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October 8, 1973

Medical Models for Understanding Alcoholism

JAMA. 1973;226(2):197-198. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230020043017

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To the Editor.—  The increasing trend to treat alcoholism as a disease, rather than a crime, is obligating physicians to deal directly with this major health problem. Many physicians, however, find it difficult to accept the concept of alcoholism as a disease. This is especially true in the context of their daily practice.Alcoholism, however, has many similarities to other medical conditions and, if viewed from the standpoint of these, can be more readily understood. Diabetes, for example, like alcoholism, has a definite tendency to run in certain families. A wide range of damage to various organs and bodily systems occurs in both diseases. Polyneuritis and neurogenic impotency, for example, is common to both diseases. Especially analogous is the primary intolerance to sugar on the one hand and to alcohol on the other hand. Whereas these intolerances are medically understandable, the temptation to eat sugar or drink alcohol, when one