Alcoholism and Drug Addiction – Several Hundred Years

Alcohol and Drug addictions have been around for a long time.  In the United States, treatment methods have evolved greatly over the last few hundred years.  Do you want to learn a little about what has taken place — then read on. But note: this is not a history lesson — it’s a brief chronology of alcohol and drug addiction “milestones”.

In the 1700 to 1800’s

It’s hard to believe, but the first alcoholic mutual aid societies were formed during this time. They were created within various Native American tribes and called “sobriety circles”. Surprisingly, some of these societies will later evolve into abstinence-based temperance organizations. Side note: if you are not aware of these terms – temperance is defined as a social movement that pressures people to drink, very small amounts, of alcoholic beverages. Abstinence refers to people advocating that no one ever drinks alcoholic beverages. Mutual aid societies were groups of people who made a “pledge” not to drink.

In 1774 the first American essay on alcoholism is published. In 1784, one of America’s founding father’s Dr. Benjamin Rush, publishes an inquiry into the effects of booze on the mind and body. This is generally thought of as the beginning of the American temperance movement.

In 1810 Dr. Rush asks for the creation of a “sober house” to care for alcoholics. In 1840 The Washingtonian Society, organized by and for “confirmed alcoholics,” is formed. Amazingly it grows to have 600,000 members. Keep in mind, this is before cars, radios, televisions and the internet were invented — wow. Between the years 1840-1845 the first “homes for the inebriate (drunk people)” open in Boston. This inspires the creation of alcoholic mutual aid societies, like the Goodwin Society. If you want to learn more click on the photo.

This historical book has a wealth of information
This historical book has a wealth of information

Some bad things happen in this century that complicate addiction treatment. Sigmund Freud and many other American Physicians recommend cocaine as an effective treatment for alcoholism and morphine addiction. Also 24,000 pounds of Opium are brought into America creating a new kind of addiction.

1900’s brings a lot of change

In 1901 the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcoholic Addictions, opens in New York City. This is known as a “drying out” place for wealthy alcoholics and drug addicts. Folks familiar with the history of Alcoholics Anonymous will recognize the name of this hospital. However it will be 34 years later, in 1935 when Bill W. and Dr. Bob form AA. The book Alcoholics Anonymous (commonly called the Big Book) is published in 1939.

I was a bit surprised to learn that between the years 1940-1945 several AA members who were employed at major corporations, form the first modern alcoholism program, called EAPS. You might have heard about EAPS where you work –it is short for Employee Assistance Programs. During this same time the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is founded as an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In 1947 Addicts Anonymous is formed in Lexington, KY. From 1948-1950 The “Minnesota Model” of chemical dependency treatment is formed by three anti-addiction centers, Pioneer House, Hazelden and WIllmar State Hospital. In 1950 the National Institute of Mental Health established its alcoholism division. During this same time, The American Medical Association (AMA) forms a special committee to advance the possibilities of solving alcoholism problems.

In 1951 Louis W. and Anne B. (the wife’s of the founders of AA start the organization that in known today as Al-Anon Family Groups. I find it shocking that in 1952, is when the AMA first defines alcoholism as a disease. To some (even today) this remains controversial. In 1956 the AMA recognizes alcoholics as legitimate patients. Side note: the term “legitimate patients” sounds funny to me.

In 1963, the American Public Health Association recognizes alcoholism as a treatable illness. In the years 1964-1975 the insurance industry begins to reimburse alcoholism treatment. In the mid 70’s alcohol and drug treatment programs become integrated for the first time locally and nationally. I suppose this is the start of the phrase, “hello my name is (blank) and I am an alcoholic and addict”.

In 1978, way before Celebrity Rehab, former First Lady Betty Ford, speaks to the country about entering recovery for addiction to alcohol and other drugs. I never knew she took drugs, before today. In 1980 Mothers Against drunk Driving (MADD) is formed. This is the popular (and powerful) grassroots advocacy group, that had remained strong. Another side note: If you are really young, you might not know that, 50 years ago, driving drunk was a valid reason for having a car accident.  It was more of an excuse, than a crime.

In 1981 the “Just Say No” campaign is launched by Nancy Reagan. What I didn’t know, is that this campaign was combined with the government’s “zero tolerance” campaign for drugs. Because of this, the prison system gets flooded with drug addicts. In 1984 the legal age for drinking is raised to 21.

In 1985 crack cocaine is created. Five years later, we begin to see a lot of crystal meth.

In 2000, the Journal of the American Medical Association proposes that addiction should be treated as a chronic medical illness.

In 2015 there will be many changes in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction. We will also find out how the Affordable Care Act will apply to the existing insurance company policies. What do you think we can expect to see?

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6 thoughts on “Alcoholism and Drug Addiction – Several Hundred Years

  1. If you are interested, my blog. Andstilliwonder.net has a number of pieces about drug and alcohol abuse. I had 20 yrs. of sobriety and relapsed on prescription pills for 5 yrs. Now I have been sober for 11 yrs. I found your articles well written and informative.

    Like

  2. If you are interested, my blog. Andstilliwonder.net has a number of pieces about drug and alcohol abuse. I had 20 yrs. of sobriety and relapsed on prescription pills for 5 yrs. Now I have been sober for 11 yrs. I found your articles well written and informative.

    Like

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