Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/544

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

made this diagnosis, although there was no odor of alcohol in the breath. He was taken home, and remained in bed a week. Two opinions prevailed: one, that he had drunk in his office; the other, that it was congestion of the brain. He denied having used spirits, but was confused about the events of the past. In this case a similar heredity from alcoholic ancestors was present.

These cases are sufficient to illustrate the clinical fact that I am attempting to demonstrate. I am informed by good authority that during the late war many similar cases were noted, and were the subject of much comment and speculation. Thus, men who were total abstainers would, under the excitement of the battlefield, exhibit the wild frenzy of a drunken man or be stupid and largely unconscious of the surroundings. As an illustration, a noted officer at Antietam came riding back from the "front," swaying in his saddle, and shouting parts of songs, in a marked drunken state.

He was a total abstainer, and had not drunk any spirits, but had been at the "front" for hours under great excitement, having a horse shot under him. His conduct was so strange and wild that he was ordered back, under the impression that he was intoxicated. Different surgeons noted this strange frenzied state on many occasions, but in the excitement and change of battle could not ascertain whether it came from the use of spirits or from some mental state. On many occasions it was clear that by no possible ordinary means could spirits be obtained, and yet men previously temperate seemed fully intoxicated. When the battle was over and a degree of relaxation took place, many men would exhibit childish excitement and delirious irritability identical with alcoholic intoxication. At other times, after a period of prolonged strain and excitement, when coffee was given freely, the same inexplicable symptoms of intoxication would appear and be termed "coffee-drunk." When these symptoms appeared at the "front" under fire, they were termed "battle-drunks." Some facts very similar have been noticed in the navy, in the case of gunners, who after a short time of exciting work would become like drunken men and be obliged to go to their berths. This condition has been noticed in persons who were shocked or greatly alarmed at the time of great disasters. A railroad superintendent informed me that on two occasions he had noticed instances of the apparent intoxication of railroad-men who seemed to be at fault through an accident. The intoxication came on after the accident; but from a most careful inquiry he was convinced that they had not used any spirits then or ever, and that their condition was unaccountable.

An incident was related to me by a gentleman, who had been talking quietly in the cars with another man, when they were