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Heightened Hope for Alcoholics
Chronic Drunkards, Once Shunned as Social
Are Being Redeemed by New, Humane Treatment
Restores Them to Health and Respectability
new sun is dawning for America’s estimated 900,000
alcoholics-a sun of public intelligence which radiates from
the Yale Clinic Plan. The American Weekly printed the first
comprehensive, authoritative report on the Yale Plan in
February 1945, and since that time use of the new method
has been spreading.
As yet the dawn is in its early shell-pink, but its light
has already touched 12 U.S. cities and nine states.
In Boston, the chronic drunkard is regarded as a sick man,
whose disease is a involuntary and consuming as infantile
paralysis or malaria.
In New Haven, Dallas, Des Moines, Daytona Beach and Rochester,
N.Y., the alcoholic is treated with the same dignity as
In Fort Worth, Austin, Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Washington,
D.C., and Charleston, addicts are sympathetically screened
through social and medical centers and helped back to normal.
As yet the light is a candle flicker in the century-old
gloom of prejudice. But it is still growing brighter. The
Yale Plan was its kindling point. Charles Jackson’s
memorable book, “The Lost Weekend,” and the
movie made from it, made a tremendous impact on national
consciousness. The expansion of Alcoholics Anonymous has
been a profound educational factor. The American press has
given the subject more attention since 1940 than during
the entire preceding century.
The Yale Clinic Plan was conceived ten years ago by a New
Haven scientist, who approached alcoholism not as a temperance
zealot, but as a skilled specialist seeking a preventive
works as many thousands of “ex-incurables” can
“drunkards” once deemed hopeless have become
the Yale Plan’s most enthusiastic workers in redeeming
other members of the ancient fellowship of the uptilted
years ago Dr. Howard W. Haggard was investigating the effects
of noxious gases on the human system in his laboratory at
Yale. He was familiar with the reaction of such poison vapors
as diphosgene, which clogs the respiratory glands. He know
that Lewisite corrodes the mucous membranes and sears the
flesh. Chlorpicrin swells the eyeballs and causes nausea.
So he came to pure grain alcohol, which in repeated dosages
over a long period also reacts as a noxious gas, and after
years of excessive drinking causes vitamin deficiency, mild
paranoia, hallucinosis and depressive psychosis.
A Yale biometrician, Dr. E.M. Jellinek, was already engaged
in alcohol research, and together they attacked the mystery.
They wanted answers to such riddles as: “When does
the use of alcohol become excessive?” “What
does it do to the human system?” “Why are some
drinkers more allergic than others?”
For five years they assembled their data from across the
nation, and by 1940 they found that of an estimated 50,000,000
drinkers, all but a small percentage of them used alcohol
moderately and only for the purpose of social relaxation.
Three million people were “excessive” drinkers,
who like to go out on fraternal binges periodically, and
get out of control, but at other times took their drams
temperately or not at all. But of this number approximately
2,000,000 were potential threats, in danger of crossing
the thin, wavering line of self abandon.
Lastly there were about 900,000 liquor addicts, or habitual
alcoholics who drink for various reasons and in different
ways, but to whom alcohol is a principal reason for living.
They were folk who could not adjust themselves to a world
of reality and used drink to escape into a shadowy twilight.
They had crossed the borderline of normality and had become
Thus the Yale Clinic found that a ratio of nearly one in
every 40 adult Americans were either confirmed addicts or
potentials, at appalling cost to the nation’s economy.
Male alcoholics vastly outnumbered women. Of the total arrested
drunkards, 97 percent were men between the ages of 30 and
60 – the age peak of production. Racially, the Irish,
English and Scandinavian were more susceptible than Jews
The clinic found that, contrary to accepted opinion, alcohol
does not act as a stimulant, but actually is a depressant
to the higher brain centers, as reason yields to emotion.
At what stage does a man become drunk?
A third New Haven doctor had the answer to that. Dr. Leon
A. Greenberg invented a machine which resembles a large
portable radio, with a nozzle in one side, into which the
patient breathes and reveals the alcoholic content in his
bloodstream. A dial like an automobile speedometer registers
the percentage – a .05 saturation being reasonably
sober, .15 being genuinely intoxicated. The amount of alcohol
that the average size man can absorb depends on how much
food he has in his stomach, how long he took to drink the
amount, and what his natural allergy is.
The Yale Plan is no sawdust trail to salvation. It dovetails
realistically with the local police, the district courts,
social agencies, medical centers and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Thus a sample case in New Haven today is any chronic drunkard
brought before a court.
