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effects of ardent spirits, when used, even moderately for any length of time.
"If the thoughtless consumers, or zealous advocates of strong stimuli, would accompany us to a few post mortem examinations of individuals who have persevered in such habits, or were called to witness, like us, the sufferings they previously endured, they would feel horrified at their own folly and ignorance, and, if they were wise, would never touch the bowl again. But, whatever men may think, and however they may act, still, it is true, that the use of ardent spirit, now so prevalent, is one of the greatest evils that ever has befallen the human race. It is a second curse, which seems destined completely to destroy every blossom of beauty and virtue, which the first left blanched and drooping here and there upon the face of the earth."
We have given this passage, because it contains a physiological explanation of the baneful effects of intoxicating drinks upon our constitution, furnished by a gentleman of accurate observation, and who, in his medical capacity, has repeatedly seen most affecting illustrations of the facts he has stated. These words of Doctor R. G. Dods ought to be printed in letters of gold, and hung up in the most prominent place of every room of moderate as well as of immoderate drinkers. But before making any remarks on this affecting exhibition of the evil influence of alcohol, we will give a few quotations from the evidence of Dr. Farre.
On the Committee handing to this eminent physician the paper which contains the testimony of nearly five hundred distinguished medical men, to which we just now alluded, after reading the words, "By the following certificates it will be seen that ardent spirit ascertained by medical science to be in a strict sense a poison, and that the use of it as an article of diet, especially among the poorer classes, is the direct cause of an incalculable and appalling amount of disease and death," the Doctor said, "It is strictly so in regard to the destruction of life. Undoubtedly that is the fact; it destroys the gastro-hepatic system, producing a variety of liver diseases, as inflammation, especially the chronic hepatitis, what Baillie termed the small white tubercle of the liver; also cancerous affections, as the large fungus of the liver, and completely obliterates the fine
structure of that organ. With respect to the stomach and intestines, it destroys the villous surface of their lining membrane, so that death is inevitable. The very root of the absorbent system is destroyed. But great as the destruction is upon the gastro-hepatic system, I have seen again and again the patient fall from the rending of the brain by the excessive forcing of the circulation, before the disorganization of the liver had gone to the point of producing dropsy, which is the usual precursor of death." Speaking of the post mortem examination of the body of a drinker, he says, " He died of sanguineous apoplexy. His liver was gibbous at the extremity, completely rounded, white within, and its peculiar structure very much obliterated. The artery of the dura mater, or outer membrane of the brain, was blood-shot. He died of injury of the brain from alcohol." He also stated, "That cases of disorganization from the abuse of fermented liquor, with every other variety of disorder, and also demoralization of mind, resulting from the same cause, had frequently come before him as a consulting physician." He asserted, that by demoralizing the mind, it led "to pauperism, riots, murders, suicide." He says, that "diluted spirit destroys as effectually, although more slowly than the undiluted, and therefore, that the addition of water does not make any change in the property of distilled spirit." Again," Alcohol destroys the lacteal absorbent surface, and the lymphatic absorbents take up the more, and the man begins to waste, in such a case, immediately." He adds, that "spirits destroy life by the destruction of the balance of circulation, by excitement, and subsequent collapse, or the disorganization resulting on the reaction therefrom." He affirms, that "cholera was more fatal to drunkards than to others,” and also that "fewer recovered under treatment by the diffusible stimulants of alcohol and opium, than by a milder and more discreet treatment.” He mentions an instance of post mortem examination of a person who died from mania, produced by alcohol, in which he says, "the brain, to use a strong expression, may be said to have sweated blood, and the case decided a disputed point in anatomy, whether or no the dura mater, or living membrane of the skull, and the investing membrane of the brain, consisted of two layers, for in this instance
the blood was effused between these two layers and formed a distinct lamina of blood between them, marking the extreme point to which the circulation was forced." As confirmatory of his statements, the Doctor instanced the case of a " woman who died of jaundice and disorganized liver from drinking a quart of malt liquor daily while living a sedentary life ;" and of “a farmer, of a most vigorous constitution, who was blind, and injured in other important functions, at the age of forty-two, in consequence of ale-drinking." All medical men seem to be agreed on the sentiment which Doctor Dods advanced in another place, that "diseases of the brain, of the liver, of the heart and blood-vessels, of the kidneys, of the stomach, of the pancreas, of the bladder, of the skin; that apoplexy, insanity, mental delusions, delirium tremens and spontaneous combustion, all spring from the use of alcoholic drinks." "Mental dejection, morbid irritability, ungovernable passion, frightful delusions, confirmed insanity, aneurism, and the perpetration of the foulest crimes, as duelling, murder, suicide, &c.," the same physician attributes to strong drinks as their origin. Children also are said to be stunted in their growth, and often unhealthy all their days, or perhaps sent to their grave in infancy in consequence of the diseased constitution which they have inherited from drinking parents, or from having alcohol, in some form or other, early administered to them. In cases of disease, also, it is allowed by all parties, that the profoundest skill of the physician is often entirely counteracted by the folly of nurses and others, who most indiscreetly administer these stimulants to the sick.
