MEDICAL CARE FOR ALCOHOLICS
BROOKLYN HOSPITAL MAINTAINS SPECIAL
DE-ALCOHOLIZATION WARD FOR PATIENTS
IN 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 self-respect.
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 returns.
SEE’s photo represent actual case-history. Professional models preserve alcoholic’s, family’s anonymity.
1- 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.
2- Blood count indicated whether patient is suffering from diseases other than dipsomania.
3- Injection of Vitamin B complex restores appetite, loss of which is suffered by almost all addicts.
4- Psychiatrist tests patient’s ability to walk straight line. Improvement was noted on the second day.
5- “Shakes” begin to disappear during first two days. Test for hand tremor enables patient to observe progress despite denial of alcohol.
6- Patient moves about freely on third day, play cards with fellow-lodger, as nurse pours fruit juice. Mental outlook has brightened considerably.
7- X-ray photographs reveal that excessive drinking has resulted in evidence of cirrhosis of liver, a vitamin deficiency, gastritis, inflammation of nerves.
8- Estranged wife agrees to resume married life when A.A. patron convinces her that husband is on road to recovery, needs understanding, affectionate mate.
9- Pre-discharge checkup shows gain of two pounds weight, health good, except for alcohol- induced complications. Continued abstinence will cure latter.
10- 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.
(Final 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.
(Source: SEE, September 1949)