The Alcohol Problem

The Alcohol Problem No. 4

Alcohol as a narcotic.

By JULIUS GILBERT WHITE, Madison College, Tennessee

Alcohol a Narcotic

Alcohol is commonly spoken of as a "nar­cotic" and a "poison," and it is so rated by all chemists and physiologists. Horsley and Sturge, in "Alcohol and the Human Body," page 12, make a representative statement of the nature of alcohol, as follows:

"It is interesting to note that alcohol is al­ways included among the 'poisons,' and in the pharmacological classification of 'poisons' it is invariably placed side by side with chloroform and ether, and described as a narcotic poison. This is the position assigned to alcohol by the pharmacologists of all countries."

No one claims to know exactly how narcosis is produced by alcohol, but it is believed that the properties previously discussed in these articles bear a relation to it.

The First Effects

The first obvious effects of alcohol within the body are psychological—upon the brain and nerve cells. Alcohol is quickly absorbed from the digestive tract into the blood, and carried to every part of the body. The brain cells are the most highly specialized of all body cells, and therefore suffer first. Also, alcohol seems to have a liking for lipoid, a fatlike constituent of brain and nerve cells, which it tends to dis­solve or disturb. Its first effect upon these cells is narcotic.

The brain and nerve cells are the means by which we use our five senses and coordinate our movements. To the extent that these are narcotized, we are able to see, hear, taste, smell, feel, and move less. The efficiency of all the powers is lessened. The experiences of life thus influenced are legion.

To make the lesson plain, the daily expe­rience of driving an automobile will serve as a good example. One hundred persons were given a half pint of beer each. Forty-four of them showed less ability to see a red light after drinking that small amount of alcohol. After taking a few glasses of beer, the eye cannot distinguish color; and although the red signal is there, the driver cannot see it, and there is nothing to tell him to stop. Moreover, his dis­tance vision is dim. An approaching car or other object he is approaching will not be seen early enough to avoid danger.

Furthermore, after one has had a few drinks of beer, his span of vision is narrowed. The normal eye can see everything in front of the two hands held out straight in opposite direc­tions. But the alcohol in two or three drinks of beer may narrow this span of vision one half on each side, so that he sees only objects directly in front of him, and does not see those on either side. Insurance companies call this "tunnel vision." Under the influence of small amounts of alcohol, the driver is inclined to take risks he would not otherwise take; his sense of the rights of others is diminished, his judgment is impaired. The mental and nerve reactions are slowed enough by imbibing one spoonful of alcohol so that ten feet more is re­quired to stop a car traveling at thirty-five miles an hour than would be required if the driver were free from the influence of alcohol. Thus the moderate drinker becomes a greater menace to others on the highway than the drunkard; but strange to say, he thinks he is driving better than usual. He thinks this because his brain is befuddled.

One of the first effects of alcohol upon the brain cells is to weaken the will—the last shield against temptation. Then the emotions are de­based: love degenerates to passion, joy to orgy, ardor to impatience, and courage to reckless­ness. These, added to the weakening of the will, explain how alcohol leads to crime. Fur­thermore, "in removing the normal restraint exercised by the brain over the sexual desires, alcohol is the chief means of leading youth into immorality. This it does in two ways: first, by diminishing the will power, and, second, by increasing the animal desires."—Kenelin Win­slow, B.A.S., M.D., in "Prevention of Disease."

Dethrones the Higher Powers

One drop of alcohol to each thousand drops of blood, injected into the circulation, begins to affect the higher mental powers, such as ambition, judgment, self-control, reason, will power, and the conscience—the powers that make man different from and superior to ani­mals. When the accumulation reaches three parts of alcohol to a thousand of blood, the control of motion is impaired, and the drinker begins to stagger. When the proportion reaches five parts to a thousand, he has no command of his senses or muscles; he is near death. When there are more than five to a thousand, his recovery is doubtful; he will likely return shortly to dust, whence his Maker took him.

(To be continued)

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By JULIUS GILBERT WHITE, Madison College, Tennessee

April 1937

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