Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/735

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
717
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

the atmosphere being removed, the gases confined within the earth exert a stronger pressure on the crust, or flow out and are inflamed when they reach a light. Mr. Baldwin Latham has found that the streams flowing through the chalk, even in dry seasons, give increased supplies of water when the barometer is falling, and diminished supplies when it is rising.

 

Mental Shock and Inebriety.—Dr. T. D. Crothers, Superintendent of Walnut Lodge, Hartford, Connecticut, has a paper in the "Quarterly Journal of Inebriety," the object of which is to show how psychical traumatism, or injury from mental agitation or powerful emotion, an agency whose operation is not generally recognized, is often an active cause of inebriety. He marks two distinct periods in all cases of inebriety, the first of which, beginning somewhere in the past, is unknown and not noticeable to ordinary observers, and terminates with the first excessive use of alcohol. The second period starts from this point, is noted by the occasional or continuous excessive use of spirits, is terminated only by recovery or death, and is the period which comes under the observation of friends and relatives, and can be accurately studied. The causes and conditions in the first, or neurotic stage, are often as varied and complex as those which produce insanity, and often, notwithstanding their obscurity, present distinct intimations of inebriety far in advance. "A certain progressive march may be noted, often broken by long obscure halts or precipitous strides, changing into various forms and manifestations of disease. The neurotic stage will be marked, in most cases, by nerve exhaustion, instability of nerve-force, and nutrient perversions. Not unfrequently delusions and hallucinations about foods and drinks are unmistakable symptoms. Often persons who have never used spirits, and become fanatical in their efforts to reform inebriates, are in this stage, and sooner or later glide into the next one." Psychical traumatism may be considered both as a direct cause of inebriety and as an indirect cause, as which it develops conditions that rapidly merge into the disorder. A number of incidents that have come under the author's observation, some of which are extremely striking, arc given as illustrative of its operation from both points of view. In all of them inebriety has immediately or gradually supervened in persons who would have been the last to be suspected of liability to it, after some intense mental shock or surprise or information of disaster. The usual explanation of such cases, says Dr. Crothers, would be that the victims drank from despair and discouragement, "but a general study will show a state of psychical pain and agony for which alcohol alone acts as a sedative. It very commonly appears, in a study of cases of inebriety, that the patient will refer to some event of life, or disease, from which he is confident that he lost some power or force which he has never regained. These incidents do not come out as reasons for his drinking, but as facts pertaining to his vigor or power of endurance." Such cases of loss of power are found in every community, "and of course do not all become inebriates, but, like a large class of eccentrics, are on the border-line, or inner circle, shading into inebriety or insanity. A large number of persons engaged in the late civil war, who suffered hardship and mal-nutrition, became inebriates years after, following the psychical and physical traumatism received at that time. The effects of commercial disasters, of bankruptcies, and panics in Wall Street, can be seen in inebriate or insane asylums. In the asylum at Binghamton, New York, for inebriates, at one time were eighteen cases whose inebriety could be clearly traced to a great money-panic in Wall Street known as 'Black Friday.' Many of these cases were purely from psychical traumatism, others were already in the dark circle close to inebriety, and needed but a slight cause to precipitate them over. Political failures are also fertile fields for the growth of inebriety and the action of psychical influences. Annually a large class, after the close of a campaign, find themselves literally inebriates, and, if they have money, go to water-cures, inebriate asylums, or to the far West, and begin life again. The inebriety is often of the paroxysmal or dipsomaniacal type, with free intervals of sobriety that give renewed energy to the delusive hope that recovery will follow the bidding of the will. A class of moderate or occasional drinkers are al-