Records detailing the history of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery in New York State date back nearly 250 years to 1777. Dr. Benjamin Rush, the Physician General of the Continental Army, sent a written directive to all soldiers condemning the use of distilled spirits in response to increasing reports of drunkenness among the troops. In the centuries since, we find multiple attempts at enforcing temperance – the establishment of hospitals and “asylums” specifically for those struggling with addiction, the introduction of various treatments (including morphine in 1919 and Antabuse in 1940), and the formation of local alcohol and substance abuse councils in counties throughout the state, among others.

In fact, New York is home to some of the most important advances in addiction treatment and recovery. It’s where Bill Wilson, the father of Alcoholics Anonymous, first got sober (1934). It’s where Alcoholics Anonymous opened its first office and where the first edition of the Big Book, the general text of AA, and The Grapevine (the first newsletter targeted to Alcoholics) were published. (1939 and 1944 respectively).

Other Notable Firsts

  • Marty Mann (the first woman to recover in Alcoholics Anonymous) began attending meetings here (1939); and went on to found the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (1944) which became the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), still headquartered in NYC.
  • Rochester-based Eastman Kodak Company introduces the first occupational alcoholism program for employees (1941)
  • The first Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings (1949 and 1951 respectively)
  • First treatment program to treat adolescent heroin addiction separately from adults (1952)
  • The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) founded (1983)

Read a complete review of significant milestones in the history of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery throughout New York State.