Book Review
Mean Drunk
Nov 12, 2013 - 1:46:19 PM

( - CORRALES, N.M., Nov. 12, 2013 -- Stories turn up all the time about altercations on airplanes, brawls in bars, or domestic disputes that end in gunfire. The catchphrase is often the same, "Alcohol was involved." Many people have experienced alcohol-fueled confrontations at parties and family dinners. These are experienced as cruel, hurtful words that can have devastating long-term effects. The catchphrase here? "It was the booze talking."

In Mean Drunk: Anger, Hostility and Alcohol, William Tappan moves beyond the cliches and excuses to reveal the cause of the behavior. Tappan draws on the latest scientific research, illustrated by dramatic case studies from news stories, personal accounts, and his own decades of experience. He explains, "The hostility reaction to alcohol (HRA) is a specific neurobiological result of drinking, especially visible during the holidays." The evidence he presents points to cytokines: multifunctional proteins that react to the toxic effects of alcohol, producing inflammation in the areas of the brain associated with aggression.

From celebrities' brushes with the law to the most damaging encounters - those within families - Mean Drunk lays out the results of alcohol-caused brain inflammation. Johnny Carson's hostility reaction is a clear example of this puzzling reaction. In a 1979 60 Minutes interview Carson said, "When I did drink, rather than a lot of people who become fun loving and gregarious and love everybody I would go to the opposite."

While firmly based in science, Mean Drunk presents a series of shocking, moving, and sometimes bizarre stories, as HRA leaves a trail of emotional damage, physical injury, and even death.

Mean Drunk moves beyond accounts of human distress to point the way to greater understanding of an all-too-common and neglected problem for both perpetrators and victims. Mean Drunk is available at

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