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    Chapter 3

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    We have quoted thus freely in the preceding chapter, in order that the intelligent and thoughtful reader, who is really seeking for the truth in regard to the physical action of alcohol, may be able to gain clear impressions on the subject. The specific changes wrought by this substance on the internal organs are of a most serious character, and should be well understood by all who indulge habitually in its use.


    The parts which first suffer from alcohol are those expansions of the body which the anatomists call the membranes. "The skin is a membranous envelope. Through the whole of the alimentary surface, from the lips downward, and through the bronchial passages to their minutest ramifications, extends the mucous membrane. The lungs, the heart, the liver, the kidneys are folded in delicate membranes, which can be stripped easily from these parts. If you take a portion of bone, you will find it easy to strip off from it a membranous sheath or covering; if you examine a joint, you will find both the head and the socket lined with membranes. The whole of the intestines are enveloped in a fine membrane called peritoneum. All the muscles are enveloped in membranes, and the fasciculi, or bundles and fibres of muscles, have their membranous sheathing. The brain and spinal cord are enveloped in three membranes; one nearest to themselves, a pure vascular structure, a net-work of blood-vessels; another, a thin serous structure; a third, a strong fibrous structure. The eyeball is a structure of colloidal humors and membranes, and of nothing else. To complete the description, the minute structures of the vital organs are enrolled in membranous matter."

    These membranes are the filters of the body. "In their absence there could be no building of structure, no solidification of tissue, nor organic mechanism. Passive themselves, they, nevertheless, separate all structures into their respective positions and adaptations."


    In order to make perfectly clear to the reader's mind the action and use of these membranous expansions, and the way in which alcohol deteriorates them, and obstructs their work, we quote again from Dr. Richardson:

    "The animal receives from the vegetable world and from the earth the food and drink it requires for its sustenance and motion. It receives colloidal food for its muscles: combustible food for its motion; water for the solution of its various parts; salt for constructive and other physical purposes. These have all to be arranged in the body; and they are arranged by means of the membranous envelopes. Through these membranes nothing can pass that is not, for the time, in a state of aqueous solution, like water or soluble salts. Water passes freely through them, salts pass freely through them, but the constructive matter of the active parts that is colloidal does not pass; it is retained in them until it is chemically decomposed into the soluble type of matter. When we take for our food a portion of animal flesh, it is first resolved, in digestion, into a soluble fluid before it can be absorbed; in the blood it is resolved into the fluid colloidal condition; in the solids it is laid down within the membranes into new structure, and when it has played its part, it is digested again, if I may so say, into a crystalloidal soluble substance, ready to be carried away and replaced by addition of new matter, then it is dialysed or passed through, the membranes into the blood, and is disposed of in the excretions.

    "See, then, what an all-important part these membranous structures play in the animal life. Upon their integrity all the silent work of the building up of the body depends. If these membranes are rendered too porous, and let out the colloidal fluids of the blood--the albumen, for example--the body so circumstanced, dies; dies as if it were slowly bled to death. If, on the contrary, they become condensed or thickened, or loaded with foreign material, then they fail to allow the natural fluids to pass through them. They fail to dialyse, and the result is, either an accumulation of the fluid in a closed cavity, or contraction of the substance inclosed within the membrane, or dryness of membrane in surfaces that ought to be freely lubricated and kept apart. In old age we see the effects of modification of membrane naturally induced; we see the fixed joint, the shrunken and feeble muscle, the dimmed eye, the deaf ear, the enfeebled nervous function.

    "It may possibly seem, at first sight, that I am leading immediately away from the subject of the secondary action of alcohol. It is not so. I am leading directly to it. Upon all these membranous structures alcohol exerts a direct perversion of action. It produces in them a thickening, a shrinking and an inactivity that reduces their functional power. That they may work rapidly and equally, they require to be at all times charged with water to saturation. If, into contact with them, any agent is brought that deprives them of water, then is their work interfered with; they cease to separate the saline constituents properly; and, if the evil that is thus started, be allowed to continue, they contract upon their contained matter in whatever organ it may be situated, and condense it.

    "In brief, under the prolonged influence of alcohol those changes which take place from it in the blood corpuscles, and which have already been described, extend to the other organic parts, involving them in structural deteriorations, which are always dangerous, and are often ultimately fatal."


