SPHERE OF ACTION
Alcohol especially selects the cerebro-spinal nervous system for its. GRAND centre of action.On the brain, it first produces excitement; jovial, sympathetic, and sometimes indiscreet; confusion of thought; various mental affection, varying with individual character; some become sentimental and affectionate, but the majority become quarrelsome, and some murderous in their ferocity. Some become depressed and sad, and sit quietly by themselves. The imagination and lower impulses predominate. The symptoms are followed by drowsiness and sometimes profound coma.
After this state of somnolency, there are vertigo, headache, stupidity, nausea and vomiting. In some cases the stupor is followed by great cerebral excitement, the face becomes flushed; eyes injected, great restlessness; violent delirium; pulse accelerated, with fever of a typhoid character. In other cases, it develops a tendency to congestive apoplexy; the coma soon becomes profound; face livid or ghastly pale; pupils contracted, more generally dilated; breathing stertorous, and death takes place in a few hours.
Pathological Changes.- The scalp and membranes of the brain are congested, serous effusion occurs under the arachnoid, the substance of the brain is usually white and firm, the ventricles generally empty. The peculiar firmness of the brain was noticed several times, even when decomposition of the rest of the body had made considerable advance. Typhus fever is the only disease, save induration of the brain, in which a like firmness is often observed. The cerebrum and cerebellum both becomes indurated, and sometimes softened. The cerebral arteries are in a state of fatty degeneration. Nerves of Motion-Are especially affected, as seen in the stammering speech, staggering gait, diminished strength, from relaxation of the muscular system, trembling of the hand and arms, trembling motion of the muscles under the skin, and partial paralysis.
Nerves of Sensation.-There is hyperaesthesia, or anaesthesia; has to move the limbs constantly, from a great feeling of restlessness; formication under the skin, and drawing piercing pains.
Great Sympathetic Nervous System.- The chronic effects of alcohol upon this part of the nervous system, are not fully know; I believe its action to be merely sympathetic, from its action upon the cerebro-spinal system; the changes as noted in books are mostly due to the various drugs it has been adulterated with, but it will do no harm to note them. They are evinced more by the alterations in structure and functions of the various organs of the chest, abdomen and pelvis than by any particular sensations, more rapid digestion, peristaltic action of the bowels, increased secretions, fatty degeneration of the heart and liver, which sometimes are much enlarged; the omentum and mesentery become loaded with fat. The stomach becomes congested and greatly wrinkled, as if a powerful astringent had been taken; in some the mucous membranes is perfectly white and thickened; in others it becomes softened and covered with a muco-purulent secretion. The appetite is at first increased, but becomes in a short time less and less in proportion as the taste for drink increases. The tongue becomes furrowed from the median line toward the edges, and looks as if varnished. In the morning the throat seems filled with mucus, and gradually it becomes more and more difficult to clear, and the victim has nausea and vomiting every morning, with a long train of dyspeptic symptoms, in some cases the bowels become much irritated, and there is colic, acidity, flatulence, constipation, or alternate constipation and diarrhoea.
The kidneys become more or less congested, the pelvis and uterus are generally in a chronic slate-gray inflammation.
The skin at first is soft and velvety, but gradually changes and becomes dry, dirty, rigid or yellowish gray, and there are more or less prurigo, eczema, & c.
The blood becomes fluid and venous, and the proportion of carbon and hydrogen is much increased contains much albumen and fat, but little fibrin, which accounts for its non-coagulability; the blood globules are diminished.
Tweedie says: I. It sometimes happens that when a patient in fever has been going on favorably, the pulse becomes suddenly soft and compressible, the skin cool and damp, accompanied by a feeling of considerable exhaustion; with these symptoms, there need be little hesitation in allowing six or eight ounces of wine in twenty-four hours, at proper intervals.II. When the symptoms denoting sensorial disturbance, languor, low muttering delirium, tremor or subsultus, progressively increase, if at the same time the patient lose his strength from day to day, the pulse soft and skin cool.
III. When the fever assumes the petechial character, more especially if the spots be large and of a dark livid hue.
IV. In cases of sudden and unexpected collapse.
Coma with stertorous breathing.
Melancholy, with inclination to suicide.-P.
Mania, with inclination to murder.-P.
Mania, with inclination to incendiarism.-P.
Mania with excessive inclination to drink.-P.
Eyes congested (bloodshot).
Hallucination of sight, sees double; or thinks he sees a variety of objects, men, animals, snakes, good or bad spirits, angles, or demons. This shows that alcohol profoundly affects that portion of the brain that gives origin to the optic nerve.
Hallucination of smell, imagines the devil has defiled his bed, and that it smells as the devil is supposed to.
Great dryness of the mouth.
Hallucination of taste.
Throat seems full of mucus, which is hawked up with difficulty.
Morning nausea and vomiting.
Gagging and vomiting of sour offensive matter.
Loss of appetite.
Difficult digestion, with colic and flatus.
constipation or alternation of constipation and diarrhoea.- See Nux vomica.
Adiposis and venosis, fatty state of the heart, and adiposis in general, in gouty and rheumatic subjects.
Dr. Peters thinks it is more or less antagonistic to tuberculosis; in cases where there is great emaciation, it may supply the fat; it only aids in developing adipose never muscular tissue.
Alcohol as a remedy and as a nutritious substance. It especially arrests destructive assimilation, so that for a certain period, during the stay of Alcohol in the system, less urea, less phosphates, less water are excreted by the kidneys; less carbonic acid by the lungs, and less digestion goes on in the alimentary canal, showing that the muscles, bones, nerves, &c., are not getting rid of their effete tissue, but retaining it and making use of it as far as possible.
But at the same time, they give rise in the body to defensive reaction, which is prominent first, immediately after taking the dose, and then gives place to the special action, and on this ceasing, is again manifested to a greater extent.
So that if a suitable quantity be taken, and both action and reaction are allowed to exhaust themselves before the dose be repeated, there will be a positive gain in vitality; but, if such a large quantity be taken that the reaction in overpowered, or if the manifestation of life is kept down by continuous repetition of the dose, the body is not renewed, because its effete particles are not removed, and the amount of vitality must certainly be reckoned at a loss.
A distinguished politician, who suffered from the effect of habitual intoxication thus describes it.
In that world of all that is high and noble, the human heart; that consecrated temple of glorious hopes and generous purposes, and godlike aspirations and countless joys, known only to the heart of man, the alcoholic poison breaks up the fountains of the great deep of human passion, and converts the mind into a wild distorted receptacle of passions, lashed into monstrous and phantom forms, by flames which distil the fountains of human love and charity, and chastity and kindness, into the red lava of hell’s worst hate.
And that bright principle of the human intellect, which comprehends the laws that govern the universe and our own mysterious being, instead of being blotted out in darkness, is transformed into the wild architect of a world distorted and ideal, peopled with fiends, such as perverted minds alone can conceive, and fraught with sufferings, and agonies, for which breathing nature furnishes no type or parallel.