How Alcohol Causes Mental And Moral Changes


The transforming power or​ ​alcohol​ is​ marvelous,​ and often appalling. it​ seems to​ open a​ way of​ entrance into the​ soul for all classes of​ foolish,​ insane or​ malignant spirits,​ who,​ so long as​ it​ remains in​ contact with the​ brain,​ are able to​ hold possession. Men of​ the​ kindest nature when sober,​ act often like fiends when drunk. Crimes and outrages are committed,​ which shock and shame the​ perpetrators when the​ excitement of​ inebriation has passed away. Referring to​ this subject,​ Dr. Henry Munroe says
It appears from the​ experience of​ Mr. Fletcher,​ who has paid much attention to​ the​ cases of​ drunkards,​ from the​ remarks of​ Mr. Dunn,​ in​ his Medical Psychology,​ and from observations of​ my own,​ that there is​ some analogy between our physical and psychical natures; for,​ as​ the​ physical part of​ us,​ when its power is​ at​ a​ low ebb,​ becomes susceptible of​ morbid influences which,​ in​ full vigor,​ would pass over it​ without effect,​ so when the​ psychical synonymous with the​ moral part of​ the​ brain has its healthy function disturbed and deranged by the​ introduction of​ a​ morbid poison like alcohol,​ the​ individual so circumstanced sinks in​ depravity,​ and becomes the​ helpless subject of​ the​ forces of​ evil,​ which are powerless against a​ nature free from the​ morbid influences of​ alcohol.
Different persons are affected in​ different ways by the​ same poison. Indulgence in​ alcoholic drinks may act upon one or​ more of​ the​ cerebral organs; and,​ as​ its necessary consequence,​ the​ manifestations of​ functional disturbance will follow in​ such of​ the​ mental powers as​ these organs subserve. if​ the​ indulgence be continued,​ then,​ either from deranged nutrition or​ organic lesion,​ manifestations formerly developed only during a​ fit of​ intoxication may become permanent ,​ and terminate in​ insanity or​ dypsomania. M. Flourens first pointed out the​ fact that certain morbific agents,​ when introduced into the​ current of​ the​ circulation,​ tend to​ act primarily and specially on​ one nervous centre in​ preference to​ that of​ another,​ by virtue of​ some special elective affinity between such morbific agents and certain ganglia. Thus,​ in​ the​ tottering gait of​ the​ tipsy man,​ we see the​ influence of​ ​alcohol​ upon the​ functions of​ the​ cerebellum in​ the​ impairment of​ its power of​ coordinating the​ muscles.
Certain writers on​ diseases of​ the​ mind make especial allusion to​ that form of​ insanity termed dypsomania,​ in​ which a​ person has an unquenchable thirst for alcoholic drinks a​ tendency as​ decidedly maniacal as​ that of​ homicidal mania ; or​ the​ uncontrollable desire to​ burn,​ termed pyromania ; or​ to​ steal,​ called kleptomania.
Homicidal mania.

The different tendencies of​ homicidal mania in​ different individuals are often only nursed into action when the​ current of​ the​ blood has been poisoned with alcohol. I ​ had a​ case of​ a​ person who,​ whenever his brain was so excited,​ told me that he experienced a​ most uncontrollable desire to​ kill or​ injure some one; so much so,​ that he could at​ times hardly restrain himself from the​ action,​ and was obliged to​ refrain from all stimulants,​ lest,​ in​ an unlucky moment,​ he might commit himself. Townley,​ who murdered the​ young lady of​ his affections,​ for which he was sentenced to​ be imprisoned in​ a​ lunatic asylum for life,​ poisoned his brain with brandy and sodawater before he committed the​ rash act. the​ brandy stimulated into action certain portions of​ the​ brain,​ which acquired such a​ power as​ to​ subjugate his will,​ and hurry him to​ the​ performance of​ a​ frightful deed,​ opposed alike to​ his better judgment and his ordinary desires.
As to​ pyromania ,​ some years ago I ​ knew a​ laboring man in​ a​ country village,​ who,​ whenever he had had a​ few glasses of​ ale at​ the​ publichouse,​ would chuckle with delight at​ the​ thought of​ firing certain gentlemens stacks. Yet,​ when his brain was free from the​ poison,​ a​ quieter,​ betterdisposed man could not be. Unfortunately,​ he became addicted to​ habits of​ intoxication; and,​ one night,​ under alcoholic excitement,​ fired some stacks belonging to​ his employers,​ for which,​ he was sentenced for fifteen years to​ a​ penal settlement,​ where his brain would never again be alcoholically excited.

