Individuals who deny alcohol consumption may develop liver injury that histologically resembles the liver injury found in alcoholic patients. To determine whether any clinical or histologic features distinguish alcoholic and nonalcoholic subjects with "alcohollike" liver injury, the clinical records and liver biopsy specimens of 68 alcoholic and 39 nonalcoholic patients with alcohollike injury on liver biopsy were compared. The clinical and biochemical features of the two groups differed significantly. Alcoholism was associated with more severe clinical and biochemical manifestations of liver disease. However, there was considerable overlap among histologic features of the two clinically defined groups. Based on histology alone, alcoholic and nonalcoholic patients were often indistinguishable. The observations suggest that the clinical differences between the alcoholic and non-alcoholic patients cannot be attributed to qualitative or quantitative differences in liver histology. On the other hand, histologic similarities between the two groups raise the possibility that a shared condition, perhaps nutritional or hormonal, is responsible for the histologic expression of alcohollike injury in both groups.