|Billion Dollar Problem
for Industry - Alcoholics
BY: ELGAR BROWN
Chicago Herald American
What can industry do immediately toward plugging the economic and
production leak caused by employees alcoholism?
How can the general public help combat this major health. problem, which
annually present's the nation with a $ 1,000,000,000 bill?
Top management officials, meeting in the Hotel Morrison tomorrow at the
nation’s first industrial conference on alcoholism, will be told support of
scientific research is the best long-range bet.
But they will also be given suggestions that can be put into effect
immediately to rehabilitate employees already suffering from the disease.
James H. Oughton Jr. of Keeley Institute, a member of the Chicago
Committee on Alcoholism, has a concrete, five-point program. Here it is:
1. An employee reported repeatedly absent or showing signs of slowing up
production, should be examined by a doctor.
2. If the doctor finds alcohol is a contributing factor, the employee should
then be sent to an understanding personnel officer.
3. It should be explained to the victim that alcoholism is a disease.
(This knowledge may persuade him to admit liquor makes his life
4. If this point is reached, hospitalization should be urged (if
necessary), with the company’s blessing or at least with no
5. In either case, the employee should be referred to Alcoholics
Anonymous, a group well equipped to show him or her the
“Industry itself stands to benefit heavily by what appears to be altruism,”
Oughton insisted. “Industry has an investment in each employee; if that
investment alone can be salvaged, the employer and everybody else stands to
In the broadest view, prevention of alcoholism undoubtedly is the most
significant of goals. But Dr. Selden D. Bacon, Yale sociologist, thinks it’s Utopian
to expect 3,000,000 persons to learn immediately how to “attain emotional
equilibrium” without recourse to liquor.
A likelier goal at present, he suggests, is a change in social patterns of
behavior so that the use of alcohol for personality adjustment would be
recognized as inefficient and thus would be discarded.
Decrying punishment of alcoholics as futile and insane, he argues:
“The changes needed to achieve prevention must arise from the public in
general. The public is aware, more and more, of the problems of alcoholism.”
“If the public can gain a realistic understanding of the nature of these
problems – if a technique of efficient action is available – if that technique is not
strange or objectionable or too expensive – the public will make use of it.”
Other students agree with Dr. Bacon that the dramatic and successful saving
of lives, the dramatic and successful means of alleviating pain and misery, is the
most powerful way to focus public attention on the alcoholic problem.
The power of example in dramatizing alcoholic recoveries has best been
demonstrated by Alcoholics Anonymous, the fast expanding group of former
compulsion drinkers who have arrested their disease by working with other
Regarding AA the Bacon findings dovetail with point #5 in Oughton’s
program. Contending that prevention should follow logically upon therapy, Dr.
“When AA started, its members were almost entirely men who had gone
through years of pain and degradation, lost family, friend and job, knew all too
well the jails and mental hospitals and flophouses.”
“But as the name of AA spread throughout the country, a change was
observable. Men and women of much shorter experience with alcoholism
“Some of the older members first thought that these ‘youngsters’ wouldn’t be
helped much by AA; ‘they hadn’t hit bottom’ yet.”
But AA helped beyond all expectation, and soon the ‘high-bottom’ as well as
‘low-bottom’ applicants were members in good standing.
“Now a further change may be seen. People are coming in for information
and advice who aren’t alcoholic by any definition. They’re afraid they or their
children or friends might in the future become alcoholic.
“Why have these changes occurred? Because a dramatic and successful
technique has emerged through AA to meet the very real problem of alcoholism.”