In a recent issue of our Christchurch contemporary, the Lyttelton Times , appeared a letter from a Dr James Russell, earnestly advocating the establishment in this colony of asylums for the reception and treatment of inebriates. The letter is deserving of careful consideration, for it deals with a matter of very grave importance. ' There is, unhappily, an enormous amount of drinking in this Britain of the South, as our police reports and gaol statistics abundantly testify. Indeed, there can be but little question that, in proportion to the size of its population, New Zealand produces a larger per rentage of habitual drunkards than Kngland, Ireland, Scotland and Wales put together. The evil is admittedly a terrible one, and what is done to remedy it ? The prison, the lunatic asylum, and the magistrate’s warning, are, as Dr Russell points out, the only means that this Christian country provides to reclaim the habitual drunkard and induce him to turn over a new leaf—and this is
precisely what they do not do. Take the case of the miserable creature who makes his appearance at the Police Court, perhaps for the twentieth time (such cases are not rare, even in Ashburton). Ile stands there hopeless, for he knows the gaol awaits him. He lias parted with every atom of selfrespect, and he is about to be sent where he is not in the least degree likely to recover it. How can he be expected to reform in a gaol ? It can only add to his degradation, and he sinks beyond the hope of rising. A few more weeks or months go by, and this man will very likely appear again (after many re-appearances in the interval) but this time he is charged with “ lunacy from drink.” His features and manner bear evidence that the charge is well founded, and on the doctor’s certificate he is committed not to the gaol this time, but to the lunatic asylum. To the lunatic asylum to be treated under the same roof as the people whose madness is not the result, in many cases at least, of drink, but is of a permanent character, which a few days or weeks detention is not likely to cure, and with these unfortunate people the dipsomaniac must necessarily come more or less in contact. Is it expedient or advisable that this should be the case ? Is not such treatment calculated to have the worst possible effect on the victim of drink enfeebled as he is in most cases, both in mind and body ? For more than twenty years past there have been inebriate asylums in America, where the patient is surrounded by every comfort, and receives every attention his case may require. He finds a pleasant home where he meets with cheerful companionship, health-giving recreation, and watchful supervision. In short, everything that it lays in human power to do to wean him from old habits and restore his self-respect is done. One of the best known of these American institutions is the New York State Inebriate Asylum at Binghampton. Here accommodation for 200 patients is provided, and the arrangements are of the completest. Forty per cent, of the cases are said to be cured. The Asylums are supported by the State, but the money is wisely expended, for it restores so many to useful positions in society, and prevents their becoming a burden on the country. In England and Scotland several Asylums of this kind exist, but have not proved so successful as the American institutions. In Melbourne there exists an Inebriate Retreat which, notwithstanding early struggles is now, we believe, doing good work. With so many encouraging examples before us of the good that can be accomplished by the systematic treatment of dipsomania, would it not be well that we, in New Zealand, ceased to utilise the gaol and the madhouse for the reception of the inebriate, and adopted a more humane system by which to effect his cure and restoration to society?
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Inebriate Asylums., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 648, 29 May 1882
Inebriate Asylums. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 648, 29 May 1882
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