The type on the jacket of this book, after the title, says, "The noted authority answers your questions on drinking and drugs." Joseph A. Pursch, the author, is an MD, and so the first question is what could a doctor of medicine in the United States of America in 1986 possibly have to say to us about alcohol and dope, given the lack of time spent on these subjects in the majority of medical schools here.

The answer is that he offers practically everything we need to know about the misuse of ethenol in this society, despite his egoistic billing as "the noted authority" (the egoectomy being perhaps the single operation for which there is no fee schedule).

Pursch has a lot of style, which is one reason he is able to syndicate a newspaper column (Dry Doc, it's called, and its home base is the Los Angeles Times), and an awful lot of savvy about alcohol and alcoholics, which is why he was able to be in on the treatment of former first lady Betty Ford and former first brother Billy Carter. The photo on the jacket, with the white shirt matching the distinguished white fuzz atop a Palm Springs tan, is just this side of de trop.

Having said all that, and just in passing wondering aloud why anybody would ever think anyone would buy an anthology of old newspaper columns and warmed-over magazine pieces, it is time to say that if you have somebody close to you who is an alcoholic you need all the reading material you can get on the subject, and this stuff is so well done that you can sit right next to where your loved one is "napping" and read aloud and chortle from time to time and hope that some of it rubs off. If you suspect you have a drinking problem, this book costs about the same as a bottle of Chivas and won't give you a hangover.

For instance, Pursch has this to offer in a chapter called "Chemical Dependence -- It's All in the Family":

"A famous movie star said in her biography that on the morning after when you find out what you did the night before, the only choices are to drink again or kill yourself.

"Well, we all know that drinking again doesn't work; and suicide somehow seems too final. The only solution that really works is to get treatment and go to AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]. The many stored-up 'mornings after' of guilt and self-recrimination, of physical and mental cruelty, of anger and disappointment -- they all have to be worked through, i.e., you have to learn to accept yourself and forgive yourself -- and so do your spouse and other family members -- before you can start to live again."

Pursch covers it all, from the disease of alcoholism concept and symptoms to the bottoming-out process to treatment and recovery (or death and insanity) with a kind of charming and loving approach that transcends the publisher's (and, it may be suspected, the author's own) tendency to hype. The chapters live up to their titles, such as "Is It Booze, Drugs, or Mental Illness? The Answer is Yes!"

Pursch really is well grounded in the subject. He was a Navy flight surgeon and was director of the Alcohol Rehabilitation Service at the Navy's Regional Medical Center in Long Beach and later was on President Carter's Commission on Alcoholism and President Reagan's Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving.

And in the medical profession, he might well be the noted authority.