Next,​ I ​ will give an example of​ kleptomania . I ​ knew,​ many years ago,​ a​ very clever,​ industrious and talented young man,​ who told me that whenever he had been drinking,​ he could hardly withstand,​ the​ temptation of​ stealing anything that came in​ his way; but that these feelings never troubled him at​ other times. One afternoon,​ after he had been indulging with his fellowworkmen in​ drink,​ his will,​ unfortunately,​ was overpowered,​ and he took from the​ mansion where he was working some articles of​ worth,​ for which he was accused,​ and afterwards sentenced to​ a​ term of​ imprisonment. When set at​ liberty he had the​ good fortune to​ be placed among some kindhearted persons,​ vulgarly called teetotallers ; and,​ from conscientious motives,​ signed the​ PLEDGE,​ now above twenty years ago. From that time to​ the​ present moment he has never experienced the​ overmastering desire which so often beset him in​ his drinking days to​ take that which was not his own. Moreover,​ no pretext on​ earth could now entice him to​ taste of​ any liquor containing alcohol,​ feeling that,​ under its influence,​ he might again fall its victim. He holds an influential position in​ the​ town where he resides.
I have known some ladies of​ good position in​ society,​ who,​ after a​ dinner or​ supperparty,​ and after having taken sundry glasses of​ wine,​ could not withstand the​ temptation of​ taking home any little article not their own,​ when the​ opportunity offered; and who,​ in​ their sober moments,​ have returned them,​ as​ if​ taken by mistake. We have many instances recorded in​ our police reports of​ gentlemen of​ position,​ under the​ influence of​ drink,​ committing thefts of​ the​ most paltry articles,​ afterwards returned to​ the​ owners by their friends,​ which can only be accounted for,​ psychologically,​ by the​ fact that the​ will had been for the​ time completely overpowered by the​ subtle influence of​ alcohol.
Loss of​ mental clearness.

Alcohol,​ whether taken in​ large or​ small doses,​ immediately disturbs the​ natural functions of​ the​ mind and body,​ is​ now conceded by the​ most eminent physiologists. Dr. Brinton says Mental acuteness,​ accuracy of​ conception,​ and delicacy of​ the​ senses,​ are all so far opposed by the​ action of​ alcohol,​ as​ that the​ maximum efforts of​ each are incompatible with the​ ingestion of​ any moderate quantity of​ fermented liquid. Indeed,​ there is​ scarcely any calling which demands skillful and exact effort of​ mind and body,​ or​ which requires the​ balanced exercise of​ many faculties,​ that does not illustrate this rule. the​ mathematician,​ the​ gambler,​ the​ metaphysician,​ the​ billiardplayer,​ the​ author,​ the​ artist,​ the​ physician,​ would,​ if​ they could analyze their experience aright,​ generally concur in​ the​ statement,​ that a​ single glass will often suffice to​ take ,​ so to​ speak,​ the​ edge off both mind and body ,​ and to​ reduce their capacity to​ something below what is​ relatively their perfection of​ work.
A train was driven carelessly into one of​ the​ principal London stations,​ running into another train,​ killing,​ by the​ collision,​ six or​ seven persons,​ and injuring many others. From the​ evidence at​ the​ inquest,​ it​ appeared that the​ guard was reckoned sober,​ only he had had two glasses of​ ale with a​ friend at​ a​ previous station. Now,​ reasoning psychologically,​ these two glasses of​ ale had probably been instrumental in​ taking off the​ edge from his perceptions and prudence,​ and producing a​ carelessness or​ boldness of​ action which would not have occurred under the​ cooling,​ temperate influence of​ a​ beverage free from alcohol. Many persons have admitted to​ me that they were not the​ same after taking even one glass of​ ale or​ wine that they were before,​ and could not thoroughly trust themselves after they had taken this single glass.
Impairment of​ memory.

