American industry, long under the delusion that excessive drinking
among its personnel was a costly but incurable headache, is finally getting
around to a saner viewpoint. Hardheaded, business leaders seem ready, now,
to agree that alcoholism is a major public health problem and it’s better to
finance research for prevention and rehabilitation.
A lot of them, members of the Industrial Conference on Alcoholism, are
getting together March 23 in the Morrison Hotel, with some eminent doctors
and specialists, to study the problem and see what can be done about it.
The nation at large has awakened to the fact that it has more chronic
alcoholics on its hands than active cases of tuberculosis; that of its 50,000,000
drinkers, 6 per cent overdo it and 25 percent of these become alcoholics.
But industrialists, with an eye to production and profits, have been nudged
toward concrete action by such specific, staggering facts as these:
1. Of the total U.S. employment figure of 60,079,000 (July, 1947), there
may be as many, as 1,802,000 alcoholics employed in industry.
2. If each alcoholic loses 1 hour and 10 minutes of work each month, the
production loss each month can be conservatively placed at 2,000,000 man
3. Industry pays a lion's share of the $750,000,000 estimated annual total
cost to society of habitual excessive drinking and its attendant evils.
The habit of industry, of course, has been to look on recurrent losses due to
alcoholism as regrettable but unavoidable.
Helping to shape this attitude has been considerable impatience, based on
the totally fallacious notion that alcoholism is due to lack of will power. Doctors
cite many a case in which industry took its huge loss with, a frown and shrug.
A large Chicago corporation had a tremendous training investment in Mr.
A, who at 42 was such a valuable "property" he became president at $50,000.
Working long hours, he took to heavy drinking. Unaware that alcoholism is
a disease and that he had contracted it, Mr. A rapidly hit the skids.
During the next two years his associates, secretly disgusted but outwardly
"tolerant", sent him aimlessly from one "cure" to another. None knew the true
nature of the problem or what e1se might be done.
Mr. A was fired, a procedure costly to the corporation and fatal to the ex-
president. The patient rallied, launched his own company, resumed drinking.
Now he's an alcoholic psychotic in a state hospital.
This instance refutes another common fallacy: that “most alcoholics come
from the lowest strata."
Uncontrolled drinking occurs oftener among the rank and file simply
because the rank and file is so much more numerous.
As to the problem facing industry and the nation-at large, Dr. Anton J.
Carlson, who heads several groups studying alcoholism, says:
“Otherwise we may face perpetually the specter of prohibition.”
Aroused leaders of industy and commerce, assembling here for the very
first industrial conference on alcoholism, will be appalled by the nation’s
negligence and unreadiness.
“History shows that the solution of the problem of alcoholism lies not in
national confusion and neglect, and not in national prohibition.”
“Alcoholism has become a major social and public health problem; and
there are indications the war has not rendered the problem less urgent.”
Looking toward constructive steps, this from Howard Coonly, chairman of
the Walworth Co. and former head of the National Association of
“The medical and scientific approach to the problem of alcoholism should
go far toward preventing another prohibition fiasco…”
“I am sure that the medical science is working toward a better solution,
and the country should support the efforts of scientists in dealing with the
Municipal, state and federal governments have virtually no treatment or
study facilities; in most communities the only public institution willing to
accept an alcoholic is the jail.
The United States has made available annually $130,000,000 for
treatment, research and education in tuberculosis; $16,000,000 for infantile
paralysis; about $5,000,000 for cancer.
For chronic alcoholism, not including emergency “care” in jails and city
hospitals, the amount is about $500,000.
(Alcoholic women in industry, and other phases of the problem, will be
|Billion Dollar Problem
for Industry – Alcoholics
BY: ELGAR BROWN
Chicago Herald American