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August 16, 1976

The Controlled Drinking Controversy

Author Affiliations

Alcoholism Services Long Beach, Calif

JAMA. 1976;236(7):863. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270080045033

Alcoholism is a complex set of disorders manifested by abusive drinking. It can be the result of cultural dependency, physical addiction, or psychological dependency on the drug. By the time most people suffer enough to overcome the stigma surrounding the illness and look for help, they have some of all three dependencies at work.

Writers have been describing "the alcoholisms" as a complex set of disorders with multiple etiologies for years. Serious workers in the field frequently state this fact and then proceed to write and act as if there were a single illness called alcoholism.

This inconsistency has had a new upsurge lately over two major issues: (1) research aimed at establishing the possibility of controlled drinking in selected patients, and (2) abstinence as a major criterion for success in treatment.

Even though we state that the label "alcoholism" is given to several disabilities, some workers become quite upset