Alcohol Consumption has Transformative Effects
The transforming power or alcohol is marvelous, and often appalling. It seems to open a way of entrance into the soul for all classes of foolish, insane or malignant spirits, who, so long as it remains in contact with the brain, are able to hold possession.
Men of the kindest nature when sober, act often like fiends when drunk. Crimes and outrages are committed, which shock and shame the perpetrators when the excitement of inebriation has passed away. Referring to this subject, Dr. Henry Munroe says:
“It appears from the experience of Mr. Fletcher, who has paid much attention to the cases of drunkards, from the remarks of Mr. Dunn, in his ‘Medical Psychology,’ and from observations of my own, that there is some analogy between our physical and psychical natures; for, as the physical part of us, when its power is at a low ebb, becomes susceptible of morbid influences which, in full vigor, would pass over it without effect, so when the psychical (synonymous with the moral ) part of the brain has its healthy function disturbed and deranged by the introduction of a morbid poison like alcohol, the individual so circumstanced sinks in depravity, and “becomes the helpless subject of the forces of evil, “which are powerless against a nature free from the morbid influences of alcohol.”
Alcohol Effects People Differently
Different persons are affected in different ways by the same poison. Indulgence in alcoholic drinks may act upon one or more of the cerebral organs; and, as its necessary consequence, the manifestations of functional disturbance will follow in such of the mental powers as these organs subserve. If the indulgence be continued, then, either from deranged nutrition or organic lesion, manifestations formerly developed only during a fit of intoxication may become permanent , and terminate in insanity or dypso-mania. M. Flourens first pointed out the fact that certain morbific agents, when introduced into the current of the circulation, tend to act primarily and specially on one nervous centre in preference to that of another, by virtue of some special elective affinity between such morbific agents and certain ganglia. Thus, in the tottering gait of the tipsy man, we see the influence of alcohol upon the functions of the cerebellum in the impairment of its power of co-ordinating the muscles.
Certain writers on diseases of the mind make especial allusion to that form of insanity termed ‘dypsomania’, in which a person has an unquenchable thirst for alcoholic drinks a tendency as decidedly maniacal as that of homicidal mania ; or the uncontrollable desire to burn, termed pyromania ; or to steal, called kleptomania.
The different tendencies of homicidal mania in different individuals are often only nursed into action when the current of the blood has been poisoned with alcohol. I had a case of a person who, whenever his brain was so excited, told me that he experienced a most uncontrollable desire to kill or injure some one; so much so, that he could at times hardly restrain himself from the action, and was obliged to refrain from all stimulants, lest, in an unlucky moment, he might commit himself. Townley, who murdered the young lady of his affections, for which he was sentenced to be imprisoned in a lunatic asylum for life, poisoned his brain with brandy and soda-water before he committed the rash act. The brandy stimulated into action certain portions of the brain, which acquired such a power as to subjugate his will, and hurry him to the performance of a frightful deed, opposed alike to his better judgment and his ordinary desires.
As to pyromania , some years ago I knew a laboring man in a country village, who, whenever he had had a few glasses of ale at the public-house, would chuckle with delight at the thought of firing certain gentlemen’s stacks. Yet, when his brain was free from the poison, a quieter, better-disposed man could not be. Unfortunately, he became addicted to habits of intoxication; and, one night, under alcoholic excitement, fired some stacks belonging to his employers, for which, he was sentenced for fifteen years to a penal settlement, where his brain would never again be alcoholically excited.
Next, I will give an example of kleptomania . I knew, many years ago, a very clever, industrious and talented young man, who told me that whenever he had been drinking, he could hardly withstand, the temptation of stealing anything that came in his way; but that these feelings never troubled him at other times. One afternoon, after he had been indulging with his fellow-workmen in drink, his will, unfortunately, was overpowered, and he took from the mansion where he was working some articles of worth, for which he was accused, and afterwards sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
When set at liberty he had the good fortune to be placed among some kind-hearted persons, vulgarly called teetotallers ; and, from conscientious motives, signed the PLEDGE, now above twenty years ago. From that time to the present moment he has never experienced the overmastering desire which so often beset him in his drinking days to take that which was not his own. Moreover, no pretext on earth could now entice him to taste of any liquor containing alcohol, feeling that, under its influence, he might again fall its victim. He holds an influential position in the town where he resides.
