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Systemic Effect of Alcohol
Read Before Union Temperance Meetings of Sunday Schools at Lake Arthur N. M., by L. H. Pate, M. D., In this symposium on the evils of strong drink, it shall be my endeavor to give you the scien tific or systematic effect of alco hol when used as a beverage. What is said of alcohol is also said of all spirituous and malt liq uors. Those of you who are conver sant with physiology will, I trust, be able to keep the connection in this paper, and it is the inalienable right of every person to under stand the evil effect of strong drink well enough to shun it. Physiological Effect on the Nerv ous System. Alcohol never acts as a true stimulant to the brain, the spinal cord, or the nerves. On the con trary, its dominant influence is depressant. The increased activ ity of thought and speech after its use is not due to stimulation, but to depression of the inhibitory nervous apparatus. The activity is therefore that caused by lack of control, and is not a real increase in energy. So far as the brain is concerned, it does not increase the vigor of thought, nor its depth, nor, does it enable a man to work out a problem which is difficult. On the contrary, it rath er benumbs the activity of the mental process. The effect of moderate doses differ from the effect of large ones in degree but not in kind. Reflex action may be increased by the same depres sion of inhibition, but not by reas on of any true stimulation of the spinal cord. In large doses it produces lack of co-ordination by depression of the brain and lower nervous system. The loss of co ordination being due largely to impairment of sensation, so that the sense of touch and the muscle sense are interfered with. This effect makes a drunken man fail to recognize the angles or uneven surfaces of surrounding objects, and the impaired mental power, and disordered judgment, com bined with the imperfectly acting motor and sensory pathways, cause him to stumble and fall. The highest nerve centers are first affected. The order of functional disturb ance being that of the cerebrum, cerebellum, spinal cord, and lastly, the medulla oblongata. It will be observed that in this descending scale of functional derangement the mental faculties being the highest are first affected, result ing in failure of co-ordination in reasoning power, less of control of ideas, soon the will power suc cumbs, the imagination is disor dered and the patient laughs and weeps hysterically until if the dose is large the final result is total dumbness. Action on the Circulatory System. Careful scientific research has proved that alcohol is in no sense a true stimulant to the circulation. If the dose is large enough to cause any change in the circula tion, it is in the nature of depres sion rather than stimulation. These results are observed at the labratory and bedside. Alcohol does however produce very mark ed alterations in the distribution of the blood, as is seen in the flushing of the capillaries of the skin after its moderate use. Hence the red, swollen and flushed face of one under its influence. This altered distribution is due to the inhibition of the vaso-constrictors. Little if any effect of alcohol is exercised upon arterial pressure when given in medicinal dose. In very large toxic doses alcohol de presses and finally paralyzes the heart and vaso-motor system. The function of the red corpuscles is impaired, preventing the ozhaem oglobin from parting with its oxygen, thus retarding oxidation in the tissues. It is a matter of observation that persons addicted to the use of alcohol are frequent ly obese on account of imperfect combustion of fat and its conse quent accumulation in the tissues. Temperature. Alcohol never increases the number of heat units in the body, though in its oxidation more heat is made than when no alcohol is used, the increased radiation or loss of heat, from the skin and lungs under its influence more than counterbalances the gain caused by the drug. l_»y its irritating effect on the muons membrane of the mouth and the stomach it produces a sen sation of warmth, and warms the extremities at the expense of the body by increasing the circula tion of blood to tbese parts. This increase in -peripheral circulation is due to an increase in the rapid ity of the How of blood and to dilation of the peripheral cap illaries. It is be used to excess, the temperature rapidly falls, ow ing* to the increase of heat radia tion, produced by the free distri bution of blood, as has been de scribed, and secondarily by the de pression of the vital forces, for in overdose alcohol always acts as a depressant. Action on Digestion. Alcohol added in any amount to food in a test-tube containing di gestible ferments retards or in hibits digestion- AVhen excessive amounts are taken into the stom ach it disorders digestion by in hibiting the action of the diges tive f e r m exits. Chronic alcoholism is generally the result of the continuous and excessive use of the drug. The symptoms vary according to the individual case. There may be (1) the moderate daily drinker; (2) the periodical inebriate, usu ally the highly gifted, sensative and sympathetic who drinks to excess at certain distinct intervals with deliberation and moral per versity ; (3) the immoderate, im pulsive, maniacal inebriate, who. during his usually brief existence after the establishment of the dis ease, is subject to constant and excessive indulgence, incapacitat ing him from the simplest duties of a rational life. The habitual drinker sooner or later suffers from disturbed di gestion, gastric catarrh, etc., his face is usually puffed and bloated, while the capillaries, especially of the cheeks and nose, become per manently dilated, developing into the often observed red face and nose. The excessive use of alcohol pre disposes the subject to cirrhosis of the liver ; other conditions be ing arterio-sclorosis (hardening of the arteries), fatty degeneration of the heart and liver, paralysis, peripheral neuritus, Bright’s dis ease. ataxia, epilepsv, insanity, etc. Either of these conditions may afflict the patient of his progeny, until the natural forces of life, controlled by a divine Providence, draws the curtain and ends the drama of a life that otherwise might have been more uselful.