( Originally Published 1923 )
IT is a well-known fact that alcoholic beverages in large amounts are deleterious to all men. There are many persons, too, who are unable to take them even in small amounts without injury to their health. But if anybody should claim that small quantities of an alcoholic beverage, such as beer or wine, are harmful to all adults, he would certainly be making a statement that could not be supported by any argument of scientific value, so far as I know.
If there are still some who maintain the view that wine or beer, even in small, limited quantities, are deleterious to the health of all adults, I would acknowledge their praiseworthy endeavor to combat the scourge of alcohol, but perhaps not their good faith as regards the truth of their pretention if they were well up in physiology, pharmacology, and experimental pathology. I could not follow them as far as that, for they would be exceeding the limits of reason, and instead of helping the good cause, would rather harm it by statements and opinions that are contrary to truth and to common sense.
It seems absurd to me that because there are men who can never drink a glass of wine or take a drop of whisky without emptying the whole bottle, all those should be punished who are able to be moderate in their use of these beverages, and that on account of the sins of the others they should not be allowed to enjoy a little wine, a glass of beer, or a drop of whisky as recreation after a hard day's toil.
Where is the due sense of wise moderation in those who are fighting alcoholism? If a person is combating immoderation, the very least I should expect from him would be that he should himself be moderate in his actions and not fall into the same error that he is combating by showing immoderation and fanaticism in pursuing his ends. For by such fanaticism he would show himself possessed of the mental deficiency of all fanatics, lack of judgment, and this would certainly not be of a nature to carry conviction to those who are to be converted and brought back to the path of virtue. What we must do is to convince by arguments and reasoning those who err.
I believe I can speak impartially on the question of alcohol, for I may call to witness my many friends in America and England that I do not drink any alcoholic beverage and never had drinking habits. I never turned Paul from having been Saul, which certainly cannot be said to apply to all those who are now bitterly fighting alcoholism. How human it is to hate what we once loved ! When we have professed the greatest affection or liking for a person or thing, and when for some reason or other the friendship or liking ends, and we become enemies, then our hatred grows just as great as our friendship had been before. Those who are converted to a new religion are very apt to be-come fanatics in it.
While I do not drink, I do not claim this as one of my virtues. I do not drink because I know I differ in this peculiarity from other men alcoholic beverages have never been pleasing to my palate, and, heaven be praised, I never feel the necessity of stimulants !
I feel I must adhere to the actual, simple truth if I want the large congregation of healthseekers to lend their ears willingly to my teachings, and I am fully aware of the fact that I dare not make myself guilty of any exaggeration if I want to convince!
Now it would really be an exaggeration if I should maintain that alcohol is harmful even in small quantities to adults. That it is extremely dangerous to children in small quantities and impairs their capacity for learning and their intellect in general is a fact upon which I have already laid stress in my book on "Building Human Intelligence."
But that alcohol in small quantities is not dangerous to grown up persons is a fact referred to in every manual on pharmacology, wherein it is like-wise stated that in small doses it is a useful tonic to the heart, and thus a serviceable medicine. Of course it is not well to use drugs daily; hence it would not be wise to take daily such a dose of wine or whisky, for instance, as would increase the pulse rate, cause the heart to beat more strongly, and in-duce a sensation of heat.
For daily use, if one does not prefer in the interest of longevity to entirely renounce alcoholic beverages, two small glasses of wine of low alcohol content, or a glass of beer, is enough. It would not become one preaching moderation to recommend more than that amount. It is better still, of course, if people can be so brought up from childhood that they will not feel the need of such stimulants.
For children every drop of alcohol is a real crime, and should be severely punished by law. But it would certainly be advisable, too, that grown up people should consider alcohol rather as a kind of occasional medicine. With alcohol it is as with all other drugs and medicine; if you take much of it, it will turn into a poison. It excites undue activity of certain glands, the ductless or endocrin glands, i.e., the thyroid, liver, kidneys, adrenals, pituitary body, and the sexual glands, and thus contributes to their degeneration.
The great importance of these glands which, after the brain, heart, and lungs, are the most important organs of the body, has been described in a masterly way by an American savant, Dr. Charles E. de M. Sajous, of Philadelphia, in his classical work on "Internal Secretions," the first book on this subject to be contributed to the medical literature in the entire world.
The first organ to suffer from alcohol is the liver, to which it is conveyed directly from the intestinal tract. Among the duties of this organ is that of ridding our body of the different poisons that are brought to it with the blood from the digestive organs and which we introduce into our body with food and drink. The alcohol thus carried to the liver induces inflammation of its tissues, and in the long run may bring about the destruction of this most important organ.
