Medicine: Out in the Open

Changing attitudes and new research give fresh hope to alcoholics

Just before the Betty Ford Center opened in the affluent desert town of Rancho Mirage, Calif., in 1982, neighbors ventured out across their well- manicured lawns to ask the staff a few questions. "Will there be bars on the windows?" they wanted to know. "Will they get out and go drinking in the neighborhood?" The answer in each case was of course no, but the questions reveal a familiar attitude toward alcoholics: many people thought of them as hardly better than criminals or at the very least disturbed and bothersome people. But at the same time the fact that a sanatorium...