It is a trite saying that “to treat a disease one must know the disease.” But we are not always logical in our describing a disease; too often we confuse its symptoms with its causes and then proceed to treat the former instead of the latter.

Thus, with any study on the problem of alcoholism, we are confronted both with an illness that develops within a person over a period of years to the destruction of his body and soul, and also with an array of analyses and treatments that have in the past proven either inadequate and ineffective, or mutually contradictory. Here is a review of just some of these more common yet deficient concepts of alcoholism:

Alcoholism is simply a moral problem. The alcoholic seems wilfully to reject responsibility, duty, good, and chooses deliberately an evil, irresponsible way of life. He may attain sobriety for a while, he may seem even to have reformed after declaring he will never drink again. Then in apparent renunciation of his resolves, he becomes hopelessly drunk, abusive and belligerent all over again. The moral answer, at the superficial level, seems to be true, but it is not the entire answer.

Alcoholism is an addiction. When the alcoholic withdraws from the addicting substance, his deprivation produces “withdrawal” symptoms, e.g., the “shakes,” terrible vague fears, extreme nervousness, “butterflies in the stomach,” nausea at the mention of food, insomnia, and the consequent craving for the one thing that he knows will alleviate these symptoms—“a little of the hair of the dog that bit me.” These are some of the withdrawal symptoms that we see in the alcoholic. The problem appears to be simple addiction. However, once the patient attains sobriety for a few days and starts eating again these ...

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