Is There Truth in a Drunken Man's Words?

ByABC News via logo

Aug. 1, 2006— -- In his post-arrest statement, Oscar-winning actor Mel Gibson says that he said "things that I do not believe to be true."

The old adage, however, says that "a drunken man's words are a sober man's thoughts."

While being placed under arrest on suspicion of drunken driving by Malibu Sheriff's Deputy James Mee, Gibson allegedly made anti-Semitic statements.

"That stuff is booze talking," Mee said. "It amplifies your basic personality. … If you are a high-strung person, it's going to amplify that, and all the bad things are going to come out."

There is no doubt that a person under the influence of alchohol can behave quite differently than he would when sober, said Clinical Director of Addiction Recovery Services at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Harris Stratyner.

"The person you know is very different than the person you see when they're drinking you might be quicker to say what you're thinking, now you might also be reacting to something in your life and be angry about something and you don't really mean it but you blurt it out," Stratyner said. "Alcoholics don't think before they speak, whatever's on their lungs is on their tongues," Stratyner said.

Gibson has long struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction.

In 2004, he told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he had considered jumping out a window to escape his problems.

He also has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism. His 2004 movie about the death of Jesus, "The Passion of the Christ," received criticism by some who said that it portrayed Jews as Jesus' killers.

Although Gibson issued a statement in which he acknowledged saying "despicable" things, many wonder whether Gibson was really speaking his mind.

Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist who specializes in alcohol addiction, said that in many cases alcohol doesn't actually speak for the drunken person, but gives the person the confidence to say things he normally wouldn't.

Alcohol affects the top of the brain known as the cerebral cortex, which is what makes a person more likely to act and speak in ways he or she may not when sober, Vranich said.

This can lead to something innocent, like being more funny or more quiet, or it can lead to aggressive behavior and a loss of sexual discretion.

"There's usually some version of one's true feelings that come out when one is drunk," Vranich said.

"People dredge up feelings and sentiments from somewhere deep in their brains, so what one says or does certainly reflects what's going on deep down. There's a lot of truth to that ancient Latin saying, 'in vino, veritas.' Alcohol can most definitely act as a truth serum -- something that allows people to say what is truly on their mind."

At the same time, Vranich said that alcohol often caused people to have a shorter fuse and perceive negativity in a more exaggerated way -- which could have been what happened with Gibson.

Regardless, Vranich said Gibson had a difficult road to recovery after his most recent relapse.

He reportedly is undergoing an alcohol treatment program.

"He's going to need to work, and work really hard, on making his support systems stronger, on finding an outlet -- whether it be exercise, diet, something else healthy -- for his stress," she said, "and by constantly surrounding himself by people who support his sobriety."

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