The Nation: The Texas Tranquilizer

The Nation: The Texas Tranquilizer
By legend Texans are a grandiose breed with more than the natural share
of megalomaniacs. But University of Texas Biochemist Earl B. Dawson
thinks that he detects an uncommon pocket of psychological adjustment
around El Paso. The reason, says Dawson, lies in the deep wells from
which the city draws its water supply.According to Dawson's studies of urine samples from 3,000 Texans, El
Paso's water is heavily laced with lithium, a tranquilizing chemical
widely used in the treatment of manic depression and other psychiatric
disorders. He notes that Dallas, which has low lithium levels because
it draws its water from surface supplies, has “about seven times more
admissions to state mental hospitals than El Paso.” But state mental
health officials point out that the mental hospital closest to Dallas
is 35 miles from the city, while the one nearest El Paso is 350 miles
away—and the long distance could affect admission figures.But FBI statistics show that while Dallas had 5,970 known crimes per
100,000 population last year, El Paso had 2,889 per 100,000. Dallas
had 242 murders, El Paso only 13. Dr.
Frederick Goodwin, an expert on lithium studies for the National
Institute of Mental Health, doubts that “lithium has these magical
properties in the population.” Others are not so sure. If lithium does
have anything to do with the relative peace in El Paso, what would it
do for other cities like New York and Chicago?