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Alcohol Alcohol. 2000 Jan;35(1):10-5.

One hundred years of alcoholism: the Twentieth Century.

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Department of Addictive Behaviour and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, J 5, 68159 Mannheim, Germany.


The past 100 years witnessed the formation of a disease concept of alcoholism and a rapid increase in the knowledge of its aetiopathology and treatment options. In the first half of the century, public sanctions aimed at the abolition of alcoholism. In the United States, alcohol prohibition was revoked in the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. In Germany, proposed medical procedures to reduce the fertility of alcoholics had catastrophic consequences during the fascist dictatorship. A revived focus on alcoholics as patients with a right to medical treatment came out of self-organized groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The current disease concept includes the psychosocial and neurobiological foundations and consequences of alcoholism. Neurobiological research points to the dispositional factor of monoaminergic dysfunction and indicates that neuroadaptation and sensitization may play a role in the maintenance of addictive behaviour. New treatment options include pharmacological approaches and indicate that behaviour and motivational therapy and the attendance of patient groups may equally reduce the relapse risk. The task of the future will be to apply scientific discoveries in the best interest of the patients and to support their efforts to be respected like subjects suffering from other diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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