I have known some ladies of good position in society, who, after a dinner or supper-party, and after having taken sundry glasses of wine, could not withstand the temptation of taking home any little article not their own, when the opportunity offered; and who, in their sober moments, have returned them, as if taken by mistake. We have many instances recorded in our police reports of gentlemen of position, under the influence of drink, committing thefts of the most paltry articles, afterwards returned to the owners by their friends, which can only be accounted for, psychologically, by the fact that the will had been for the time completely overpowered by the subtle influence of alcohol.
Loss of mental clearness.
Alcohol, whether taken in large or small doses, immediately disturbs the natural functions of the mind and body, is now conceded by the most eminent physiologists. Dr. Brinton says: ‘Mental acuteness, accuracy of conception, and delicacy of the senses, are all so far opposed by the action of alcohol, as that the maximum efforts of each are incompatible with the ingestion of any moderate quantity of fermented liquid. Indeed, there is scarcely any calling which demands skillful and exact effort of mind and body, or which requires the balanced exercise of many faculties, that does not illustrate this rule. The mathematician, the gambler, the metaphysician, the billiard-player, the author, the artist, the physician, would, if they could analyze their experience aright, generally concur in the statement, that a single glass will often suffice to take , so to speak, the edge off both mind and body , and to reduce their capacity to something below what is relatively their perfection of work.
A train was driven carelessly into one of the principal London stations, running into another train, killing, by the collision, six or seven persons, and injuring many others. From the evidence at the inquest, it appeared that the guard was reckoned sober, only he had had two glasses of ale with a friend at a previous station. Now, reasoning psychologically, these two glasses of ale had probably been instrumental in taking off the edge from his perceptions and prudence, and producing a carelessness or boldness of action which would not have occurred under the cooling, temperate influence of a beverage free from alcohol. Many persons have admitted to me that they were not the same after taking even one glass of ale or wine that they were before, and could not thoroughly trust themselves after they had taken this single glass.
Impairment of memory
An impairment of the memory is among the early symptoms of alcoholic derangement.
“This,” says Dr. Richardson, “extends even to forgetfulness of the commonest things; to names of familiar persons, to dates, to duties of daily life. Strangely, too,” he adds, “this failure, like that which indicates, in the aged, the era of second childishness and mere oblivion, does not extend to the things of the past, but is confined to events that are passing. On old memories the mind retains its power; on new ones it requires constant prompting and sustainment.”
In this failure of memory nature gives a solemn warning that imminent peril is at hand. Well for the habitual drinker if he heed the warning. Should he not do so, symptoms of a more serious character will, in time, develop themselves, as the brain becomes more and more diseased, ending, it may be, in permanent insanity.
Mental and moral diseases
Of the mental and moral diseases which too often follow the regular drinking of alcohol, we have painful records in asylum reports, in medical testimony and in our daily observation and experience. These are so full and varied, and thrust so constantly on our attention, that the wonder is that men are not afraid to run the terrible risks involved even in what is called the moderate use of alcoholic beverages.
In 1872, a select committee of the House of Commons, appointed “to consider the best plan for the control and management of habitual drunkards,” called upon some of the most eminent medical men in Great Britain to give their testimony in answer to a large number of questions, embracing every topic within the range of inquiry, from the pathology of inebriation to the practical usefulness of prohibitory laws. In this testimony much was said about the effect of alcoholic stimulation on the mental condition and moral character. One physician, Dr. James Crichton Brown, who, in ten years’ experience as superintendent of lunatic asylums, has paid special attention to the relations of habitual drunkenness to insanity, having carefully examined five hundred cases, testified that alcohol, taken in excess, produced different forms of mental disease, of which he mentioned four classes: 1. Mania a potu , or alcoholic mania. 2. The monomania of suspicion. 3. Chronic alcoholism, characterized by failure of the memory and power of judgment, with partial paralysis generally ending fatally. 4. Dypsomania, or an irresistible craving for alcoholic stimulants, occuring very frequently, paroxysmally, and with constant liability to periodical exacerbations, when the craving becomes altogether uncontrollable. Of this latter form of disease, he says: “This is invariably associated with a certain impairment of the intellect, and of the affections and the moral powers .”
