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May 18, 1984

The Natural History of Alcoholism

Author Affiliations

Health and Human Behavior Program American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1984;251(19):2585-2586. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340430077040

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George Vaillant is of the new breed of psychiatrists who acknowledge that alcoholism is not a cluster of symptoms of psychopathology, but rather a disease in and of itself, complex and variable though it may be, and elusive of strict definition.

Not that there is anything really new disclosed in this rather remarkable attempt at synthesis of modern-day knowledge of alcoholism etiology and development. Those in the alcoholism field will learn little they do not already know about such topics as biogenic causality, treatment efficacy, and controlled drinking by recovered alcoholics. Even the author's own research, which forms the information base for much of the volume, has been reported in the scientific literature in recent years.

But there is something really different in this book that distinguishes it from most of its predecessors in the genre: Vaillant grinds no axe. Instead, he comes down forcefully on the side of demonstrable