    Passing from the effect of alcohol upon the membranes, we come to its action on the stomach. That it impairs, instead of assisting digestion, has already been shown in the extract from Dr. Monroe, given near the commencement of the preceding chapter. A large amount of medical testimony could be quoted in corroboration, but enough has been educed. We shall only quote Dr. Richardson on "Alcoholic Dyspepsia:"

    "The stomach, unable to produce, in proper quantity, the natural digestive fluid, and also unable to absorb the food which it may imperfectly digest, is in constant anxiety and irritation. It is oppressed with the sense of nausea; it is oppressed with the sense of emptiness and prostration; it is oppressed with a sense of distention; it is oppressed with a loathing for food, and it is teased with a craving for more drink. Thus there is engendered, a permanent disorder which, for politeness' sake, is called dyspepsia, and for which different remedies are often sought but never found. Antibilious pills--whatever they may mean--Seidlitz powders, effervescing waters, and all that pharmacopoeia of aids to further indigestion, in which the afflicted who nurse their own diseases so liberally and innocently indulge, are tried in vain. I do not strain a syllable when I state that the worst forms of confirmed indigestion originate in the practice that is here explained. By this practice all the functions are vitiated, the skin at one moment is flushed and perspiring, and at the next moment it is pale, cold and clammy, while every other secreting structure is equally disarranged."


    Nervous derangements follow as a matter of course, for the delicate membranes which envelope and immediately surround the nervous cords, are affected by the alcohol more readily than the coarser membranous textures of other parts of the body, and give rise to a series of troublesome conditions, which are too often attributed to other than the true causes. Some of these are thus described: "The perverted condition of the membranous covering of the nerves gives rise to pressure within the sheath of the nerve, and to pain as a consequence. To the pain thus excited the term neuralgia is commonly applied, or 'tic;' or, if the large nerve running down the thigh be the seat of the pain, 'sciatica.' Sometimes this pain is developed as a toothache. It is pain commencing, in nearly every instance, at some point where a nerve is inclosed in a bony cavity, or where pressure is easily excited, as at the lower jawbone near the centre of the chin, or at the opening in front of the lower part of the ear, or at the opening over the eyeball in the frontal bone."


    The organic deteriorations which follow the long-continued use of alcoholic drinks are often of a serious and fatal character. The same author says: "The organ of the body, that, perhaps, the most frequently undergoes structural changes from alcohol, is the liver. The capacity of this organ for holding active substances in its cellular parts, is one of its marked physiological distinctions. In instances of poisoning by arsenic, antimony, strychnine and other poisonous compounds, we turn to the liver, in conducting our analyses, as if it were the central depot of the foreign matter. It is, practically, the same in respect to alcohol. The liver of the confirmed alcoholic is, probably, never free from the influence of the poison; it is too often saturated with it. The effect of the alcohol upon the liver is upon the minute membranous or capsular structure of the organ, upon which, it acts to prevent the proper dialysis and free secretion. The organ, at first, becomes large from the distention of its vessels, the surcharge of fluid matter and the thickening of tissue. After a time, there follows contraction of membrane, and slow shrinking of the whole mass of the organ in its cellular parts. Then the shrunken, hardened, roughened mass is said to be 'hob-nailed,' a common, but expressive term. By the time this change occurs, the body of him in whom it is developed is usually dropsical in its lower parts, owing to the obstruction offered to the returning blood by the veins, and his fate is sealed.... Again, under an increase of fatty substance in the body, the structure of the liver may be charged with, fatty cells, and undergo what is technically designated fatty degeneration."


    "The kidneys, also, suffer deterioration. Their minute structures undergo fatty modification; their vessels lose their due elasticity of power of contraction; or their membranes permit to pass through them the albumen from the blood. This last condition reached, the body loses power as if it were being gradually drained even of its blood."


    "The vessels of the lungs are easily relaxed by alcohol; and as they, of all parts, are most exposed to vicissitudes of heat and cold, they are readily congested when, paralyzed by the spirit, they are subjected to the effects of a sudden fall of atmospheric temperature. Thus, the suddenly fatal congestions of lungs which so easily befall the confirmed alcoholic during the severe winter seasons."


    The heart is one of the greatest sufferers from alcohol. Quoting again from Dr. Richardson:

    "The membranous structures which envelope and line the organ are changed in quality, are thickened, rendered cartilaginous and even calcareous or bony. Then the valves, which are made up of folds of membrane, lose their suppleness, and what is called valvular disease is permanently established. The coats of the great blood-vessel leading from the heart, the aorto, share, not unfrequently, 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.

    "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, for years, 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."


    Lastly, the brain and spinal cord, and all the nervous matter, become, under the influence of alcohol, subject alike to organic deterioration. "The membranes enveloping the nervous substance undergo thickening; the blood-vessels are subjected to change of structure, by which their resistance and resiliency is impaired; and the true nervous matter is sometimes modified, by softening or shrinking of its texture, by degeneration of its cellular structure or by interposition of fatty particles. These deteriorations of cerebral and spinal matter give rise to a series of derangements, which show themselves in the worst forms of nervous diseases--epilepsy; paralysis, local or general; insanity."

    We have quoted thus largely from Dr. Richardson's valuable lectures, in order that our readers may have an intelligent comprehension of this most important subject. It is because the great mass of the people are ignorant of the real character of the effects produced on the body by alcohol that so many indulge in its use, and lay the foundation for troublesome, and often painful and fatal diseases in their later years.

