It took a long way for this word to develop into its current meaning of someone addicted to alcohol.
Originally alcoholic was a purely scientific word, relating to thermometers, gases and solutions. It was only in the 1800s that alcohol was used as a word to describe a drink consumed by humans and almost immediately it was seen as something negative. The American Medical Record writes in 1823 that “the abuse of alcoholic drinks also exposes to much danger”. It did not take long for alcohol to be associated with poisoning and intoxication, delirium and drunkenness, but also pleasure.
Soon afterwards, the word alcoholic was used for a person who was addicted to drink and finds its way into print in a publication of the predictably strict Scottish Temperance League which was founded in Glasgow in 1844 and immediately published its Scottish Temperance Review which attacked drinking and the alcoholics who did it.
But it was the Americans, especially those in Main who pioneered laws prohibiting alcohol. Alcohol for pleasure was prohibited for 4 years, before working class riots had the law repealed. They understood that alcohol can be a pleasure. But the pleasure can also become pain. Nowadays some 12% of Americans have had some sort of problem with alcohol in their lives, while almost 3 million people from Great Britain are dependent drinkers, a euphemism for alcoholic.
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