An impairment of​ the​ memory is​ among the​ early symptoms of​ alcoholic derangement.
This,​ says Dr. Richardson,​ extends even to​ forgetfulness of​ the​ commonest things; to​ names of​ familiar persons,​ to​ dates,​ to​ duties of​ daily life. Strangely,​ too,​ he adds,​ this failure,​ like that which indicates,​ in​ the​ aged,​ the​ era of​ second childishness and mere oblivion,​ does not extend to​ the​ things of​ the​ past,​ but is​ confined to​ events that are passing. on​ old memories the​ mind retains its power; on​ new ones it​ requires constant prompting and sustainment.
In this failure of​ memory nature gives a​ solemn warning that imminent peril is​ at​ hand. Well for the​ habitual drinker if​ he heed the​ warning. Should he not do so,​ symptoms of​ a​ more serious character will,​ in​ time,​ develop themselves,​ as​ the​ brain becomes more and more diseased,​ ending,​ it​ may be,​ in​ permanent insanity.
Mental and moral diseases.

Of the​ mental and moral diseases which too often follow the​ regular drinking of​ alcohol,​ we have painful records in​ asylum reports,​ in​ medical testimony and in​ our daily observation and experience. These are so full and varied,​ and thrust so constantly on​ our attention,​ that the​ wonder is​ that men are not afraid to​ run the​ terrible risks involved even in​ what is​ called the​ moderate use of​ alcoholic beverages.
In 1872,​ a​ select committee of​ the​ House of​ Commons,​ appointed to​ consider the​ best plan for the​ control and management of​ habitual drunkards,​ called upon some of​ the​ most eminent medical men in​ Great Britain to​ give their testimony in​ answer to​ a​ large number of​ questions,​ embracing every topic within the​ range of​ inquiry,​ from the​ pathology of​ inebriation to​ the​ practical usefulness of​ prohibitory laws. in​ this testimony much was said about the​ effect of​ alcoholic stimulation on​ the​ mental condition and moral character. One physician,​ Dr. James Crichton Brown,​ who,​ in​ ten years experience as​ superintendent of​ lunatic asylums,​ has paid special attention to​ the​ relations of​ habitual drunkenness to​ insanity,​ having carefully examined five hundred cases,​ testified that alcohol,​ taken in​ excess,​ produced different forms of​ mental disease,​ of​ which he mentioned four classes 1. Mania a​ potu ,​ or​ alcoholic mania. 2. the​ monomania of​ suspicion. 3. Chronic alcoholism,​ characterized by failure of​ the​ memory and power of​ judgment,​ with partial paralysis generally ending fatally. 4. Dypsomania,​ or​ an irresistible craving for alcoholic stimulants,​ occuring very frequently,​ paroxysmally,​ and with constant liability to​ periodical exacerbations,​ when the​ craving becomes altogether uncontrollable. of​ this latter form of​ disease,​ he says This is​ invariably associated with a​ certain impairment of​ the​ intellect,​ and of​ the​ affections and the​ moral powers .
Dr. Alexander Peddie,​ a​ physician of​ over thirtyseven years practice in​ Edinburgh,​ gave,​ in​ his evidence,​ many remarkable instances of​ the​ moral perversions that followed continued drinking.
Relation between insanity and drunkenness.