Dr. Alexander Peddie, a physician of over thirty-seven years’ practice in Edinburgh, gave, in his evidence, many remarkable instances of the moral perversions that followed continued drinking.
Relation between insanity and drunkenness
Dr. John Nugent said that his experience of twenty-six years among lunatics, led him to believe that there is a very close relation between the results of the abuse of alcohol and insanity. The population of Ireland had decreased, he said, two millions in twenty-five years, but there was the same amount of insanity now that there was before. He attributed this, in a great measure, to indulgence in drink.
Dr. Arthur Mitchell, Commissioner of Lunacy for Scotland, testified that the excessive use of alcohol caused a large amount of the lunacy, crime and pauperism of that country. In some men, he said, habitual drinking leads to other diseases than insanity, because the effect is always in the direction of the proclivity, but it is certain that there are many in whom there is a clear proclivity to insanity, who would escape that dreadful consummation but for drinking; excessive drinking in many persons determining the insanity to which they are, at any rate, predisposed . The children of drunkards, he further said, are in a larger proportion idiotic than other children, and in a larger proportion become themselves drunkards; they are also in a larger proportion liable to the ordinary forms of acquired insanity.
Dr. Winslow Forbes believed that in the habitual drunkard the whole nervous structure, and the brain especially, became poisoned by alcohol. All the mental symptoms which you see accompanying ordinary intoxication, he remarks, result from the poisonous effects of alcohol on the brain. It is the brain which is mainly effected. In temporary drunkenness, the brain becomes in an abnormal state of alimentation, and if this habit is persisted in for years, the nervous tissue itself becomes permeated with alcohol, and organic changes take place in the nervous tissues of the brain, producing that frightful and dreadful chronic insanity which we see in lunatic asylums, traceable entirely to habits of intoxication . A large percentage of frightful mental and brain disturbances can, he declared, be traced to the drunkenness of parents.
Dr. D.G. Dodge, late of the New York State Inebriate Asylum, who, with. Dr. Joseph Parrish, gave testimony before the committee of the House of Commons, said, in one of his answers: “With the excessive use of alcohol, functional disorder will invariably appear, and no organ will be more seriously affected, and possibly impaired, than the brain. This is shown in the inebriate by a weakened intellect, a general debility of the mental faculties , a partial or total loss of self-respect, and a departure of the power of self-command; all of which, acting together, place the victim at the mercy of a depraved and morbid appetite, and make him utterly powerless, by his own unaided efforts, to secure his recovery from the disease which is destroying him.” And he adds: “I am of opinion that there is a “great similarity between inebriety and insanity.
“I am decidedly of opinion that the former has taken its place in the family of diseases as prominently as its twin-brother insanity; and, in my opinion, the day is not far distant when the pathology of the former will be as fully understood and as successfully treated as the latter, and even more successfully, since it is more within the reach and bounds of human control, which, wisely exercised and scientifically administered, may prevent curable inebriation from verging into possible incurable insanity.”
General impairment of the faculties
Dr. Richardson, speaking of the action of alcohol on the mind, gives the following sad picture of its ravages:
“An analysis of the condition of the mind induced and maintained by the free daily use of alcohol as a drink, reveals a singular order of facts. The manifestation fails altogether to reveal the exaltation of any reasoning power in a useful or satisfactory direction. I have never met with an instance in which such a claim for alcohol has been made. On the contrary, confirmed alcoholics constantly say that for this or that work, requiring thought and attention, it is necessary to forego some of the usual potations in order to have a cool head for hard work.
“On the other side, the experience is overwhelmingly in favor of the observation that the use of “alcohol sells the reasoning powers, “make weak men and women the easy prey of the wicked and strong, and leads men and women who should know better into every grade of misery and vice. If, then, alcohol enfeebles the reason, what part of the mental constitution does it exalt and excite? It excites and exalts those animal, organic, emotional centres of mind which, in the dual nature of man, so often cross and oppose that pure and abstract reasoning nature which lifts man above the lower animals, and rightly exercised, little lower than the angels.
