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October 9, 1972

Criteria for the Diagnosis of Alcoholism

Author Affiliations

Medical Director National Council on Alcoholism New York

JAMA. 1972;222(2):207-208. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03210020053013

It has been a historic mission of national voluntary health organizations to provide diagnostic and classificatory standards for the diseases in which their interest lies. Thus we have the Jones Criteria for rheumatic fever, the American Heart Association's criteria for classifying heart disease and, more recently, kidney disease, the diagnostic classification for tuberculosis developed by the American Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association, and many others.

One disease that up to now has not had this kind of attention has been alcoholism, and the need for clarification of what we mean when a diagnosis of alcoholism is to be made has been urgent. The need is exemplified by the statement in the Supreme Court case, Powell vs Texas, which held that there was no "substantial consensus as to the 'manifestations of alcoholism.'"

It turns out that it has been possible to obtain a rather strong agreement as to the meanings and