From long experience the judge knows that it does no good
to throw the inebriate into jail. Fines and terms to the
county farm fail to reform. Tongue lashings and threats
been here many times,” she says. “you tell me
you want to quit, but don’t know how. I’ll give
you the chance. Your sentence is suspended, if you agree
to keep your regular appointments at the Alcoholic Clinic,
and do as they say.”
The alcoholic at first is fearful lest he be made an experimental
guinea pig for some strange purpose. But rather than go
to jail, he consents, and is taken to 434 Temple Street,
where he finds a brick building and a neat, well lighted
interior. He is greeted by a cheerful girl receptionist,
who ushers him into an inner office where an alert, calm
mannered man in a white coat begins to chat quietly.
The alcoholic is put at ease and encouraged to talk. Like
most of his kind he has known years of loneliness, bitter
self-reproach, despair and self-condemnation. He has developed
a persecution complex and drinks in proportion as his troubles
mount. His wife has left him. He cannot hold a job. He is
out of control.
But now for the first time he finds himself treated sympathetically
as a sick man instead of sharp rebuke and rough handling.
He responds and begins to talk.
The Clinic learns that he is in need of high vitamin therapy
due to prolonged dependency on alcohol instead of food.
Pure alcohol contains 210 calories per ounce by weight,
but provides no vitamins and even impedes absorption of
vitamins from food. A further checkup shows intestinal inflammations.
He needs a balanced diet, rest and security. So he is hospitalized,
the cost being paid out of the 9 per cent which Connecticut
takes from its liquor taxes and earmarks for treating alcoholism.
The Yale Clinic finds that the man also has several deep-seated
fears. A psychiatrist helps him to get rid of these. He
requires counsel, supervision and encouragement from trusted
friends. The Clinic calls the local chapter of Alcoholics
Anonymous and finds him sympathetic, helpful fellowship
from folk who thoroughly understand his problem. As he is
now, so they were. He gets a job, however significant, and
begins to feel a new pride in his capabilities.
It works! Not always, but he has a 60-40 chance of recovery!
Some backslide and try again. Some fail utterly. But the
majority win back to total health, are reconciled with their
families and become successful citizens again. It works!
Though the Yale Plan is now operative in 11 other cities
and nine states, Connecticut is the only state which has
modern, intelligent alcohol legislation. It earmarks a percentage
of its liquor taxes for rehabilitation.
in the above mentioned cities, the Clinic Plan operates
under the Committee for Education on Alcoholism or the CEA,
and depends on public spirited citizens who solicit aid
and needed funds and distribute printed matter.
Boston, among the most energetic cities in the campaign,
the CEA has headquarters at 419 Boylston Street, a few doors
above the offices of Alcoholics Anonymous, and functions
through public subscription and a large list of judges,
doctors, psychiatrists, clergymen, educators, social workers,
law enforcement officers and business folk. For more than
a year the old brownstone building has received a steady
stream of alcoholics. Some come voluntary. Some are sent
by the courts, some by clergymen.
sifting through the index files of the Boston, CEA, one
finds entries such as these:
H.Y. Married, 2 children, owner small business, quiet, slightly
morbid type. Expressed great fear of inherited nervousness
from neurotic mother. Wife too inclined to neurosis. Became
periodic “binge” drinker with binges running
closer together till they merged.
given short period hospitalization, and after treatment
from psychiatrists, fears dissolved. Faithful visitor. Has
been totally abstinent since first appearance at CEA. Has
adjusted home life and accepted allergy to alcohol.”
is another index card:
R.M. Factory worker, arrested 7 times for drunkenness. Referred
to CEA by courts. Placed in contact with Alcoholics Anonymous
and met regularly with members. First three months had trouble
with adjusting self to A.A. program, but persistence of
members finally convinced her of practical value of such
help. Now has been totally abstinent for two months.”
to unenlightened public opinion, say the Yale Planners,
the most serious barrier to intelligent treatment of alcoholism
is the prejudice in many hospitals, which don’t welcome
alcoholics and regard them as pernicious nuisances.
Alcoholic hospitals are needed, the Yale Planners say, and
should be provided from taxpayers’ funds in the assumption
that the taxpayers are the most immediate beneficiaries.
oddly, rehabilitated alcoholics, such as are found in Alcoholics
Anonymous, rarely advocate national return to prohibition.
They frankly acknowledge that they are among the unfortunate
minority who cannot handle drink in moderation.
The solution is public enlighten-ment, intelligent control,
and sympathetic regard for the alcoholic as a sick man,
instead of a minor criminal and social renegade. The same
light has been kindled and its beam is spreading.
The American Weekly, October 27, 1946)