For 50 Years, The Voice of Americans Fighting Alcoholism

1944 - 1953 | 1954 - 1963 | 1964 - 1973 | 1974 - 1983 | 1984 - 1993

1944 - 1953


"This; organization is neither `wet' nor `dry.' It shall not engage itself in any activities designed to promote or prevent the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages."

Marty Mann, ca 1945.

"As; long as alcoholism remains essentially a moral problem, it will be met with the weapons of moral issues--condemnation and punishment or, at best, shame, exclusion and ostracism."

Yvelin Gardner, NCADD acting executive director, 1950.

It was an idea whose time had come. Not long after Marty Mann became the first woman to stay sober in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), she resolved to let America know that alcoholism is a disease and that the alcoholic is a sick person. She knew it would be an enormous undertaking that would need the support of an established academic institution so she turned to her friends at Yale University where E.M. Jellinek--father of the modern disease concept--and some of the most progressive minds in the country had been working to transform alcoholism from a moral problem into a public health issue. They recognized that Marty could popularize their cause.


Word spread quickly after Marty and a single secretary opened the New York office of what she called the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism on October 2, 1944. New York had nine newspapers in those days, and Marty used the public relations skills she developed while working at Macy's department store to make sure they all covered the event. When the wire services picked up the story too, editorial pages were quick to applaud what they called a "new;, rational approach," and soon speaking requests began pouring in from all over the country. AA, then barely a decade old, contributed to the demand for Marty by publishing notices of her inspirational lecture tours in the Grapevine.

But Marty recognized from the very beginning that she could not change America's attitudes about alcoholism all by herself. Her earliest goals included establishing community organizations which would operate "information; centers" as well as procure beds in hospitals for alcoholics, whose disease was then more likely to land them in jail. She even envisioned that these organizations would eventually establish their own "rest; centers" for the long-term treatment of individuals who could not recover any other way from their disease.


Marty's timing was perfect. The success of AA and the attention generated by the release of "The; Lost Weekend" in Hollywood created a steady appetite for information about alcoholism from the public after World War II. Even government and industry turned to the new organization for advice. The heavy volume of speaking and writing requests, constant press interviews, thousands of inquiries from the public and the task of developing and distributing educational literature nearly overwhelmed the tiny organization which Marty described as the "spark; plug" for a new kind of health movement.

A decade later NCADD was strong enough to stand on its own, thanks to the recruitment of a volunteer board of directors. It amicably had severed formal ties to Yale to avoid being too closely identified with a single school of thought about alcoholism. It also had changed its name to the National Committee on Alcoholism and acquired "NCA;," the acronym that would identify it for the next forty years.

Marty and the board had good reason to celebrate NCADD's tenth anniversary. More than 50 communities in 27 states had established Affiliates to continue NCADD's work at the local level. State governments had begun developing alcoholism programs with tax dollars instead of relying on punitive sanctions to deal with the problem. The disease concept was beginning to take root among the medical community. And most importantly, alcoholics had better access to care than ever before. When Marty founded NCADD, fewer than 100 general hospitals accepted acute cases of alcoholism. By 1953, 3,000 hospitals offered such care. NCADD was clearly on a roll. It also was broke.

1944 - 1953 | 1954 - 1963 | 1964 - 1973 | 1974 - 1983 | 1984 - 1993

1954 - 1963


"Ultimately;, then, it is The Individual to whom we address our efforts, our hopes, our prayers. It is toward The Individual's recovery and happiness and usefulness to society that our organizational efforts, our education campaigns, our research endeavors are directed."

Marty Mann, executive director, 1958.

"In; what other health area is it necessary to work, not only with the medical profession and hospitals, but also with schools, colleges, judges, law enforcement agencies, social agencies, the clergy, industry, unions, as well as with federal, state and municipal governments?"

R. Brinkley Smithers, president, 1961.

Like most young organizations, NCADD struggled with finding enough money to accomplish the work it set out to do. Despite a 1957 Roper poll showing that 58% of the nation viewed alcoholism as a disease (compared to just six per cent in 1943), stigma still made fund raising a difficult proposition. Although Affiliates originally were expected to give ten per cent of the money they raised locally to support NCADD, this proved to be an unreliable base of financial support.

But NCADD's prospects improved greatly with the election of R. Brinkley Smithers to the board of directors in 1954. Brink, as he was known, had just begun his recovery from alcoholism when he met NCADD's Yvelin Gardner, who was the first person ever to tell him that he suffered from a disease. That was news to Brink, who then dedicated the rest of his life to making this as widely known as possible. The alcoholism movement--and NCADD in particular--had found its greatest patron.


