Notes on the physiological action and pathological effects of ethylic alcohol on the human body
Nuttall, Thomas Edward
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One of the most startling phenomena of our time is the indifference manifested by civilized races to the ravages wrought by the immoderate use of alcohol.Norman Kerr calculates that in the United Kingdom alone one hundred and twenty thousand deaths are caused, directly and indirectly, each year by the abuse of this beverage. Theme figures lead to the conclusion, that in the United Kingdom alcohol is responsible for more deaths than any single disease; a conclusion calculated to arrest the attention and excite the interest of any medical man. And when, as District Medical Officer, in a manufacturing town, one is brought into daily contact with the strikingly diminished mental power, the impairment of physique, the shattered constitutions, impoverished homes, and blighted human lives consequent upon excessive indulgence in alcohol, one is naturally led to enquire into the nature of a substance prone to work such direful effects and to seek definite information respecting its action upon the functions and tissues of the human body.The effects of alcohol,as commonly seen, are really the effects of the various alcoholic beverages - brandy, gin, beer, wines etc. And the question arises, is one justified in assuming that the physiological action and pathological effects of these beverages are due solely to the ethylic alcohol found in notable quantity in all of them? Or are they due, in considerable part to one or more of the many other substances contained therein?In favour of the latter view Dr William Ewart says:- " Pure ethylic alcohol intoxication is seldom witnessed; it is usually modified by the ethers of wine, by the higher alcohols of spirits, and by the special ingredients in other alcoholic drinks ". Or again : -" The convulsive element which sometimes complicates intoxication by spirits, is the most obvious instance of mixed intoxication ". Further, : -" The deleterious effects, both acute and chronic, of the malt liquors are also instances of a mixed intoxication varying with their constituents."In favour of the view that ethylic alcohol is almost solely responsible for the harmful effects produced by alcoholic beverages, Prof. J. J. Abel in a statement of the relative toxicity of the constituents of alcoholic beverages,mentions a number of experiments which seem to prove that the furfurol, higher alcohols,and ethers are found in such slight quantities in any, specimen say of rum, whisky, or wines, that they could not possibly produce any marked effect even though they are admittedly much more poisonous than ethylic alcohol.