Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/397

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ALCOHOL—ITS USE AND ABUSE

quantities as to materially reduce their mental ability, but on the withdrawal of alcohol, normal intelligence was awakened.

Statistics have been collected which show that in the mining counties of England there is much alcoholism and little insanity, whereas in the country districts the reverse is true. The explanation given by Sullivan is that the more feeble minded among the English stay in agriculture and procreate their species, whereas the more intellectually active move to the town environment. So it may be, that perhaps no more than 10 per cent, of the insane are really produced by the direct action of alcohol, the rest having inherited conditions of weak intellectuality,

A further question is the action of alcohol on heredity, a matter which has been taken up by some of the most prominent English authorities. The question is, does parental alcoholism influence the physical and mental ability of the offspring. This question is discussed by Hyslop in a recent number of the Lancet. It is still doubtful whether the heritage from alcoholic parents is due to the alcoholism or whether it is due to the inherent parental degeneracy with the accompanying tendency towards alcoholism, and here again one must consider the association of the child with its alcoholic parent usually in an unwholesome poverty-stricken environment, Hodge has demonstrated that alcoholized dogs give birth to offspring of low vigor and low viability.

It is stated that the only true solution of this question in human beings is to be obtained through a number of instances in which children have been born to parents before the alcoholism, during alcoholism and after recovering from alcoholism. Such experimental conditions, of course, are not to be thought of as premeditated, and the history of such cases as actually occur in the tragedy of life are only with difficulty obtainable with accuracy. It is but recently that hereditary studies have been made on the subject of the color of the eyes, of the hair, and in other problems the work of necessity becomes more and more complicated. However, such statistics as have been collected seem to indicate that with each successive generation addicted to alcoholism there is a shorter period of existence before alcoholism sets in in the offspring. Thus Hyslop says that parental alcoholism accentuates the downward trend of an inherited neurosis and physical degeneracy.

There can be no doubt that this question of the use and abuse of alcohol is one of the most serious with which the modern world to-day has to deal.