How do I erase my alcohol dependence diagnosis?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on February 28th, 2009 - Last updated: September 28th, 2023
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Dear Stanton,

My question is simple. Once someone is labeled alcohol dependent (alcoholic), as I have been, how does that person go about removing the label from his medical records?

Any suggestions or case histories you might have would be greatly appreciated. Please help me get this monkey off my back.

I commend you for all the fine work you’ve done in this field and your willingness and courage to stand up to the conventional politics in treating addiction.

Bill G.

Dear Bill:

A common situation is for someone to have a history of alcohol treatment (or drunk driving), to have gotten beyond it, and for their employer or someone else to resurface the conviction/treatment later.

If they haven’t received treatment, the medical officer in the company indicates that people can’t recover without treatment. If the person is drinking, they say this is clearly impossible for someone who has previously had an alcohol problem.

I sometimes get involved in these cases. Here is what we establish:

  1. There is no recent history of treatment/drinking problems/employment problems (within reason)/DWI, et al.
  2. Thus, the person is not currently diagnosable according to DSM IV. You may want to seek an independent clinical diagnose to establish this.
  3. The medical officer, or even the diagnostician you seek, will often then cite (from experience) that recovery without treatment or with continued drinking is impossible.
  4. I then cite the NIAAA’s own NLAES study to show that (a) recovery without treatment is more common than with treatment, (b) continued drinking is the typical way people recover without treatment.
  5. I then mention that to penalize a person without contemporary evidence of the behavior of concern is clinically and legally unwarranted.

Best, Stanton

Further Reading

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Deborah levesque says:

    I would like to have H/O alcoholism removed from my medical records and not sure of how to do so. It’s been 5 years since this problem in which I seeked help for, by admitting myself into a 2 wk rehab program. I have never been arrested for DWI. Also, I am not familiar at all with the Dr. who listed this on my record as she isn’t a Physican who has practiced at the hospital. I looked into this. I am wondering if I need to seek a lawyer regarding this.
    Thank you very much for your time.

    • Zach Rhoads says:

      Hi there, Deborah.
      We cannot give legal advice per se, but absolutely interested in this case. Forgive me, I’m going to ask the equivalent of an “are you sure it’s plugged in?” question: Have you asked your primary provider what he or she thinks about removing this imposed diagnoses from your record? If so, then there are routes towards doing so – precursors to legal action. This includes the possibility of re-wording / re-framing the diagnosis along with a rationale for the diagnosis that you will tolerate.

      Let us know how this goes. If you’d like to talk further, please feel free to send an email our way: zach at lifeprocessprogram (dot) com

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