It excites man’s worst passions
Exciting these animal centres, it lets loose all the passions, and gives them more or less of unlicensed dominion over the man. It excites anger, and when it does not lead to this extreme, it keeps the mind fretful, irritable, dissatisfied and captious…. And if I were to take you through all the passions, love, hate, lust, envy, avarice and pride, I should but show you that alcohol ministers to them all; that, paralyzing the reason, it takes from off these passions that fine adjustment of reason, which places man above the lower animals. From the beginning to the end of its influence it subdues reason and sets the passions free. The analogies, physical and mental, are perfect. That which loosens the tension of the vessels which feed the body with due order and precision, and, thereby, lets loose the heart to violent excess and unbridled motion, loosens, also, the reason and lets loose the passion. In both instances, heart and head are, for a time, out of harmony; their balance broken. The man descends closer and closer to the lower animals. From the angels he glides farther and farther away.
A sad and terrible picture
The destructive effects of alcohol on the human mind present, finally, the saddest picture of its influence. The most aesthetic artist can find no angel here. All is animal, and animal of the worst type. Memory irretrievably lost, words and very elements of speech forgotten or words displaced to have no meaning in them. Rage and anger persistent and mischievous, or remittent and impotent. Fear at every corner of life, distrust on every side, grief merged into blank despair, hopelessness into permanent melancholy. Surely no Pandemonium that ever poet dreamt of could equal that which would exist if all the drunkards of the world were driven into one mortal sphere.
As I have moved among those who are physically stricken with alcohol, and have detected under the various disguises of name the fatal diseases, the pains and penalties it imposes on the body, the picture has been sufficiently cruel. But even that picture pales, as I conjure up, without any stretch of imagination, the devastations which the same agent inflicts on the mind. Forty per cent., the learned Superintendent of Colney Hatch, Dr. Sheppard, tells us, of those who were brought into that asylum in 1876, were so brought because of the direct or indirect effects of alcohol. If the facts of all the asylums were collected with equal care, the same tale would, I fear, be told. What need we further to show the destructive action on the human mind? The Pandemonium of drunkards; the grand transformation scene of that pantomime of drink which commences with, moderation! Let it never more be forgotten by those who love their fellow-men until, through their efforts, it is closed forever.”
ACTION OF ALCOHOL ON INTERNAL ORGANS
Action on the stomach
The action of alcohol on the stomach is extremely dangerous that it becomes unable to produce the natural digestive fluid in sufficient quantity and also fails to absorb the food which it may imperfectly digest. A condition marked by the sense of nausea emptiness, prostration and distention will always be faced by an alcoholic. This results in a loathing for food and is teased with a craving for more drink. Thus there is engendered a permanent disorder which is called dyspepsia. The disastrous forms of confirmed indigestion originate by this practice.
How the liver gets affected
The organic deteriorations caused by the continued use of alcohol are often of a fatal character. The organ which most frequently undergoes structural changes from alcohol, is the liver. Normally, the liver has the capacity to hold active substances in its cellular parts. In instances of poisoning by various poisonous compounds, we analyse liver as if it were the central depot of the foreign matter. It is practically the same in respect to alcohol. The liver of an alcoholic is never free from the influence of alcohol and it is too often saturated with it. The minute membranous or capsular structure of the liver gets affected, preventing proper dialysis and free secretion. The liver becomes large due to the dilatation of its vessels, the surcharge of fluid matter and the thickening of tissue. This follows contraction of membrane and shrinking of the whole organ in its cellular parts. Then the lower parts of the alcoholic becomes dropsical owing to the obstruction offered to the returning blood by the veins. The structure of the liver may be charged with fatty cells and undergo what is technically designated ‘fatty liver’.
How the Kidneys deteriorate
The Kidneys also suffer due to the excessive consumption of alcohol. The vessels of Kidneys lose elasticity and power of contraction. The minute structures in them go through fatty modification. Albumin from the blood easily passes through their membranes. This results in the body losing its power as if it were being run out of blood gradually.
Congestion of the lungs
Alcohol relaxes the vessels of the lungs easily as they are most exposed to the fluctuations of heat and cold. When subjected to the effects of a rapid variation in atmospheric temperature, they get readily congested. During severe winter seasons, the suddenly fatal congestions of lungs easily affects an alcoholic.
