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Is Alcoholism a Disease?

April 03, 1988

Thank you for the balanced exposition by Beverly Beyette on "Alcoholism: Is It Really a Disease?" This is a topic requiring further study and development in the public press.

An area of concern to me is diagnosis of alcoholism. If we assume for the purpose of discussion that at least some people suffer from a disease called alcoholism, what are the symptoms of that disease and how can it be differentiated from other maladaptive uses of alcohol, such as the relief of anxiety, avoidance of reality and a need to anesthetize emotional pain?

I am aware of several instances when costly alcohol rehabilitation program personnel assume a diagnosis of alcoholism each time a potential patient presents him/herself for admission, without further question. People may have reasons for entering such a program other than a disease called alcoholism.

Many highly reputed alcohol rehabilitation programs claim to follow the Alcoholic Anonymous model, but careful examination will reveal they deviate from that model in substantive ways. They are guilty of misrepresentation.

I have observed several alcohol rehabilitation programs which are characterized by a dogmatic fanaticism, stating vehemently "this is the only way to deal with problem," while offering narrow and limited solutions to a complex problem. This kind of thinking, clearly non-scientific and non-therapeutic, is offensive to thoughtful people, and obscures the likelihood of finding the several appropriate solutions to this enormously complex problem.

The high fees these programs charge lend credibility to those who charge that "alcoholism treatment providers are guilty of a money-grasping conspiracy."



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