Alcoholism: Illness or Disease

Dr. Joy is correct that Drs. Rush and Trotter regarded alcoholism as a disease almost 200 years ago.  Jellinek, however, is considered by many to be the most influential proponent of alcoholism as a disease in the 1950s.  He presented a disease model for alcoholism, described four classes of drinkers and invented what is known as the “Jellinek curve,” which describes the progression of the disease.  His work is considered a major factor in the medical establishment’s acceptance of alcoholism as a disease.  Although the World Health Organization had recognized it as a medical problem in 1951, and the American Medical Association (AMA) declared it a treatable illness in 1956, it was only in 1965 that the American Psychiatric Association called alcoholism a disease.  The AMA followed suit in 1966.

Yale Medicine, Autumn 2002 Letters to the editor

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