THE MEDICAL VIEW

Is Alcoholism really an illness? 

 

The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, as well as many other professional groups, regard alcoholism as a disease. 

 

The judiciary and law-makers also are recognizing it as a disease.

 

Some authorities continue to see alcoholism only as an expression of underlying emotional problems. 

 

Others see it starting as a symptom which precedes an illness and requires treatment in itself.

 

The Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of the American Medical Association defines alcoholism as an illness in which there is preoccupation with alcohol and loss of control over its consumption, as a type of drug dependence that can harm a person’s health and interfere with his ability to work and get along with other people. 

 

The alcoholic usually drinks heavily and gets drunk often. Quantity and frequency, however, are only one sign. 

 

Although some alcoholics actually drink less than some social drinkers, this does not change their basic condition nor make it less serious. The key factor is loss of control and craving for the drug, alcohol. 

 

Physical disabilities and difficulties adjusting to life may contribute to the development of the illness, as well as result from it. 

 

Drinking by one’s self: or drinking early in the morning, may be signs of alcoholism, but they are not always present. 

 

Similarly, living on skid row, being irresponsible and other behaviour commonly regarded as fundamental to alcoholism, are neither limited to the disorder nor necessarily part of it. 

 

In fact, the class of alcoholics made up of financially successful professional persons may well be one of the largest, and certainly one of the most seriously neglected, groups in this country. 

 

This is reprinted from the pamphlet “The Illness Called Alcoholism,” published by the American Medical Association (Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Council on Mental Health, Department of Health Education); 

 

Reprinted with kind permission.