With Brink "on; board," NCADD added a dozen staff members and expanded the board of directors to 60 volunteers who served on seven different committees. A direct service program for New York City began as a pilot project through the national office. The annual meeting, begun in 1952, became a three-day conference attended by as many as a thousand people. The Dwight Anderson Memorial Library, the earliest reference library on alcoholism of its kind, was established and named for NCADD's first board member. In addition to providing consulting services to increasing numbers of companies concerned about the impact of alcoholism on industry, NCADD also forged productive working relationships with many other health, labor, clergy and women's organizations.

Though Marty's charisma, writing and PR skills already had given NCADD a high public profile--in the days before television the huge movie audience learned about it in a March of Time newsreel--Brink's financial resources allowed NCADD to thrive throughout the 50s and early 60s. This period also marked NCADD's full-time entry into the medical and research field with the appointment of Ruth Fox, MD to the staff in 1959. Through her evaluations of new treatment methods and professional education programs, NCADD legitimized its role as a public health organization. "AMERICA;'S AGENCY FOR ALCOHOLISM"

Recognition from the federal government quickly followed. During NCADD's 15th anniversary dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare called NCADD "America;'s agency for alcoholism." This official embrace soon translated into federal funding for research projects, including a groundbreaking statistical analysis of the socio-cultural, economic and psychological characteristics of alcoholics.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first of three presidents to hail Alcoholism Information Week, a new project launched by NCADD. It offered an opportunity to capitalize on television exposure which by 1960 had long replaced the movies and radio as America's favorite entertainment medium. Pat Boone, Art Carney, Jonathan Winters and Shirley Jones were among the early celebrities to join Marty Mann in recording TV spots to promote the campaign. NCADD also assisted the producers of the Armstrong Circle Theater and the Alfred Hitchcock show in developing early dramatic programs that sympathetically explored the subject of alcoholism. These productions reached vast new audiences in their living rooms and gave NCADD an incredibly influential audience for its message.

As NCADD's second decade drew to a close, things had changed so much that the Washington, DC Affiliate and the local American Civil Liberties Union were confident enough to challenge in court the constitutionality of laws that treated alcoholics who were apprehended for public drunkenness as criminals.

NCADD had come of age.

1944 - 1953 | 1954 - 1963 | 1964 - 1973 | 1974 - 1983 | 1984 - 1993

1964 - 1973


"Long; characterized as a social beverage, alcohol, as a result of the hysteria over drug abuse in America, was receiving more and more attention as the most dangerous and most widely mis-used drug of all. It would be ironic, however, if the fight against alcoholism were now allowed to become obscured by being relegated to the position of just another drug problem."

Luther A. Cloud, president and William W. Moore, Jr., executive director, 1970.

"We; alcoholic women are on the best-dressed list, the most- admired list year after year, we are the social butterflies, the wittier darlings of the "in;" group. We hold office, we sit as judges, we have large families, we teach Sunday school, we offer you coffee, tea, or milk on an airplane, and we administer vital sera into your veins."

Mercedes McCambridge, honorary chair, 1971.

While social change swept through America, NCADD also went through a period of transition that would have a profound affect on the organization. The offices moved downtown from their original location in upper Manhattan. Affiliates, who started their own professional association, were given a stronger voice with the creation of the delegate assembly where policies were debated and national board members were elected. Marty Mann stepped down as executive director in 1967 to become founder consultant and concentrate on her world-wide speaking engagements.


With the appointment of Frank Seixas, MD as medical director in 1969, NCADD put a much greater emphasis on educating the medical community. More than 30 medical schools attended a training conference hosted by NCADD and formal criteria for the diagnosis of alcoholism were developed. An annual medical/scientific conference was convened and by 1973 the physicians comprising the membership of what is now the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) had voted to become a component of NCADD.

Both an advertising and a public relations agency were brought in to professionalize the communications efforts of NCADD. This resulted in NCADD's first coordinated use of the print, radio and television media with the creation of a PSA campaign called "The; Silent Treatment Is the Worst Treatment for the Disease of Alcoholism." Oscar-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge bravely assumed the highly visible role of NCADD's first honorary chair and publicized NCADD's message in an extraordinarily personal way.


Corporate America had awakened to the fact that alcoholism in the work force cost employers substantial sums and by 1964, 205 companies--up from 75 just a few years earlier--turned to NCADD for advice in developing employee alcoholism programs (EAPs). As the leader in this burgeoning movement, NCADD helped form a professional society of executives and consultants in this field which met for the first time in 1971.

The federal government also was taking alcoholism more seriously than it ever had before. By 1965 Congress began holding hearings about the need to establish a federal agency to deal exclusively with the problems caused by alcoholism. A year later, around the time that President Johnson appointed Marty Mann to the first national advisory commission on alcoholism, the Washington, DC Affiliate won a precedent-setting legal victory when two federal courts recognized alcoholism as a disease.


