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The physiologically unavoidable progressiveness of all stimulant habits is a further argument in favor of the theory that the poison-vice has grown up from very small beginnings, and the genesis of the fatal germ has probably been supplied in the hypothesis of Fabio Colonna, an Italian naturalist of the seventeenth century. “Before people used wine," says he, “they drank sweet must, and preserved it, like oil, in jars or skins. But in a warm climate saccharine Auid is apt to ferment, and some avaricious housekeeper may have drunk that spoiled stuff till she became fond of it, and learned to prefer it to must.”
Avarice, aided perhaps by dietetic prorience, or indifference to the warnings of instinct, planted the baneful seed, and the laws of evolution did the rest.
But the tendency of those laws has often been checked, and as certainly often been accelerated, by less uncontrollable agencies.
The first venders of toxic stimulants (like our quack-medicine philanthropists) had a personal interest in disseminating the poison-habit. Reform attempts were met by appeals to the convivial interests of the stimulant-dupe, by the seduction of minors, by charges of asceticism; later, by nostrum puffs and opium wars. More than two thousand years ago
the worship of Bacchus was propagated by force of arms. The disciples of Ibn Hanbal, the Arabian Father Mathew, were stoned in the streets of Bagdad. The persecutions and repeated expulsions of the Grecian Pythagoreans had probably a good deal to do with the temperance teachings of their master. In Palestine, in India, in mediæval Europe, nearly every
apostle of Nature had to contend with a rancorous opposition, inspired by the most sordid motives of self-interest, and our own age can in that respect not boast of much improvement. In spite of our higher standard of philanthropic principles, and their numerous victories in other directions, the heartless alliance of Bacchus and Mammon still stands defiant. In our own country a full hundred thousand men, not half of them entitled to plead the excuses of poverty or ignorance, unblushingly invoke the protection of the laws in behalf of an industry involving the systematic propagation of disease, misery, and crime. Wherever the interests of the poison-traffic are at stake the nations of Europe have not made much progress, since the time when the sumptuary laws of Lorenzo de Medici were defeated by street riots and a shrieking procession of the Florentine tavern-keepers.
The efforts of such agitators are seconded by the instinct of imitation. “In large cities," says Dr. Schrodt, "one may see gamins under ten years grubbing in rubbish heaps for cigar-stumps ; soon after, leaning against a board fence, groaning and shuddering as they pay the repeated penalty of Nature, yet, all the same, repeating the experiment with the resignation of a martyr. The rich, the fashionable, do it; those whom they envy, smoke; smoking, they conclude, must be something enviable."
Without any intentional arts of persuasion, the Chinese business men of San Francisco have disseminated a new poison-vice by smoking poppy-gum in the presence of their Caucasian employés, and accustoming them to associate the sight of an opium debauch with
the idea of enjoyment and recreation. Would the opponents of prohibition attempt to deny that analogous influences (the custom of “treating” friends at a public bar, the spectacle of lager-beer orgies in public gardens, etc.) have a great deal to do with the initiation of boy-topers ?
Ignorance does not lead our dumb fellow-creatures to vicious habits, and prejudice is therefore, perhaps, the more correct name for the sad infatuation which tempts so many millions of our young men to defy, the protests of instinct and make themselves the slaves of a life-destroying poison. Ignorance is nescience. Prejudice is malscience, miscreance, trust in erroneous teachings. Millions of children are brought up in the belief that health can be secured only by abnormal means. A pampered child complains of headache, want of appetite. Instead of curing the evil by the removal of the cause, in the way so plainly indicated by the monitions of instinct, the mother sends to the drug-store. The child must“ take something." Help must come through anti-natural means. rake, getting more fretful and dyspeptic from day to day, is advised to “try something”--an aloe pill, a bottle of medicated brandy, any quack “specific,” recommended by its bitterness or nauseousness. The protests of Nature are calmly disregarded in such cases. A dose of medicine, according to the popular impression, can not be very effective unless it is very repulsive. Our children thus learn to mistrust the voice of their natural instincts. They try to rely on the aid of specious arts, instead of trusting their troubles in the hands of Nature. Boys whose petty ailments have
been palliated with stimulants, will afterward be tempted to drown their sorrow in draughts of the same nepenthe, instead of biding their time, like Henry Thoreau, who preferred to “face any fate, rather than seek refuge in the mist of intoxication." Before the friends of temperance can hope for a radical reform, they must help to eradicate the deep-rooted delusion of the stimulant fallacy—the popular error which hopes to defy the laws of Nature by the magic of intoxicating drugs, and thus secure an access of happiness not attainable by normal means. Our textbooks, our public schools, should teach the rising generation to realize the fact that the temporary advantage gained by such means is not only in every case outweighed by the distress of a speedy reaction, but that the capacity for enjoyment itself is impaired by its repeated abuse, till only the most powerful stimulants can restore a share of that cheerfulness which the spontaneous action of the vital energies bestows on the children of Nature.
We have seen that the milder stimulants often form the stepping-stones to a passion for stronger poisons. A penchant for any kind of tonic drugs, nicotine, narcotic infusions, hasheesh, the milder opiates, etc., may thus initiate a stimulant habit with an unlimited capacity of development; and there is no doubt that international traffic has relaxed the vigilance which helped our forefathers to guard their households against the introduction of foreign poison-vices. Hence the curious fact that drunkenness is most prevalent, not in the most ignorant or despotic countries (Russia, Austria, and Turkey), nor in southern Italy
and Spain, where alcoholic drinks of the most seductive kind are cheapest, but in the most commercial countries, western France, Great Britain, and North America. Hence also the fallacy of the brewer's argument, that the use of lager beer would prevent the dissemination of the opium habit. No stimulant vice has ever prevented the introduction of worse poisons. Among the indirect causes of intemperance we must therefore include our mistaken toleration of the minor stimulant habits. The poison-vice has become a many-headed hydra, defying one-sided attacks, and it is no paradox to say that we could simplify our work of expurgation by making it more thorough.
Polydipsia is a derangement of the digestive organs characterized by a chronic thirst, which forces its victims to swallow enormous quantities of stimulating fluids. The biographer of Richard Porson, the great classic scholar, says that his poison-thirst was
so outrageous that he can not be considered a mere willful drunkard; one must believe that he was driven into his excesses by some unknown disease of his constitution.”
“He would pour anything down his throat rather than endure the terrible torture of thirst. Ink, spirits of wine for the lamp, an embrocation, are among the horrible things he is reported to have swallowed in his extremity.” Polydipsia is not always due to the direct or indirect (hereditary) influence of the alcohol habit, and the origin of the disorder was long considered doubtful; but it has since been traced to a morbid condition of the kidneys, induced by the use of narcotic stimulants (tea, coffee, tobacco), but often also by gluttony.