In two separate studies, episodic semantic (verbal) and figural-memory abilities as measured by the Wechsler Memory Scale (Russell Method) are compared in middle-aged detoxified male alcoholics and controls. Both studies gave rise to similar findings. Alcoholics recalled significantly less verbal and figural material at both immediate recall and 30-min delayed recall than did the controls. Contrary to expectation, compared to controls, alcoholics did not have a greater differential deficit for the figural material as compared with the verbal or a greater differential deficit on delayed than on immediate memory. The percentage of material recalled at the delayed testing, when taken as a function of the amount of material recalled immediately, did not differ for the two groups on the semantic or figural tasks in either study. Thus, rates of forgetting were equivalent in alcoholics and controls suggesting that the alcoholics' deficit lies in the initial acquisition process. Whether that deficit is in encoding or initial retrieval processes remains to be investigated. Implications for future research are given.