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August 15, 1966


JAMA. 1966;197(7):582. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110070106030

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Change comes about in strange ways, but at last a change in attitude toward the alcoholic patient is being accomplished.

For too many years the plight of alcoholic persons, especially those who inhabit skid rows and "drunk tanks," has provided the occasion for amusement, disdain, and disapproval. Because of seemingly insurmountable social and administrative barriers, the medical profession has not afforded alcoholics the treatment usually offered to sufferers of more clearly defined medical disorders. The jail, with the policeman, judge, and probation officer acting as unwilling accomplices, was made the dumping ground for this human "refuse"; here little but futile ritual was exercised, and constructive action was seldom undertaken.

Recent application of the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution confronts us with the fact that alcoholism is an illness and must be treated as such. Our society can no longer ignore the fact that it is wrong to punish