Alcoholism historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Historical Perspective

The term "alcoholism" was first used in 1849 by the physician Magnus Huss to describe the systematic adverse effects of alcohol. [1]

In the United States, use of the word "alcoholism" was largely popularized by the inception and growth of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. Although lacking a specific definition for alcoholism, AA's "Big Book" compares alcoholism to an allergy and an illness.[2]

A 1960 study by E. Morton Jellinek is considered the foundation of the modern disease theory of alcoholism.[3] Jellinek's definition restricted the use of the word "alcoholism" to those showing a particular natural history. The modern medical definition of alcoholism has been revised numerous times since then. The American Medical Association currently uses the word alcoholism to refer to a particular chronic primary disease. A minority within the medical field, notably Herbert Fingarette and Stanton Peele, argue against the existence of this disease. However, critics of the disease model acknowledge that the word "alcoholism" refers to a disease, and use the term "heavy drinking" when discussing the negative effects of alcohol consumption.


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