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MEDICAL CARE FOR ALCOHOLICS
HOSPITAL MAINTAINS SPECIAL
DE-ALCOHOLIZATION WARD FOR PATIENTS
1935, a hard-drinking young Wall Streeter traveling through
Akron, O., encountered a local medical soak with an inevitably
dwindling practice. At dinner, and until late that night,
the two discussed their mutual weakness. Parting, they promised
to meet again, arrived cold sober at their respective lodgings.
Thus was born Alcoholics Anonymous (“informal fellowship
of ex-problem drinkers”).
A.A. presently includes 80,000 professing members in 23
countries. Its success in helping liquor addicts recover
from a debilitat-ing affliction has revised the once-prevalent
belief that dipsomania is a punishable vice.
Medical, psychiatric and clerical authorities currently
agree that alcoholics are unfortunate victims of a devastating
illness, and should be ministered to as sick people, not
condemned as moral transgressors.
A.A.’s program borrows freely from established principles
of medicine, psychiatry and religion. It has persuaded hospitals,
which once adamantly refused bed-space to alcoholics, to
admit them as the do other sufferers from serious illnesses.
Latest example of newly-developed cooperation between medical
institutions and A.A. was the establishment of a 16-bed
ward in Brooklyn, New York’s St. John’s Episcopal
Hospital, where habitual inebriates are admitted, if sponsored
by A.A. members, upon payment of a $75 fee. Patients undergo
a five-day “drying out” process under the watchful
eyes of especially trained nurses, physicians and psychiatrists.
The treatment is not intended as a “cure.” No
cure for alcoholism exists other then total abstinence.
But hospitalization is often an indispensable first step
on the road to lasting sobriety. When the befuddling fog
is lifted from a hapless victim’s body, blood and
brain, he is able for the first time to think clearly and
recognize the gravity of his plight.
A.A. volunteers are on hand 24 hours a day. Former alcoholics
who have forsworn alcohol, they try to win the newcomer’s
confidence, swap details of fabulous benders, prove by own
experience that no soul is so lost that he cannot gain his
Physically fit on the sixth day, the patient is released.
His A.A. friend calls for him at the hospital and sees him
home safely home. Thereafter, he is visited at home frequently,
introduced at a neighborhood A.A. group meeting. The samaritan
is available for advice and assistance if the urge to drink
SEE’s photo represent actual case-history. Professional
models preserve alcoholic’s, family’s anonymity.
Alcoholic is escorted by A.A. sponsor to St. John’s
Hospital’s de-alcoholization ward. Medical rehabilitation
has resulted in permanent sobriety for 60 to 75 percent
of those who undergo rigid treatment.
Blood count indicated whether patient is suffering from
diseases other than dipsomania.
Injection of Vitamin B complex restores appetite, loss of
which is suffered by almost all addicts.
Psychiatrist tests patient’s ability to walk straight
line. Improvement was noted on the second day.
“Shakes” begin to disappear during first two
days. Test for hand tremor enables patient to observe progress
despite denial of alcohol.
Patient moves about freely on third day, play cards with
fellow-lodger, as nurse pours fruit juice. Mental outlook
has brightened considerably.
X-ray photographs reveal that excessive drinking has resulted
in evidence of cirrhosis of liver, a vitamin deficiency,
gastritis, inflammation of nerves.
Estranged wife agrees to resume married life when A.A. patron
convinces her that husband is on road to recovery, needs
understanding, affectionate mate.
Pre-discharge checkup shows gain of two pounds weight, health
good, except for alcohol- induced complications. Continued
abstinence will cure latter.
A.A. representative happily grins as reoriented husband
is united with family on St. John’s Hospital steps.
Future appears less grim to all concerned.
photo shows an A.A. meeting with the caption) After three
teetotal months marked by constant attendance at A.A. meetings,
redeemed tippler feels confident enough to describe to newcomers
his erstwhile plight and subsequent salvation. He becomes
an enthusiastic A.A. sponsor, finds that helping others
adjure alcohol acts as effective substitute for own drinking.
SEE, September 1949)