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March 3, 1962

Use of "Disease" for Chronic Alcoholism

Author Affiliations

310 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago 4

JAMA. 1962;179(9):742. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050090070018

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Abstract

To the Editor:—  I wish to object to the use of the word "disease" as a description of chronic alcoholism. I quote the opening sentence of the article, "Definition of Alcoholism" by Drs. M. Korman and R. L. Stubblefield (178:1184 [Dec. 30] 1961): "In spite of the recently acquired status of alcoholism as a medically recognized disease, its cause remains unknown and its course and prognosis are uncomfortably variable." This causes me to wince. Why do I wince? Alcoholism, as pointed out in this article and most other articles in current literature, is a personality disorder of behavior with a specific neurotic behavior pattern—drunkenness. The insurance industry, particularly when it issues individual accident and health policies, cannot attempt to include coverage for most behavior disorders, neuroses, and psychoses. Inclusion of these would increase the premium far too much and make sales extremely difficult, if not impossible. Also, society, in

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