In 1974, the American Medical Association (AMA) acknowledged physician impairment from alcoholism and drug dependence occurs, and recognized alcoholism and addiction as illnesses. Physician illness and impairment exist on a continuum with illness typically predating impairment, often by many years. This is a critically important distinction. Illness is the existence of a disease. Impairment is a functional classification and implies the inability of the person affected by disease to perform specific activities.