APRIL 18, 1949
HYDE PARK, Sunday—My attention was attracted the other day by newspaper stories which stated that, in the forthcoming national campaign to raise funds for the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism, one of the principal places where the boxes would appear to collect people's nickels and dimes would be in bars and other places where liquor could be bought. Impressed by this strange fact, I talked today to the vice-president and executive director of the organization, Mrs. Marty Mann.
This group, she told me, was a division of the Yale Plan On Alcoholism. Dr. E.M. Jellinek, of Yale University, has stated that there are an estimated 4,000,000 alcoholics in the United States, 750,000 of whom are in the final stages of the disease. Dr. Jellinek emphasizes that it is a disease, not something which the individual can control by using his will power. Any man or woman who can take one or two drinks and stop, even if occasionally they drink more than is good for them, is not an alcoholic—any more than the person who drinks regularly and steadily, but moderately. The distinguishing mark of an alcoholic is that, once he takes a drink, he cannot stop until he is too drunk to drink any more.
This disease is somewhat like any other allergy. A diabetic cannot eat certain things. An alcoholic is poisoned by alcohol. He knows it, and yet he can do nothing about it. Nobody thinks of urging on a diabetic the food he should not eat. Yet many of his friends will urge just one drink on an alcoholic, when just one drink is his undoing.
This national committee feels that Alcoholics Anonymous has done a wonderful piece of work, but that they cannot do the job alone. Too many people must be reached, and so the national committee is establishing clinics from coast to coast to educate the average citizen in the real nature and treatment of this disease. These committees establish information centers for guidance for alcoholics and their families; clinics for diagnosis and out-patient treatment; moderately priced rest centers for patients requiring long-term care; and they obtain beds in local hospitals for acute sufferers.
One would naturally ask if this organization is a part of the movement against all use of alcoholic stimulants. Their answer is that they are neither wet nor dry. They believe simply in dealing scientifically with a disease. If you can't take alcohol, you stop taking it. If you can take it moderately, you are not a medical case.
The great majority of alcoholics are between the ages of 30 and 55, and five out of six are men. From the point of view of the nation this is important, because alcoholics create a public health problem and they cost the community money. The economist, Benson Y. Landis, estimates the annual loss of wages through this disease amounts to $432,000,000, and health authorities rank alcoholism with cancer, heart and venereal disease as a public health menace.