The reader by this time must be satiated, or we could multiply medical opinions and testimonies to almost any extent, and all agreeing in the statement, that all the diseases which we have mentioned, and a great many more, are produced and cherished by the use of these intoxicating beverages.
The examples already given, show us that alcohol, whether diluted or not, is a poison, and that belonging to the class, diffusible stimuli, it circulates through the whole frame. Mr. Higginbotham, an experienced surgeon in Nottingham, informs us that," unchanged in its property, it passes through the brain, lungs, heart, liver, and every organ of the body, through every
muscle, and bone; every part of the system is washed with it, and no part wants it." Dr. Beaumont has shown from his experiments on the stomach of St. Martin, that all the fluids that enter the stomach are immediately absorbed.
It seems that the stomach is only capable of digesting what is solid, and therefore it always dismisses every fluid before it can commence the important labor of digestion. When milk was taken, Dr. Beaumont found, on looking into St. Martin's stomach that it was immediately changed into curd, the solid parts were detained and digested, while the whey, or liquid part, was instantly absorbed by the venous capillaries which open upon the surface of the stomach that they may carry away the fluids, and thus remove them from an where they are not wanted, and in which they would injure digestion.
It is now a well known fact, that the gastric juice is the only fluid employed in digesting our food. This is produced by nature in a pure state, and in the exact quantity needed to chyme the food. To dilute this most marvellous fluid, would be to injure it, and therefore the liquids, whatever may be the kind we may drink with our meals, must be removed out of the way before digestion can go on. Hence alcohol, which is thinner and lighter than water, is at once taken up by the venous absorbent capillaries and circulated through our frame.* It has been found in the blood and the brain, and has, in such circumstances, actually ignited on light being applied to it. If conveyed into the stomach in connection with any nutritious matter, as in the case of beer or wine, in which we shall hereafter show there is a very small portion of nutriment indeed, the substantial part is left in the stomach, while the alcohol is circulated through the frame. But as it is an acrid, fiery poison, it irritates and stimulates the whole system. In an instant it affects the nerves, and through them the brain; it moves the heart and pulse with an unnatural rapidity, and communicates its fire to the very extremities of bodies. Who has not felt his head in one moment affected by a mere taste, yea, by the smell of a small quantity of wine, or his feet warmed in an instant by a glass of gin! * Dr. Combe on Digestion, &c., 78, 79.
Now we have in these instances examples or proofs that this pestilential drug paces through the length and breadth of our constitution. It leaves no part unvisited, unstimulated, or uninjured. We may apply to it the words of Shakspeare,
"The leprous distilment, whose effect
Holds such enmity with the blood of man,
We have good evidence that it leaves no part, which it visits, as sound as it found it. We may tell the reader who has not Lep rd of the circumstances, that St. Martin, to whom we have before alluded, was a young Canadian, who was shot across the stomach. The ball took off a portion of one of his ribs, a part of his liver, and left an orifice which never closed. Dr. Beaumont, who was attached to the army as surgeon, undertook to cure him. The wound healed, but the hole in his stomach remained, so that it was necessary to bind on it a little pad to prevent his food from coming out. After the cure he went home and married. But Dr. Beaumont, considering that such an opportunity for investigating the mysterious process of digestion might not again occur, sent for him, and kept him between two and three years under his roof. The result of his observations are most valuable; so much so, that we cannot but believe that Providence intended the event for the good of the human family.
Now, among the experiments which Dr. Beaumont made, one was to discover the effects of fermented liquors on the organs of digestion, and he found that when St. Martin drank these," the mucous membrane of the stomach was covered with inflammatory and ulcerous patches, the secretions were vitiated, and the gastric juice diminished in quantity, and of an unnatural viscidity, and yet he described himself as perfectly well, and complained of nothing. Two days subsequent to this, the inner membrane of the stomach was unusually morbid, the inflammatory appearance more extensive, the spots more livid than usual;