The Natural History of Alcoholism: Revisited


Publisher: Harvard University Press

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The insights about alcoholism that I present in this book come from such a prospective study, the Harvard Medical School’s Study of Adult Development. This project has followed 660 men from 1940 to 1980, from adolescence into late middle life. Information has been collected about many aspects of their lives, including their use of alcohol.

In this updated version of his landmark study on alcoholism, George Vaillant returns to the same subjects, but with the perspective gained from fifteen years of further follow-up. (1204 pgs)


The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited is a revised and updated version of [what] was, and still is, regarded as a classic and certainly broke new ground during the 1980s…The new text provides an update based on developments over the past 15 years; and its importance again derives from the fact that almost all the alcohol abusers identified in the first version have been followed up for an additional 15 years to make 50 years in all. It goes without saying that 50-year follow-up studies are few and far between…Vaillant’s 50-year follow-up now stands as a milestone within the addiction literature…It is required reading…The data are beautifully presented and described and the conclusions eminently reasonable. (John B. Davies Times Higher Educational Supplement)

Not since Jellinek’s The Disease Concept of Alcoholism, published in 1960, has there been a wiser, more comprehensive book on alcoholism. (Donald Goodwin, M.D. American Journal of Psychiatry)

[A] remarkable achievement…For anyone who teaches courses or conducts research on alcohol problems and for practitioners who work with alcohol-dependent clients, this book is essential. (C. Aaron McNeece Social Work)

Important and thought-provoking…Anybody who reads this journal should read this book if they have not done so already…In the detail of its arguments as much as in the wealth of its data, this book goes beyond simplistic theories about alcoholism to paint a picture of a diverse, often highly distressing, disorder. (Richard Hammersley, Ph.D. Journal of Studies on Alcohol)

This is an excellent review and update of past and current thinking about alcoholism. The author uses the full text of his original outstanding work published in 1983 as the background for a presentation of all the research and clinical experience that has taken place in the ensuing almost 15 years. The result is a clear picture of how the thinking in the alcoholism field has progressed, which controversies have been more or less resolved, and where the new clinical developments are heading. (William E. Flynn, M.D. Academic Medicine)

Vaillant addresses a number of important issues and questions, which are core prerequisites for achieving more precise knowledge about the causes and consequences of alcohol abuse and dependence…These important issues have been reexamined in a thoughtful and scholarly manner. Dr. Vaillant has added new survey data and information to his current text, and he has also expanded and revised his original interpretations. New and original material is based upon scientific information acquired since publication of the original report…This is an outstanding and highly recommended text for medical students and medical educators. It will be especially helpful to practitioners in virtually every field of medicine who treat patients with alcohol-related problems. (Jack H. Mendelson, M.D. Journal of the American Medical Association)

In alcoholism research, where one side regularly parades a new study and the other then vilifies it, Dr. Vaillant’s work can be cited approvingly by both. (New York Times Book Review)

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