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The Alcohol-Abusing Patient: A Challenge to the Profession

Otis R. Bowen, MD; James H. Sammons, MD
JAMA. 1988;260(15):2267-2270. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410150115043.
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THE DEVASTATING and often hidden effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism in our society have recently been documented in testimony before the Congress.1,2 It is estimated that in 1983 alone, taking into consideration health care costs, loss of productivity, and all other factors, alcohol abuse cost our society $117 billion.3,4 Among the hidden costs are goods and services never produced or delivered and premature loss of life. These effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are as damaging to our nation's economy as they are to our health.5

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism devastate families and contribute to a wide range of other health and social problems, such as birth defects, mental illness, other drug use, accidents, family violence, teenage suicide, and homelessness. Thus, if we could successfully address the alcohol problem in society today, many of the other health and social problems we face would be dealt a


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