Since alcohol misuse is responsible for a good deal of physical as well as social harm in Britain, doctors should receive proper education and training about alcohol. We should approach the 21st century with this and the following goals in mind. The ability to take a drinking history in the majority of patients should be a first priority. This can be done in a few minutes. Doctors should be alert to the many ways in which misuse causes problems that are potentially reversible, rather than concentrating on serious physical harm and dependency. They should be able to undertake brief intervention in heavy drinkers, a valuable tool in both primary care and hospital practice. They should understand the value of community detoxification in patients with withdrawal symptoms; they need to foster links with local alcohol services which have the expertise to help with patients (and their families) who require further supervision. A less pessimistic attitude among doctors to the treatment of alcohol problems needs to be encouraged. The current development of drugs which reduce craving could well provide the means of treating even the most severely affected patients.