    In corroboration of Dr. Richardson's testimony against alcohol, we will, in closing this chapter, make a few quotations from other medical authorities.


    Dr. Ezra M. Hunt says: "The capacity of the alcohols for impairment of functions and the initiation and promotion of organic lesions in vital parts, is unsurpassed by any record in the whole range of medicine. The facts as to this are so indisputable, and so far granted by the profession, as to be no longer debatable. Changes in stomach and liver, in kidneys and lungs, in the blood-vessels to the minutest capillary, and in the blood to the smallest red and white blood disc disturbances of secretion, fibroid and fatty degenerations in almost every organ, impairment of muscular power, impressions so profound on both nervous systems as to be often toxic--these, and such as these, are the oft manifested results. And these are not confined to those called intemperate."

    Professor Youmans says: "It is evident that, so far from being the conservator of health, alcohol is an active and powerful cause of disease, interfering, as it does, with the respiration, the circulation and the nutrition; now, is any other result possible?"

    Dr. F.R. Lees says: "That alcohol should contribute to the fattening process under certain conditions, and produce in drinkers fatty degeneration of the blood, follows, as a matter of course, since, on the one hand, we have an agent that retains waste matter by lowering the nutritive and excretory functions, and on the other, a direct poisoner of the vesicles of the vital stream."

    Dr. Henry Monroe says: "There is no kind of tissue, whether healthy or morbid, that may not undergo fatty degeneration; and there is no organic disease so troublesome to the medical man, or so difficult of cure. If, by the aid of the microscope, we examine a very fine section of muscle taken from a person in good health, we find the muscles firm, elastic and of a bright red color, made up of parallel fibres, with beautiful crossings or striae; but, if we similarly examine the muscle of a man who leads an idle, sedentary life, and indulges in intoxicating drinks, we detect, at once, a pale, flabby, inelastic, oily appearance. Alcoholic narcotization appears to produce this peculiar conditions of the tissues more than any other agent with which we are acquainted. 'Three-quarters of the chronic illness which the medical man has to treat,' says Dr. Chambers, 'are occasioned by this disease.' The eminent French analytical chemist, Lecanu, found as much as one hundred and seventeen parts of fat in one thousand parts of a drunkard's blood, the highest estimate of the quantity in health being eight and one-quarter parts, while the ordinary quantity is not more than two or three parts, so that the blood of the drunkard contains forty times in excess of the ordinary quantity."

    Dr. Hammond, who has written, in partial defense of alcohol as containing a food power, says: "When I say that it, of all other causes, is most prolific in exciting derangements of the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves, I make a statement which my own experience shows to be correct."

    Another eminent physician says of alcohol: "It substitutes suppuration for growth. * * It helps time to produce the effects of age; and, in a word, is the genius of degeneration."

    Dr. Monroe, from whom we have already quoted, says: "Alcohol, taken in small quantities, or largely diluted, as in the form of beer, causes the stomach gradually to lose its tone, and makes it dependent upon artificial stimulus. Atony, or want of tone of the stomach, gradually supervenes, and incurable disorder of health results. * * * Should a dose of alcoholic drink be taken daily, the heart will very often become hypertrophied, or enlarged throughout. Indeed, it is painful to witness how many persons are actually laboring under disease of the heart, owing chiefly to the use of alcoholic liquors."

    Dr. T.K. Chambers, physician to the Prince of Wales, says: "Alcohol is really the most ungenerous diet there is. It impoverishes the blood, and there is no surer road to that degeneration of muscular fibre so much to be feared; and in heart disease it is more especially hurtful, by quickening the beat, causing capillary congestion and irregular circulation, and thus mechanically inducing dilatation."

    Sir Henry Thompson, a distinguished surgeon, says: "Don't take your daily wine under any pretext of its doing you good. Take it frankly as a luxury--one which must be paid for, by some persons very lightly, by some at a high price, but always to be paid for. And, mostly, some loss of health, or of mental power, or of calmness of temper, or of judgment, is the price."

    Dr. Charles Jewett says: "The late Prof. Parks, of England, in his great work on Hygiene, has effectually disposed of the notion, long and very generally entertained, that alcohol is a valuable prophylactic where a bad climate, bad water and other conditions unfavorable to health, exist; and an unfortunate experiment with the article, in the Union army, on the banks of the Chickahominy, in the year 1863, proved conclusively that, instead of guarding the human constitution against the influence of agencies hostile to health, its use gives to them additional force. The medical history of the British army in India teaches the same lesson."

    But why present farther testimony? Is not the evidence complete? To the man who values good health; who would not lay the foundation for disease and suffering in his later years, we need not offer a single additional argument in favor of entire abstinence from alcoholic drinks. He will eschew them as poisons.
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