As Washington quickly became the center of the action, a heroic figure emerged. Harold Hughes, a young Democratic senator from Iowa, had consistently acknowledged his recovery from alcoholism while campaigning for public office. As chairman of a senate subcommittee on alcoholism and narcotics, he sponsored a bill that would earn him NCADD's highest honor, the Gold Key Award, and forever alter the alcoholism movement.

Congress passed the Hughes Act in 1970, a year after NCADD's 25th anniversary. The legislation established the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). United Press International called passage of the Hughes Act a "signal; victory" for groups such as NCADD. It also provided the impetus for the NCADD board to form its first public policy committee and to open an office in Washington, DC.

Now NCADD had a permanent voice in the nation's capitol.

1944 - 1953 | 1954 - 1963 | 1964 - 1973 | 1974 - 1983 | 1984 - 1993

1974 - 1983


"NCA;[DD] has also maintained its advocacy role--a role that is positive. It is for the recovery of those who have the disease of alcoholism, and for the mitigation of its damage to our society. It is for all agencies and programs that contribute to these ends. NCA[DD] is up front in working to change attitudes, laws, and practices that work against positive results."

Thomas P. Pike, chairman, 1977.

"There; are an estimated one million recovered alcoholics in this country. Many of these found sobriety through NCA[DD] and its Affiliates, but only a small number are NCA[DD] contributors. If each recovered alcoholic gave only $1 per year and each of ninety million users of alcoholic beverages contributed the price of a single drink to NCA[DD], we would be in a position to bring this disease under control."

Gordon L. Steinhauer, chairman and Luther A. Cloud, MD, president, 1978.

When NCADD turned 30, public interest in alcoholism was at an all-time high. Government, industry, labor and medicine all had acknowledged its terrible toll on American society and the combination of these forces provided NCADD with what appeared to be unlimited opportunities for major expansion.

With its charge to develop and conduct comprehensive health, education, training, research and planning programs in the areas of prevention and treatment of alcoholism, NIAAA, the "new; kid on the block," logically began contracting with NCADD for assistance. As a result, in 1976 NCADD's budget peaked at $3.4 million, nearly five times what it had been before passage of the Hughes Act. Government funding accounted for more than 75% of the budget.


This provided seed money for state voluntary alcoholism associations which in turn helped organize local NCADD Affiliates. Marty, who died at the age of 75 in 1980, lived long enough to see how the government had boosted her early vision: the number of Affiliates had risen to an all-time high of 223 and their advocacy efforts had helped to bring to at least 23 the number of states who mandated insurance coverage for alcoholism treatment.

The federal government also facilitated rapid growth in the EAP movement. Eleven years of NCADD campaigning culminated in 1974 with AFL-CIO president George Meany and General Motors director James M. Roche agreeing to chair NCADD's all-star labor management committee. When NIAAA provided NCADD with funding to establish task forces in ten major cities a year later, NCADD published the first labor-approved EAP guidelines. By the end of the 70s, employees had access to 5,000 EAP programs.


NCADD made its own unique contribution to the celebration of the nation's bicentennial with "Operation; Understanding." This dramatic and emotional event brought together more than 50 well-known and widely respected figures--including astronaut "Buzz;" Aldrin, actor Dick Van Dyke and congressman Wilbur Mills--to a press conference in Washington, DC where they announced their recovery from alcoholism. Newsweek later called it of the most important news stories of the 70s.

But not long after NCADD had perhaps its greatest triumph in reducing stigma, the board was forced to face an extremely unpleasant reality. Though the Washington office effectively had used the collective power of NCADD Affiliates to rally constituent support for NIAAA appropriations, it also was clear that in a souring economy government money would not last forever. In 1977, the board resolved to rely only on private funds in the future and once again Brink was there to ease the transition.


Fortunately, the tremendous reduction in stigma--symbolically affirmed when the U.S. Postal service issued an alcoholism stamp--had fostered social attitudes favorable to special events that could raise both funds and awareness. These included the Gordon McCrae Celebrity Golf Classic, an annual NCADD-sponsored tournament, which was attended by President and Mrs. Betty Ford in 1980. The new openness about recovery from alcoholism also meant that the Advertising Council finally accepted NCADD as a client and that insurance executive James S. Kemper, Jr., actor Jason Robards and baseball pitcher Bob Welch would declare "I;'m Living Proof You Don't Have to Die for a Drink" in a hugely popular PSA campaign.

The "medicalization;" of alcoholism also was in full swing. In 1975, NCADD had funded a fetal alcohol study group which urged researchers to standardize techniques in their investigation of this recently discovered phenomenon. NCADD also offered homes to both the National Nurses Society on Addiction and the Research Society on Alcoholism which, with ASAM, began publishing Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Attendance at the annual medical/scientific conference had swelled to more than a thousand, and NCADD and ASAM jointly developed their own definition of alcoholism in 1976.