Alcohol weakens the heart
Consumption of alcohol greatly affects the heart. The quality of the membraneous structures which cover and line the heart changes and are thickened, become cartilaginous or calcareous. Then the valves lose their suppleness and what is termed valvular disorder becomes permanent. The structure of the the coats of the great blood-vessel leading from the heart share in the same changes of structure so that the vessel loses its elasticity and its power to feed the heart by the recoil from its distention, after the heart, by its stroke, has filled it with blood.
The Muscular Structure of the Heart
Again, the muscular structure of the heart fails owing to degenerative changes in its tissue. The elements of the muscular fibre are replaced by fatty cells or, if not so replaced, are themselves transferred into a modified muscular texture in which the power of contraction is greatly reduced.
Those who suffer from these organic deteriorations of the central and governing organ of the circulation of the blood learn the fact so insidiously, it hardly breaks upon them until the mischief is far advanced. They are conscious of a central failure of power from slight causes such as overexertion, trouble, broken rest or too long abstinence from food. They feel what they call a ‘sinking’ but they know that wine or some other stimulant will at once relieve the sensation. Thus they seek to relieve it until at last they discover that the remedy fails. The jaded, overworked, faithful heart will bear no more. it has run its course and the governor of the blood-streams broken. The current either overflows into the tissues gradually damming up the courses or under some slight shock or excess of motion ceases wholly at the centre.
Alcohol has no food value and is exceedingly limited in its action as a remedial agent. Dr. Henry Monroe says, “every kind of substance employed by man as food consists of sugar, starch, oil and glutinous matter mingled together in various proportions. These are designed for the support of the animal frame. The glutinous principles of food fibrine, albumen and casein are employed to build up the structure while the oil, starch and sugar are chiefly used to generate heat in the body”.
Now it is clear that if alcohol is a food, it will be found to contain one or more of these substances. There must be in it either the nitrogenous elements found chiefly in meats, eggs, milk, vegetables and seeds, out of which animal tissue is built and waste repaired or the carbonaceous elements found in fat, starch and sugar, in the consumption of which heat and force are evolved.
“The distinctness of these groups of foods,” says Dr. Hunt, “and their relations to the tissue-producing and heat-evolving capacities of man, are so definite and so confirmed by experiments on animals and by manifold tests of scientific, physiological and clinical experience, that no attempt to discard the classification has prevailed. To draw so straight a line of demarcation as to limit the one entirely to tissue or cell production and the other to heat and force production through ordinary combustion and to deny any power of interchangeability under special demands or amid defective supply of one variety is, indeed, untenable. This does not in the least invalidate the fact that we are able to use these as ascertained landmarks”.
How these substances when taken into the body, are assimilated and how they generate force, are well known to the chemist and physiologist, who is able, in the light of well-ascertained laws, to determine whether alcohol does or does not possess a food value. For years, the ablest men in the medical profession have given this subject the most careful study, and have subjected alcohol to every known test and experiment, and the result is that it has been, by common consent, excluded from the class of tissue-building foods. “We have never,” says Dr. Hunt, “seen but a single suggestion that it could so act, and this a promiscuous guess. One writer (Hammond) thinks it possible that it may ‘somehow’ enter into combination with the products of decay in tissues, and ‘under certain circumstances might yield their nitrogen to the construction of new tissues.’ No parallel in organic chemistry, nor any evidence in animal chemistry, can be found to surround this guess with the areola of a possible hypothesis”.
Dr. Richardson says: “Alcohol contains no nitrogen; it has none of the qualities of structure-building foods; it is incapable of being transformed into any of them; it is, therefore, not a food in any sense of its being a constructive agent in building up the body.” Dr. W.B. Carpenter says: “Alcohol cannot supply anything which is essential to the true nutrition of the tissues.” Dr. Liebig says: “Beer, wine, spirits, etc., furnish no element capable of entering into the composition of the blood, muscular fibre, or any part which is the seat of the principle of life.” Dr. Hammond, in his Tribune Lectures, in which he advocates the use of alcohol in certain cases, says: “It is not demonstrable that alcohol undergoes conversion into tissue.” Cameron, in his Manuel of Hygiene, says: “There is nothing in alcohol with which any part of the body can be nourished.” Dr. E. Smith, F.R.S., says: “Alcohol is not a true food. It interferes with alimentation.” Dr. T.K. Chambers says: “It is clear that we must cease to regard alcohol, as in any sense, a food”.
