DOCTORS WITH A DRINKING PROBLEM p.219: Lancet 1975
In his letter to The Lancet in 1975, Max Glatt wrote about a group of alcoholic doctors who met once a month in London, the early meetings of what was to become the British Doctors and Dentists Group.
Problem drinking among doctors – an issue raised in your columns – in our experience constitutes an occupational hazard. Its frequency among doctors certainly speaks little for the education of medical undergraduates in what should often be a preventable condition. The likelihood that there must be at present many doctors with alcoholism who do not present themselves for treatment is the more regrettable, since in our experience such doctors, with adequate treatment, often do very well. Moreover, recovered doctors can often be of the greatest assistance to other alcoholics. Corresponding to the complaint frequently heard from alcoholics – though probably often unjustified – that their doctor seems to care little for the sufferers from this condition, alcoholic doctors themselves sometimes complain that their non-alcoholic partners do not understand this problem. On the other hand, it is only fair to report that not only wives of alcoholic medical men but also general practitioners with an alcoholic partner often ask in desperation how they can motivate their alcoholic husband or colleague to present himself for treatment. For some reason or other, alcoholic doctors often apparently shy away from asking a doctor for help and from attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – though many alcoholic doctors participate closely and successfully in A.A..
Under the circumstances, it is very promising that a number of recovered alcoholic doctors have lately formed a group who meet once a month in London, and who are expanding their membership. Not unexpectedly, some alcoholic doctors find it easier to attend these meetings than ordinary Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, in the knowledge that all those attending it are professional men who had, or still have, to face similar problems. There is, thus no fear of others sitting in judgement or talking down to the newcomer. who can but receive very helpful, constructive advice and support from colleagues who, because of their own experiences, are in full empathy. Those doctors who started this group also continue to attend meetings of A.A. and encourage newcomers to join it, and the group is in touch with the “International Doctors in A.A.” body (founded in 1949). However, though obviously not in competition with, or a substitute for, A.A., the group is quite independent. Many doctors concerned about their drinking problem should find this doctors’ group extremely helpful. Any doctor with a drinking problem who is interested is invited to write to the undersigned (obviously in the strictest confidence), and he will be put in touch immediately with a member of the group.
St. Bernards Hospital