At this Home I had a conversation with a fine young woman, an ex-hospital nurse, who gave me a very interesting account of her experiences of laudanum drinking. She said that in an illness she had gone through while she was a nurse a doctor dosed her with laudanum to deaden her pain and induce sleep. The upshot was that she could not sleep without the help of laudanum or other opiates, and thus the fatal habit was formed. She described the effects of the drug upon her, which appeared to be temporary exhilaration and freedom from all care, coupled with sensations of great vigour. She spoke also of delightful visions; but when I asked her to describe the visions, she went back upon that statement, perhaps because their nature was such as she did not care to set out. She added, however, that the sleep which followed was haunted by terrible dreams.
Another effect of the habit, according to this lady, is forgetfulness, which showed itself in all kinds of mistakes, and in the loss of power of accurate expression, which caused her to say things she did not mean and could not remember when she had said them. She told me that the process of weaning herself from the drug was extremely painful and difficult; but that she now slept well and desired it no more.
To be plain, I was not satisfied with the truth of this last statement, for there was a strange look in her eyes which suggested that she still desired it very much; also she seemed to me to prevaricate upon certain points. Further, those in charge of her allowed that this diagnosis was probably correct, especially as she is now in the Home for the second time, although her first visit there was a very short one. Still they thought that she would be cured in the end. Let us hope that they were right.
The Army has also another Home in this neighbourhood, run on similar lines, for the treatment of middle-class and poor people.
SOUTHWOOD, SYDENHAM HILL
This is another of the Salvation Army Homes for Women. When I visited Southwood, which is an extremely good house, having been a gentleman’s residence, with a garden and commanding a beautiful view, there were about forty inmates, some of whom were persons of gentle birth. For such ladies single sleeping places are provided, with special dining and sitting-rooms. These are supposed to pay a guinea a week for their board and accommodation, though I gathered that this sum was not always forthcoming. The majority of the other inmates, most of whom have gone astray in one way or another, pay nothing.
A good many of the cases here are what are called preventive; that is to say, that their parents or guardians being able to do nothing with them, and fearing lest they should come to ruin, send them to this place as a last resource, hoping that they may be cured of their evil tendencies.