During the 19th Century this movement was trying to deal with the drug and alcohol abuse sweeping the United States. You can read a good overview of the movement here with this link The temperance Movement had a huge impact during the 19th century. I'll try to post some resources that might help us better understand the opinions of that time.
Below is an excerpt from the irish temperance league journal for 1866
MEDICAL CONTROVERSY ON TEETOTALISM.
The object of the meeting being to bring the claims of teetotalism before as many influential people as could be induced to listen to them, free expression of opinion ■was solicited, and Dr. Webster of BrookStreet, then ascended the platform and said:—
It is great presumption on my part to appear on the platform; but, as the last speaker has alluded to the profession to which I have the honor to belong, I feel, in some degree, it is my duty, at all events, as an humble in
dividual, to protest, in regard to a certain point, against the observations which he has made. He has stated that the medical profession are rather remiss in not recommending abstinence from spirituous liquors. Now, with all respect for the worthy Chamberlain, I think that does not apply to the large [body of the profession, because, within my own knowledge, there are various members of the profession who are not only total abstainers, but also are strong advocates for temperance, and I know that one of the frequent prescriptions to patients who come under their care is the recommendation to abstain from intoxicating liquors because of the nature of the disease from which they are suffering. I do not pretend to call myself a teetotaler, but I am a great advocate for temperance. My habitual beverage is water. I never drink malt liquor; and, though a Scotchman, I seldom or never taste whiskey—(laughter)—but still I do not go the whole length of what I have heard this evening, of being, in every instance, a total abstainer. But that, of course, I will not enter upon : I only wish to protest against its being supposed that the medical profession are not strong advocates, as a body, of temperance to their patients. The case mentioned, I think, would be rather exceptional, and I should like very much to know if the medical gentleman referred to knew that the person for whom he prescribed spirits was a total abstainer.
Mr. Scott—Yes, he was quite aware of the case, and had prescribed for the man three years before.
Dr. Webster—Allusion has been made to the evil consequences of intoxicating liquors. I go the whole length of the arguments urged to-night in that respect. It is known that it frequently produces lunacy. I think I am, in some degree, able to give an opinion on the subject, because I have visited almost all the lunatic asylums in Europe, that is to say, the chief ones in every part of Europe. That has been the object with, which I have occupied myself for a number of years, and I have no hesitation in saying that in this country, and in other parts of Europe, intoxicating liquors are the very frequent cause of insanity i and I think medical gentlemen, and all other persons in the community, should do everything they possibly can to promote temperance on this ground alone. I must apologise again for having presumed to address this meeting ; but I could not listen to what the worthy Chamberlain was saying, without availing myself of the opportunity of stating that there are a great many members of my profession who are advocates of temperance, and who not only commend the practice itself, but are actually total abstainers. (Applause.)
Mr. Scott: I have only one word to say in explanation. In my remarks I did not intend to include the whole medical body. I am quite aware that 2,000, a large proportion of them, not very long since, signed a paper strongly commending this movement to the adoption of the public; but there are still a large number who, on every occasion, and in my own humble case, have recommended wine and spirits when I think we might have been better treated from their own private surgeries. (Hear, hear, and applause.)