Dr. John Nugent said that his experience of​ twentysix years among lunatics,​ led him to​ believe that there is​ a​ very close relation between the​ results of​ the​ abuse of​ ​alcohol​ and insanity. the​ population of​ Ireland had decreased,​ he said,​ two millions in​ twentyfive years,​ but there was the​ same amount of​ insanity now that there was before. He attributed this,​ in​ a​ great measure,​ to​ indulgence in​ drink.
Dr. Arthur Mitchell,​ Commissioner of​ Lunacy for Scotland,​ testified that the​ excessive use of​ ​alcohol​ caused a​ large amount of​ the​ lunacy,​ crime and pauperism of​ that country. in​ some men,​ he said,​ habitual drinking leads to​ other diseases than insanity,​ because the​ effect is​ always in​ the​ direction of​ the​ proclivity,​ but it​ is​ certain that there are many in​ whom there is​ a​ clear proclivity to​ insanity,​ who would escape that dreadful consummation but for drinking; excessive drinking in​ many persons determining the​ insanity to​ which they are,​ at​ any rate,​ predisposed . the​ children of​ drunkards,​ he further said,​ are in​ a​ larger proportion idiotic than other children,​ and in​ a​ larger proportion become themselves drunkards; they are also in​ a​ larger proportion liable to​ the​ ordinary forms of​ acquired insanity.
Dr. Winslow Forbes believed that in​ the​ habitual drunkard the​ whole nervous structure,​ and the​ brain especially,​ became poisoned by alcohol. All the​ mental symptoms which you​ see accompanying ordinary intoxication,​ he remarks,​ result from the​ poisonous effects of​ ​alcohol​ on​ the​ brain. it​ is​ the​ brain which is​ mainly effected. in​ temporary drunkenness,​ the​ brain becomes in​ an abnormal state of​ alimentation,​ and if​ this habit is​ persisted in​ for years,​ the​ nervous tissue itself becomes permeated with alcohol,​ and organic changes take place in​ the​ nervous tissues of​ the​ brain,​ producing that frightful and dreadful chronic insanity which we see in​ lunatic asylums,​ traceable entirely to​ habits of​ intoxication . a​ large percentage of​ frightful mental and brain disturbances can,​ he declared,​ be traced to​ the​ drunkenness of​ parents.
Dr. D. G. Dodge,​ late of​ the​ New York State Inebriate Asylum,​ who,​ with. Dr. Joseph Parrish,​ gave testimony before the​ committee of​ the​ House of​ Commons,​ said,​ in​ one of​ his answers With the​ excessive use of​ alcohol,​ functional disorder will invariably appear,​ and no organ will be more seriously affected,​ and possibly impaired,​ than the​ brain. This is​ shown in​ the​ inebriate by a​ weakened intellect,​ a​ general debility of​ the​ mental faculties ,​ a​ partial or​ total loss of​ selfrespect,​ and a​ departure of​ the​ power of​ selfcommand; all of​ which,​ acting together,​ place the​ victim at​ the​ mercy of​ a​ depraved and morbid appetite,​ and make him utterly powerless,​ by his own unaided efforts,​ to​ secure his recovery from the​ disease which is​ destroying him. And he adds I ​ am of​ opinion that there is​ a​ great similarity between inebriety and insanity.
I am decidedly of​ opinion that the​ former has taken its place in​ the​ family of​ diseases as​ prominently as​ its twinbrother insanity; and,​ in​ my opinion,​ the​ day is​ not far distant when the​ pathology of​ the​ former will be as​ fully understood and as​ successfully treated as​ the​ latter,​ and even more successfully,​ since it​ is​ more within the​ reach and bounds of​ human control,​ which,​ wisely exercised and scientifically administered,​ may prevent curable inebriation from verging into possible incurable insanity.
General impairment of​ the​ faculties.

