Physicians have an important part to play in reducing the harm done by alcohol. In their daily work they must become better able to detect alcohol-related problems, and to detect them at an earlier stage. At the moment their role is too often concerned with managing serious physical damage. Earlier detection should lead to more preventive work and more effective treatment. The second task for physicians is to take a lead in informing other doctors and professionals and the public about alcohol-related problems. Third, physicians must impress on government that political measures may be necessary to reduce the extensive damage caused in our society by alcohol.