do so providing they found someone they could pay to agree to not commit the same sin; a perfect analogy with the religion of global warming.

Carrying this a step further, the entire green lobby can be treated as a religion. Particularly in Europe, stories such as the myth of the Fall and the myth of the Apocalypse and the Last Judgment, no longer have the impact they once did. John Kay reports, “Environmentalism now fulfills for many people the widespread longing for simple, all-encompassing narratives. Environmentalism offers an alternative account of the natural world to the religious and an alternative anti-capitalist account of the political world to the Marxist. The rise of environmentalism parallels in time and place the decline of religion and socialism.” (7)

The leader of the movement, the sermonizer supreme, Al Gore, is even adoringly referred to by his flock as The Goracle. (8) And as John Fund observes, “I guess it was inevitable. The global warming hysteria for which Al Gore is the leading rabble-rouser has now taken on all the trappings of a cultish religion. Exhibit A: The Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa in California has a Gideon Bible, Al Gore’s book, and the Buddhist Traveler in each room.”(9)


Tom DeWeese sums it up well. “Global warming has become a new religion. No one is supposed to question whether it is a fact and the faithful have vowed to follow no matter what the true facts may show. Global warming is a theory, nothing more, and large numbers of scientists around the world are beginning to question its validity. There is no consensus of support.” (10) Within the past years, multitudes of peer-reviewed journal articles and at least a dozen books have provided sound evidence of this lack of consensus but you won’t find the books at your local bookstore. Try Amazon instead. Why? These recent books have the temerity to question ‘the doctrine.’ A good example is An Appeal to Reason by Nigel Lawson of the UK. This is his fourth book but he could find no British publisher. He reports, one rejection letter said, “My fear with this cogently argued book is that it flies so much in the face of the prevailing orthodoxy that it would be very difficult to fine a wide market.” (11)

DeWeese concludes, “The truth is there is no man-made global warming. There’s only the scam of an empty global religion designed to condemn human progress and sucker the feeble minded into worldwide human misery.” (10)


1.The Greening of Faith, John E. Carroll, Paul Brockelman, and Mary Westfall, Editors, (Hanover, NH, University Press of New England, 1997), 4
2.Christopher Booker and Richard North, Scared to Death, (New York, Continuum US, 2007), 481
3.Michael Paulson, “Bishops say fighting global warming is a moral duty,” Boston Globe, June 16, 2001, Page A10
4.Bonner Cohen, The Green Wave, (Washington, DC, Capital Research Center, 2006), 161
5.Ann Coulter, “Gore’s Global Warming Religion,”, March 21, 2007
6.Christopher Booker and Richard North, Scared to Death, 402
7.John Kay, “Green lobby must be treated as a religion,” Financial Times, January 9, 2007
8.William Booth, “Al Gore, Rock Star,”, February 25, 2007
9.John H. Fund, “Guru Gore,” The American Spectator, 40, 52, June 2007
10.Tom DeWeese, “The New Religion is Global Warming,” Capital Magazine, February 16, 2005
11.Nigel Lawson, An Appeal to Reason, (New York, Overlook Duckworth, Peter Mayer Publishers, 2008), ix