“Not detecting in this substance,” says Dr. Hunt, “any tissue-making ingredients, nor in its breaking up any combinations, such as we are able to trace in the cell foods, nor any evidence either in the experience of physiologists or the trials of alimentarians, it is not wonderful that in it we should find neither the expectancy nor the realization of constructive power.”
Not finding in alcohol anything out of which the body can be built up or its waste supplied, it is next to be examined as to its heat-producing quality.
Production of heat
“The first usual test for a force-producing food,” says Dr. Hunt, “and that to which other foods of that class respond, is the production of heat in the combination of oxygen therewith. This heat means vital force, and is, in no small degree, a measure of the comparative value of the so-called respiratory foods. If we examine the fats, the starches and the sugars, we can trace and estimate the processes by which they evolve heat and are changed into vital force, and can weigh the capacities of different foods. We find that the consumption of carbon by union with oxygen is the law, that heat is the product, and that the legitimate result is force, while the result of the union of the hydrogen of the foods with oxygen is water. If alcohol comes at all under this class of foods, we rightly expect to find some of the evidences which attach to the hydrocarbons.”
What, then, is the result of experiments in this direction? They have been conducted through long periods and with the greatest care, by men of the highest attainments in chemistry and physiology, and the result is given in these few words, by Dr. H.R. Wood, Jr., in his Materia Medica. “No one has been able to detect in the blood any of the ordinary results of its oxidation.” That is, no one has been able to find that alcohol has undergone combustion, like fat, or starch, or sugar, and so given heat to the body.
Alcohol and reduction of temperature
Instead of increasing it; and it has even been used in fevers as an anti-pyretic. So uniform has been the testimony of physicians in Europe and America as to the cooling effects of alcohol, that Dr. Wood says, in his Materia Medica, “that it does not seem worth while to occupy space with a discussion of the subject.” Liebermeister, one of the most learned contributors to Zeimssen’s Cyclopaedia of the Practice of Medicine, 1875, says: “I long since convinced myself, by direct experiments, that alcohol, even in comparatively large doses, does not elevate the temperature of the body in either well or sick people.” So well had this become known to Arctic voyagers, that, even before physiologists had demonstrated the fact that alcohol reduced, instead of increasing, the temperature of the body, they had learned that spirits lessened their power to withstand extreme cold. “In the Northern regions,” says Edward Smith, “it was proved that the entire exclusion of spirits was necessary, in order to retain heat under these unfavorable conditions.”
Alcohol does not make you strong
If alcohol does not contain tissue-building material, nor give heat to the body, it cannot possibly add to its strength. “Every kind of power an animal can generate,” says Dr. G. Budd, F.R.S., “the mechanical power of the muscles, the chemical (or digestive) power of the stomach, the intellectual power of the brain accumulates through the nutrition of the organ on which it depends.” Dr. F.R. Lees, of Edinburgh, after discussing the question, and educing evidence, remarks: “From the very nature of things, it will now be seen how impossible it is that alcohol can be strengthening food of either kind. Since it cannot become a part of the body, it cannot consequently contribute to its cohesive, organic strength, or fixed power; and, since it comes out of the body just as it went in, it cannot, by its decomposition, generate heat force.”
Sir Benjamin Brodie says: “Stimulants do not create nervous power; they merely enable you, as it were, to use up that which is left, and then they leave you more in need of rest than before.”
Baron Liebig, so far back as 1843, in his “Animal Chemistry,” pointed out the fallacy of alcohol generating power. He says: “The circulation will appear accelerated at the expense of the force available for voluntary motion, but without the production of a greater amount of mechanical force.” In his later “Letters,” he again says: “Wine is quite superfluous to man, it is constantly followed by the expenditure of power” whereas, the real function of food is to give power. He adds: “These drinks promote the change of matter in the body, and are, consequently, attended by an inward loss of power, which ceases to be productive, because it is not employed in overcoming outward difficulties i.e., in working.” In other words, this great chemist asserts that alcohol abstracts the power of the system from doing useful work in the field or workshop, in order to cleanse the house from the defilement of alcohol itself.