Meanwhile a relatively new NCADD office had crafted an enormously influential--and radical--position statement that would keep the Washington office in particular very, very busy for the next decade.

The era of prevention had dawned at NCADD.

1944 - 1953 | 1954 - 1963 | 1964 - 1973 | 1974 - 1983 | 1984 - 1993

1984 - 1993


"Our; courageous commitment to education, public information and innovative prevention policies, implemented through support for enlightened public policies concerning alcohol, have won us widespread respect within the field of alcoholism and a growing list of new friends in other fields eager to share in our efforts to provide a safer, healthier world for our children and our children's children."

Wheelock Whitney, chairman and Martha B. Baker, president, 1984.

"If; each one of us whose life has been touched by alcoholism--whether we be husband, wife, father, mother, daughter, son, brother or sister--writes a letter or makes a phone call to a member of Congress, we finally may break through the stigma that still influences policy decisions regarding one of our most serious public health problems."

Harold Hood, chairman, 1992.

As NCADD entered its fifth decade, it seemed that many of Marty's early goals had been achieved. 80% of the American public understood that alcoholism is a disease, the majority of the middle class had access to treatment through private health insurance and attendance at self-help groups had soared.

Membership in ASAM, which began certifying physicians specializing in addiction medicine, had grown so large by 1984 that it no longer made sense to remain under NCADD's umbrella. However, the two groups continued to meet together annually until 1991 and today are represented on each other's boards.

Different kinds of problems now confronted NCADD and an increasingly fragmented field. When it became clear that younger alcoholics were commonly addicted to more than one substance, NCADD expanded its mission to include other drugs in 1987, adding Drug Dependence to its name in 1990 to reflect this change. And with kids using alcohol at earlier ages and in greater numbers than ever before, NCADD gradually shifted its focus to preventing alcohol-related problems through educational efforts targeted at youth and by addressing environmental factors that shaped public attitudes about drinking.


The BABES program, conceived by the Detroit Affiliate and one of the first to be honored with NCADD's new prevention awards, spread quickly around the country during the 80s. Teaching lessons in story form and using age-appropriate materials--including puppets and videos--BABES, like many other innovative programs developed by NCADD Affiliates, gave communities the basic information and tools to take prevention into their own hands.

At the national level, President Reagan signed legislation in 1984 that resulted in a minimum drinking age of 21, just two years after NCADD had outlined this goal in its controversial prevention position statement. By 1990, NCADD would see two more of its prevention strategies implemented at the federal level: excise taxes were raised on beer and wine for the first time in almost 30 years and warning labels began appearing on alcoholic beverage containers.


NCADD's emphasis on prevention--also apparent in a project with Weekly Reader for young schoolchildren and "Say; No. And Say Yes To Your Life," a new Ad Council campaign featuring a rap star as its spokesman--attracted new donors, including Leonard Firestone, Laurance Rockefeller and Joan Kroc. Their gifts allowed NCADD to set general support fundraising records in both 1986 and 1987.

Women's issues also came to the forefront of NCADD's agenda during the 80s. A grant from the Ford Foundation in 1987 made possible an important study of publicly funded women's alcoholism programs. This put NCADD in a position to lead a coalition to demand improved access to treatment for alcohol and other drug dependent women and their children. And what today is known as Alcohol- and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week was initiated by a joint congressional resolution signed by President Reagan in 1984.

Alcohol Awareness Month, NCADD's other major awareness program--which had evolved from Alcohol Information Week and was now kicked off by Alcohol-Free Weekend--drew support in 1990 from Surgeon General Antonia Novello, MD who agreed to serve as honorary chair, and the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Dr. Novello urged the nation "to; draw the line against underage drinking" and hundreds of grassroots group across the country participated in the greatly expanded campaign with NCADD-developed materials distributed by the government.


Improving technology enabled NCADD to reach even larger audiences with its message. Since NCADD inaugurated its toll-free service during the Betty Ford Story on ABC-TV in 1987, more than 250,000 Americans have called for information about alcoholism and referral to local services through NCADD Affiliates. Both the broadcast and print media--from "Good; Morning America" to "Dear; Abby"--have; publicized the service dozens of times. A 1990 Ad Council campaign incorporated it and urged the "significant; others" of teenagers with drinking problems to call NCADD's Hope Line for help.

But even as it made progress in preventing alcoholism and other drug addictions, NCADD began facing a critical challenge in the 90s: a national health care crisis all but eliminated insurance coverage for the treatment of these diseases.

1944 - 1953 | 1954 - 1963 | 1964 - 1973 | 1974 - 1983 | 1984 - 1993

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