Dr. Richardson,​ speaking of​ the​ action of​ ​alcohol​ on​ the​ mind,​ gives the​ following sad picture of​ its ravages
An analysis of​ the​ condition of​ the​ mind induced and maintained by the​ free daily use of​ ​alcohol​ as​ a​ drink,​ reveals a​ singular order of​ facts. the​ manifestation fails altogether to​ reveal the​ exaltation of​ any reasoning power in​ a​ useful or​ satisfactory direction. I ​ have never met with an instance in​ which such a​ claim for ​alcohol​ has been made. on​ the​ contrary,​ confirmed alcoholics constantly say that for this or​ that work,​ requiring thought and attention,​ it​ is​ necessary to​ forego some of​ the​ usual potations in​ order to​ have a​ cool head for hard work.
On the​ other side,​ the​ experience is​ overwhelmingly in​ favor of​ the​ observation that the​ use of​ ​alcohol​ sells the​ reasoning powers,​ make weak men and women the​ easy prey of​ the​ wicked and strong,​ and leads men and women who should know better into every grade of​ misery and vice. If,​ then,​ ​alcohol​ enfeebles the​ reason,​ what part of​ the​ mental constitution does it​ exalt and excite? it​ excites and exalts those animal,​ organic,​ emotional centres of​ mind which,​ in​ the​ dual nature of​ man,​ so often cross and oppose that pure and abstract reasoning nature which lifts man above the​ lower animals,​ and rightly exercised,​ little lower than the​ angels.
It excites mans worst passions.

Exciting these animal centres,​ it​ lets loose all the​ passions,​ and gives them more or​ less of​ unlicensed dominion over the​ man. it​ excites anger,​ and when it​ does not lead to​ this extreme,​ it​ keeps the​ mind fretful,​ irritable,​ dissatisfied and captious. . . . And if​ I ​ were to​ take you​ through all the​ passions,​ love,​ hate,​ lust,​ envy,​ avarice and pride,​ I ​ should but show you​ that ​alcohol​ ministers to​ them all; that,​ paralyzing the​ reason,​ it​ takes from off these passions that fine adjustment of​ reason,​ which places man above the​ lower animals. From the​ beginning to​ the​ end of​ its influence it​ subdues reason and sets the​ passions free. the​ analogies,​ physical and mental,​ are perfect. That which loosens the​ tension of​ the​ vessels which feed the​ body with due order and precision,​ and,​ thereby,​ lets loose the​ heart to​ violent excess and unbridled motion,​ loosens,​ also,​ the​ reason and lets loose the​ passion. in​ both instances,​ heart and head are,​ for a​ time,​ out of​ harmony; their balance broken. the​ man descends closer and closer to​ the​ lower animals. From the​ angels he glides farther and farther away.
A sad and terrible picture.

The destructive effects of​ ​alcohol​ on​ the​ human mind present,​ finally,​ the​ saddest picture of​ its influence. the​ most aesthetic artist can find no angel here. All is​ animal,​ and animal of​ the​ worst type. Memory irretrievably lost,​ words and very elements of​ speech forgotten or​ words displaced to​ have no meaning in​ them. Rage and anger persistent and mischievous,​ or​ remittent and impotent. Fear at​ every corner of​ life,​ distrust on​ every side,​ grief merged into blank despair,​ hopelessness into permanent melancholy. Surely no Pandemonium that ever poet dreamt of​ could equal that which would exist if​ all the​ drunkards of​ the​ world were driven into one mortal sphere.
As I ​ have moved among those who are physically stricken with alcohol,​ and have detected under the​ various disguises of​ name the​ fatal diseases,​ the​ pains and penalties it​ imposes on​ the​ body,​ the​ picture has been sufficiently cruel. But even that picture pales,​ as​ I ​ conjure up,​ without any stretch of​ imagination,​ the​ devastations which the​ same agent inflicts on​ the​ mind. Forty per cent. ,​ the​ learned Superintendent of​ Colney Hatch,​ Dr. Sheppard,​ tells us,​ of​ those who were brought into that asylum in​ 1876,​ were so brought because of​ the​ direct or​ indirect effects of​ alcohol. if​ the​ facts of​ all the​ asylums were collected with equal care,​ the​ same tale would,​ I ​ fear,​ be told. What need we further to​ show the​ destructive action on​ the​ human mind? the​ Pandemonium of​ drunkards; the​ grand transformation scene of​ that pantomime of​ drink which commences with,​ moderation! Let it​ never more be forgotten by those who love their fellowmen until,​ through their efforts,​ it​ is​ closed forever.

How Alcohol Causes Mental And Moral Changes

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