Biomedicalization and alcohol studies: Implications for policy

  • Midanik L
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(T)he reduction of alcohol problems to genetic and biological processes
is not new; however, biomedicalization is progressively dominating how
alcohol issues are viewed in the U.S. This paper illustrates the process
of biomedicalization in the alcohol field by examining: 1) the
organizational move of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism (NIAAA) to the National Institutes of Health in 1992; 2) the
emphasis on biomedical goals in NIAAXs five-year Strategic Plan; 3)
increased NIAAA funding of biomedical research from 1990-2000; and, 4)
trends in the growing proportion of biomedical information provided in
NIAAA's Reports to Congress. The implications of this dominance of the
biomedical approach on policy are profound. As biomedicalization
prevails as a dominant lens by which alcohol problems are framed,
policymakers will tend to move towards individualistic solutions to
social problems. Broader community and societal based efforts to
understand and control alcohol problems may be increasingly replaced by
a focus on individuals thereby omitting important environmental factors.

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  • Lorraine T. Midanik

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