Prescription cocktail glasses

29 Oct

An optician in Chicago has propounded to the Minnesota State Association of Optometrists the startling but extremely comforting theory that drunkenness may be cured by wearing the proper kind of eyeglasses. We wish he had not complicated his statement and placed a further tax upon the credulity of the skeptical by saying that by the same method consumption may also be cured. It is the usual mistake of great discoverers that they claim too much.

It has been noticed that the general entr’acte exodus at theatres of all who are not so effectually hemmed in that escape is impossible is prompted by a thirst so insistent that it will not be treated with the “silent contempt” which is said to be so effective in cases of toothache. During the half hour preceding such exodus the young men who thirst have been straining their eyes in a blinding glare of life to distinguish the natural charms which are obscured if not concealed by grease paint and cosmetics. It is this effort to focus the vision which does the mischief. The strain on the brain centres robs other portions of the body of their just proportion of energy, causing nervous irritability, which is especially evidenced by a strong craving for alcohol. […] The wearer is able to contemplate the stage with the calm and impartial scrutiny of one divested of illusions, and as his nerve centres are not exhausted, he is able to sit through a play without once recollecting that he had made an appointment to meet a business friend for a brief conference in the foyer.

This is merely an illustration of the practical working of a great principle. No doubt many men drink more that they would if fitted with glasses which would make invisible the annoying incidents and unsatisfactory environments of their daily life. Glasses which will enable us not to see what we do not want to see would undoubtedly result in a great moral uplifting for humanity, and one incident of this would undoubtedly be a diminished craving for alcoholic stimulation. Of his method of treating the cocktail habit the distinguished Chicago specialist says:

Instead of using drugs, I use fogs and prisms to relax the eye strain, and find that they are equally effective. The glasses take away the power to focus on near objects and nullify the tendency to convergence. The eyes assume a position of perfect rest, relieving the former eye strain. In all my clinical experience I find that the patient under such conditions has lost the appetite for strong drink, and by a persistent use of such a pair of glasses the appetite will eventually be permanently destroyed.

It is possible that the cause of temperance can best be promoted by the distribution of eyeglasses. The idea is a new one, but it is attractive. If it be true that the desire for liquor can be permanently destroyed by this means, a great reform is easier of accomplishment than it would be if the desire to drink has to be accommodated y arguments addressed to the moral sense.

— “Eye Strain and Thirst”, New York Times (26 November 1904).

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