The late Dr. W. Brinton, Physician to St. Thomas’, in his great work on Dietetics, says:
“Careful observation leaves little doubt that a moderate dose of beer or wine would, in most cases, at once diminish the maximum weight which a healthy person could lift. Mental acuteness, accuracy of perception and delicacy of the senses are all so far opposed by alcohol, as that the maximum efforts of each are incompatible with the ingestion of any moderate quantity of fermented liquid. A single glass will often suffice to take the edge off both mind and body, and to reduce their capacity to something below their perfection of work.”
Dr. F.R. Lees, F.S.A., writing on the subject of alcohol as a food, makes the following quotation from an essay on “Stimulating Drinks,” published by Dr. H.R. Madden, as long ago as 1847: “Alcohol is not the natural stimulus to any of our organs, and hence, functions performed in consequence of its application, tend to debilitate the organ acted upon.
Alcohol is incapable of being assimilated or converted into any organic proximate principle, and hence, cannot be considered nutritious.
The strength experienced after the use of alcohol is not new strength added to the system, but is manifested by calling into exercise the nervous energy pre-existing.
The ultimate exhausting effects of alcohol, owing to its stimulant properties, produce an unnatural susceptibility to morbid action in all the organs, and this, with the plethora superinduced, becomes a fertile source of disease.
A person who habitually exerts himself to such an extent as to require the daily use of stimulants to ward off exhaustion, may be compared to a machine working under high pressure. He will become much more obnoxious to the causes of disease, and will certainly break down sooner than he would have done under more favorable circumstances.
The more frequently alcohol is had recourse to for the purpose of overcoming feelings of debility, the more it will be required, and by constant repetition a period is at length reached when it cannot be foregone, unless reaction is simultaneously brought about by a temporary total change of the habits of life.
Driven to the wall
Not finding that alcohol possesses any direct alimentary value, the medical advocates of its use have been driven to the assumption that it is a kind of secondary food, in that it has the power to delay the metamorphosis of tissue. “By the metamorphosis of tissue is meant,” says Dr. Hunt, “that change which is constantly going on in the system which involves a constant disintegration of material; a breaking up and avoiding of that which is no longer aliment, making room for that new supply which is to sustain life.” Another medical writer, in referring to this metamorphosis, says: “The importance of this process to the maintenance of life is readily shown by the injurious effects which follow upon its disturbance. If the discharge of the excrementitious substances be in any way impeded or suspended, these substances accumulate either in the blood or tissues, or both. In consequence of this retention and accumulation they become poisonous, and rapidly produce a derangement of the vital functions. Their influence is principally exerted upon the nervous system, through which they produce most frequent irritability, disturbance of the special senses, delirium, insensibility, coma, and finally, death.”
“This description,” remarks Dr. Hunt, “seems almost intended for alcohol.” He then says: “To claim alcohol as a food because it delays the metamorphosis of tissue, is to claim that it in some way suspends the normal conduct of the laws of assimilation and nutrition, of waste and repair. A leading advocate of alcohol (Hammond) thus illustrates it: ‘Alcohol retards the destruction of the tissues. By this destruction, force is generated, muscles contract, thoughts are developed, organs secrete and excrete.’ In other words, alcohol interferes with all these. No wonder the author ‘is not clear’ how it does this, and we are not clear how such delayed metamorphosis recuperates.
Not an originator of vital force
Alcohol is not known to have any of the usual power of foods, and use it on the double assumption that it delays metamorphosis of tissue, and that such delay is conservative of health, is to pass outside of the bounds of science into the land of remote possibilities, and confer the title of adjuster upon an agent whose agency is itself doubtful.
Having failed to identify alcohol as a nitrogenous or non-nitrogenous food, not having found it amenable to any of the evidences by which the food-force of aliments is generally measured, it will not do for us to talk of benefit by delay of regressive metamorphosis unless such process is accompanied with something evidential of the fact something scientifically descriptive of its mode of accomplishment in the case at hand, and unless it is shown to be practically desirable for alimentation.
There can be no doubt that alcohol does cause defects in the processes of elimination which are natural to the healthy body and which even in disease are often conservative of health.