The "recovery" community's adoption of the disease concept began with an early AA member named Marty Mann. Her efforts, combined with a somewhat dubious scientist named E.M. Jellinek, began national acceptance of the disease concept.
It was Jellinek's "scientific" study that opened the door for the medical communities' support. E.M. Jellinek's study was funded by the efforts of Marty Mann. And, like so many other circumstances involving Jellinek and Marty Mann, the study was bogus if not outright fraudulent.
The surveys he based his conclusions on were from a hand picked group of alcoholics. There were 158 questionnaires handed out and 60 of them were suspiciously not included. His conclusion was based on less than 100 hand picked alcoholics chosen by Marty Mann.
Mrs. Mann, of course, had a personal agenda to remove the stigma about the homeless and dirty alcoholic or "bowery drunk" in order to gain financial support from the wealthy. By removing the stigma, the problem becomes one of the general population, which would then include the wealthy.
The first step was Jellinek publishing his findings in his book "The Stages of Alcoholism." Later, E.M. Jellinek was asked by Yale University to refute his own findings. He complied. E.M. Jellinek's Stages of Alcoholism did not stand up to scientific scrutiny.
Earlier in this century, the validity of the disease concept was often debated in medical circles.
However, in 1956 the American Medical Association (AMA) proclaimed alcoholism an "illness." Then, in 1966, the AMA proclaimed alcoholism a disease.
The decision was wrapped in controversy. Historically, Marty Mann had her hand in much of this and manipulated information and doctors into agreeing with the disease concept. Marty Mann used her position as founder of the NCA (National Counsel for Alcoholism) to promote the disease concept through Jellinek and a somewhat clandestine relationship with the founder of the NIAAA (National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse) whose founder worked with Marty Mann during the institute's early development.
The founder of NIAAA (Smithers) was a major contributor to and promoter of the disease concept. It was his money that funded Jellinek's work at Yale. Smithers was also responsible for gaining insurance coverage for patients in treatment (hence the 28 day program).
Smithers was certainly not altruistic in his efforts. At that time he had already launched a treatment program for which he was lobbying for insurance payments.
Acceptance by the medical community was the only way this could happen; alcoholism had to be a medical problem in order for medical insurance to pay for programs. We can see the influence of these "advances" everyday in treatment programs. Today the treatment industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, with insurance paying the lion's share of the costs.
While it can be argued that Smithers's efforts played an important role, it was Jellinek's study that was such a monumental turning point for the supporters of the disease concept it.
The current disease paradigm was, in part, developed and promulgated by Jellinek and various other partial participants with personal agendas.
Nonetheless, it was Jellinek's "Stages of the Alcoholic" that led to diagnosing alcoholism as a disease and eventually to the medical acceptance of alcoholism as a disease. Astoundingly, the inception of the current disease and treatment paradigm is based on fraud.