From the February 1966 magazine.

A Doctor Says, "Don't Kid Yourself About Cures

A Canadian alcoholic who is also an M.D. reflects on alcoholism and his own experience with compulsion

THE literature on the subject of drinking alcohol has been changing noticeably in the last two decades. Early medical records confined themselves to the rather obvious fact that the problem of drunkenness was little understood and, for the most part, stressed the hopeless plight of a person addicted to habitual or periodic overindulgence. So-called cures were certainly the exception, and mostly were credited to techniques other than medical--usually religious or moral, whereby the individual was able to achieve some form of permanent abstinence. Temperance workers and prohibitionists were the butt of music-hall type humor, and the greatest prohibitive experiment of all, the Volstead Act, is still regarded to this day as having done far more harm than good.

The group of doctors which preceded the present-day psychiatrists, the "alienists," concerned themselves with degrees of sanity or insanity and for the most part did not commit themselves on the subject of addicts beyond stressing that such persons acted in an insane manner when under the influence of the particular addicting chemical. Some workers noted the compulsive nature of addictions in general, but had no practical advice about how such problems might be handled beyond separating the patient from his addiction by legal injunction. Sigmund Freud's discovery of the unconscious seemed to offer hope by suggesting that hitherto unrecognized drives might be demonstrated and treated but the hope was short lived, and eventually Carl Jung admitted that he had never known such a person recover in the absence of a deep spiritual experience.

-- D. G. M., M.D.

Montreal, Quebec

This is a preview. To view the full article, use the link below to begin a free 7-day trial!

Subscribe