IN the beginning of the present century insanity was regarded as a visitation of God's displeasure and not as a disease subject to scientific investigation and amenable to treatment. Inebriety is regarded now as insanity was some hundred years ago, the disease being considered irremediable. Alcohol is a poison, and like other poisons is capable of destroying life. In large doses it becomes a powerful irritant or a narcotic producing coma and death. It being constantly introduced into the system produces a general disease in the system. We believe inebriety can be cured like any other disease, but is subject to relapses like other diseases.
The "alcohol habit," under the title Inebriety, oftentimes has the symptom or outward manifestation of diseased conditions, which antedate the alcoholic craving, and are its predisposing and exciting causes which retard, and sometimes even prevent a cure.
In the popular, and too often in the professional mind, alcohol is regarded as the cause and root of the whole evil of inebriety. We desire to assert that inebriety is frequently dependent upon causes with which alcohol has nothing to do. There is a neurotic craving it may be congenital, it may be developed as the result of disease or accident. This craving demands the various forms of narcotic stimulants, those that first excite, then produce narcosis more or less complete. Alcohol fulfills this condition, is easily accessible, reasonably inexpensive, and is the one drug that meets a morbid craving that seems to be almost universal.
We do not fail to recognize the deteriorating effects of alcohol manifested principally, at least, more pronouncedly upon the nervous system as seen in the various forms of insanity. We also note the degenerating effects of alcohol on lung, liver, kidney or other organs and tissues of the body; or as a special poison in the same sense that lead, arsenic and tobacco produce their effects.
We believe that the great majority of inebriates become so from heredity, environment and disease, that produces physical degeneracy and pushes them over and plunges them into inebriety.
The patient with fever craves and may drink water freely, excessively and injuriously. The diabetic is an aqua maniac in a certain sense, but in neither case do we recognize the aqua mania or water craving as the disease, but rather as proceeding from certain abnormal conditions which we readily recognize. So the liquor thirst is the result of morbid conditions that produce an abnormal desire, which alcohol seems, temporarily at least, to satisfy.
The excessive use of alcohol, while it is oftentimes the cause of various diseases of the nervous system, and also a frequent cause of insanity, is also the precursor or initiatory symptom of certain diseases of the nervous system and also of insanity.
The paretic will crave and use alcohol in the earlier stages of his malady. The victim of nervous syphilis is addicted to it, more especially in the later stages, when the nervous system becomes involved.
Any depressing, exhausting, or painful disease may produce the alcoholic craving, alcohol being sought for its stimulating properties.
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