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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/550

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lecturers, who hope, by painting the horrors of drink so vividly, to deter any one in the audience from falling in that way, are deceived, and produce the very effect they seek to remedy.

In the same way, the sight of an intoxicated man produces a dangerous form of excitement in the mind of the reformer, and if this should last some time it would react in the same condition. I have embodied many of these curious facts in a paper, with the title of "Mental Contagion in Inebriety," published in the "Alienist and Neurologist" of October, 1884. In this brief glance of the subject I have endeavored to bring out the fact that states of intoxication are found in inebriates and defectives that are marked inheritances from parents. The organism has received a positive permanent impression, from which it never recovers. Also, that this pathological state of acute poisoning from alcohol may be covered up by other defects, and only come out from the application of some peculiar exciting cause. I have called attention to a class of cases, that, from some exciting cause, suddenly become to all appearance intoxicated, although they have not used spirits. An inherited predisposition to this form of defect, from inebriate ancestors, is present in these cases. Also a class of men who have been total abstainers for a long time, who, under similar conditions of excitement, appear intoxicated.

I have described a class of cases where the intoxication was purely from mental contagion, appearing in persons who have been previously drunk, but were temperate at this time. Undoubtedly, conditions of heredity, unknown at present, control and govern this condition. It will be clear from this outline -grouping of facts: (1) that symptoms of alcoholic poisoning can not be trusted as evidence of the immediate use of alcohol; (2) that the excessive use of alcohol leaves a permanent defect or impress on the brain, which will go down into the future with great certainty. It may be concealed for a lifetime in the child of a drinking parent, but at any moment may come to the surface, from the application of its special exciting cause; or it may appear in some other form of defect that can be traced back to the injury from the toxic action of alcohol. In brief, the range of facts that open up from this point are truly bewildering, and their discovery and the laws which govern them is the great future realm for investigation.

This grouping of general facts which I have presented, like a preliminary survey in a new country, are merely landmarks for other and more accurate studies.

This is the field into which specialists press forward with increasing enthusiasm, confident that behind all this mystery of drink-craving will be found a majestic order of forces coming