The Skid Row Derelict

The Skid Row Derelict by Mrs. Marty Mann, Executive Director, National Council on Alcoholism, New York via Silkworth

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Remember, they were brought up the same way; they were also brought up under
the myths and misconceptions and misapprehensions that we all had about
alcoholism a quarter of a century ago. This is perhaps one reason why it is
becoming easier to reach young people. They didn’t grow up in that same
atmosphere. Things had already begun to change somewhat.

The Skid Row Derelict

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For instance, the stereotyped picture of the alcoholic that we who are adults,
middle aged if you like, grew up with was that of the skid row bum.
Now, the National Council on Alcoholism is very much interested in the skid
row derelict, but we have deliberately stayed away from getting too deeply
involved in this area of alcoholism because we were so determined to break
this stereotyped picture that this was the alcoholic, that there wasn’t
anything else. You see, it is easy for people to accept this, because if that
is the alcoholic, it can’t be me, or my wife, or my children, or my family, or
my friends, because we are not skid row bums.

It lets people off. It is a lovely way to get involved and yet to exclude
being involved in those who are close to you, in your own parishes if you are
a pastor, in your own colleges, in your own group of friends.

Actually the skid row problem is a severe one in this country, and yet it
represents only a tiny percentage of our total alcoholic population.
Over the last several years many of us have sat down together and worried
about the matter of statistics for the field of alcoholism. And let’s be
honest, we don’t have any. We just don’t have any statistics that are really
valid. We only have estimates, but all of us felt that it could not be the
same number as had been arrived at for the year 1956. And that figure of 5
million was based on 1956 statistics, using the Jellinek formula to arrive at
an estimate of the number of alcoholics.

We all recognized that 10 years later, for one thing, the population had
increased enormously. This meant that the number of drinkers had increased,
because the proportion of Americans who drink has been going up. Since 1956 it
has risen perceptibly, and this meant that since there were more drinkers,
there were undoubtedly more people with alcoholism. And so we worked out a
formula and we arrived at a figure for 1965 of 6 million alcoholics. And I
may say, that it is possible to arrive at that figure for 1965 in quite a
large variety of ways. We tried a good many of them, and always came out with
roughly the same answer. And so, it was decided that the National Council and
its affiliates would adopt that figure. We also circulated the statement to
all of the state programs on alcoholism. And they were delighted to have it,
because they had been feeling just as uncomfortable as we had about using the
same figure for ten years in the face of what everyone knew to be a difference
in the number of people, and the number of drinkers, and, therefore, the
number of alcoholics.

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