I have recently read the article, "Help Patients Before They Hit Rock Bottom" [August 1995], and there are several comments in the article which raise concern. In fact, I would think that the statements in point need clarification for a number of readers.
Dr. Glaser states, "Alcoholism is more of a political and social idea than a disease. To call it a disease is to assume that the problem, if not treated, will progress to extreme states."
Experts tell us that alcoholism is, in fact, a primary, progressive, chronic disease actually defined as a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956. The American Dental Association (ADA) Policy (Trans. 1986:351) also states: OThe ADA recognizes that chemical dependency is a disease that affects all of society.O
Since the first description in medical literature, we have seen an evolving science in the study and treatment of addictions. To those working in the field, it is apparent that, in fact, this disease does progress to extreme stages requiring outside interventions.
I believe you have made an attempt to draw attention to a most significant problem that we, as health care professionals, face on a daily basis. However, statements such as those above do not concur with contemporary approaches of addiction medicine to identifying and treating substance abuse and chemical dependence nor does the article particularly offer help to dental professionals wanting to help their patients!
With so much information available for dental professionals, particularly through the ADA, it is unfortunate that this article presented, and clearly misrepresented, the current terminology, methodology, and treatment protocols for alcohol and other drug problems.
The ADA has been active in issues of alcohol and other drug dependencies since the early 1980s and has a vast resource of materials, policy statements, and oral health guidelines available.
Unfortunately, the author also misspelled Antabuse, which a reader may interpret as basic lack of knowledge about the subject and disregard the rest of the information.
James Rundle, DDS
Chairman, ADA Dentist Well-Being Advisory Committee
EDITOR?S NOTE: Most of Cynthia Biron?s article referred to above addressed the medications used to treat alcoholism (and, yes, we regret the incorrect spelling of the one reference to Antabuse). Biron chose to start the article by reviewing comments by Glaser, who is a psychiatrist, and the World Health Organization. The reason for this introduction was to briefly explain alternative programs that happen to disagree with the suggestion that OalcoholicsO are overwhelmed and powerless with a Odisease.O The article, however, was not designed to be an examination of outside intervention strategies. Instead, Biron reviewed some of the drugs used as treatment options.