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October 2, 1972

Social Disease vs Disease of Society

JAMA. 1972;222(1):84-85. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03210010064016

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Once upon a time social disease meant venereal disease, and nothing else. Inaccurately applied, the term was only a euphemism. Of genuine diseases of society, war and rebellion come first, followed by political and economic upheavals—none of which has medical meaning, in the way that alcoholism and drug abuse do.

During the past two years, 188 manuscripts have been submitted for publication to The Journal reporting on one or another phase of drug abuse, outnumbering studies in alcohol problems by ten to one. The flow continues and is fairly steady, although The Journal is able to publish only selected items. Even if alcohol poses vastly greater problems, drug abuse attracts the modern student's fancy disproportionately.

Perhaps reasons for the disparate interest relate to medical failure to resolve the problems of alcoholism as a chronic social offender. Management of acute intoxication and withdrawal have found effective approaches, but the practicing physician