Further, an accumulation of large quantities of water in the abdominal cavity, ascites, may take place, so that the abdomen becomes distended like a barrel. The drunkard, as punishment for the pleasures he has derived from tapping a barrel, is thus condemned by the vengeful hand of Nature to carry such a barrel in his own person through the remaining years of his life, which can be maintained only by repeated tapping of the accumulated fluid.
What makes the ravages of alcohol so serious, both for the body and the mind, is the fact that it is also most deleterious to a glandular structure which, as shown through the labors of Dr. Sajous, and as also described in my books "Old Age Deferred" and "Building Human Intelligence," governs all the functions, physical and mental. As previously mentioned, I have attributed early ageing and old age in general to changes occurring in this gland, and by extracts from it I have succeeded in restoring people to a more youthful appearance. It is interesting to note that recently Huxley, in London, has succeeded in obtaining similar results in his experimental work.
I have also shown in my book on "Building Human Intelligence" that this wonderful gland governs the condition of the brain and the entire nervous system, and that upon giving extracts of it to idiots, cretins, and feeble-minded persons, marked improvement of the mental condition may take place. In a book I have just finished, on forgetfulness and absentmindedness, I show that through their use the memory can likewise be improved.
In cases of idiocy, cretinism and feeblemindedness, the best results are obtained if the treatment is begun in childhood. Thus, in the summer of 1919 I treated a feeble-minded and quite dumb child of 4 years with thyroid extract, with the result that after six weeks the child became more intelligent and was better fitted for education, and had begun also to pronounce several words distinctly. Since then she has made great progress, as her mother informed me by letter. The treatment is being continued. Very often such children are the offspring of families upon which alcohol has been exercising its nefarious influence.
Just as goiter, that is, enlargement of the thyroid gland, may be hereditary, so may various morbid changes and diseases of the thyroid be transmitted from the father or from the mother to the later descendants, often even through a number of generations. Even ordinary intoxication is attended with disturbances in the function of the thyroid gland, and if intoxication occurs frequently in a person, permanent and destructive changes in the organ may result as has been demonstrated by a number of investigators studying the thyroid of dead alcoholics and consequently also the development of mental disturbances and finally insanity.
Now, since the thyroid plays the most important role among the detoxicating and protective organs of the body, the resisting power of the body against various poisons and infectious germs is diminished by morbid changes in it induced through the action of alcohol, and in those with severe alcoholism may even be entirely abolished. The fact need not surprise us, therefore, that alcoholics quickly succumb to all kinds of infection. Contracting an inflammation of the lung may be attended with particular danger to life in alcoholics. Death often results within a few days in these cases. In this disorder, indeed, everything depends upon the strength of the heart, which must therefore be stimulated by all available means. The heart of the alcoholic is, however, as a rule in a weak condition, since alcohol in large amounts injures the heart muscle and reduces the functional power of this organ.
Alcohol exerts an equally harmful influence on the condition of the blood-vessels, and arteriosclerosis is exceedingly often found present in drinkers. The occurrence of arteriosclerosis in these subjects, frequently while they are still relatively young, is likewise to be accounted for in part by the diseased condition of the kidneys induced by alcohol. Alcohol has an extremely harmful effect on the delicate, sensitive tissues of these highly important organs, and is often responsible for the develop-ment of inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis), which markedly shortens life.
Thus we see that alcohol harms a number of the organs which are essential to life, and therefore constitutes one of the most frequent causes of premature demise, or at least of early ageing.
What makes this butcher of humanity especially fatal, however, is that it not only destroys the drinker but also plunges his innocent descendants into misfortune and even in many instances con-signs them to an early grave.
Alcohol impairs the very germ upon which a future human existence is founded. It may often occur even on the wedding night that a child is begotten, while its parents are in a state of intoxication, which will have to suffer from this circumstance throughout life, for such children, as is generally the case in the offspring of alcoholic parents, do not thrive well, possess little resisting power against the various infections, and frequently show a tendency to scrofula. Indeed, tuberculosis develops with particular ease in the favorable soil thus produced. As I showed in my previous works, disorders of the thyroid gland are transmissible to the offspring (goiter, for example, being frequently transmitted), and as the thyroid gland governs the development of the bones, the children of alcoholics are often backward in their growth. Especially notable among children begotten during intoxication, as in general among the offspring of drinkers, is a very marked nervousness, and spasms or tremors in the limbs appear very often in small children thus engendered. Later, these children very frequently grow up to be neurasthenic men and hysterical women; fondness for alcohol on the part of parents is one of the commonest causes of inherited neurasthenia, hysteria, or epilepsy, which is then further transmitted to the children.
What makes conditions especially tragic is that the children of drinkers often harbor a tendency toward alcohol from childhood on. Not that the pleasant taste of wine or beer proves particularly enticing to them even in the true drinker this property alone has little influence in leading him toward drink but in such persons there often appears a state of mental depression, itself often due to physical causes (the mind generally being under the influence of the physical processes of life), which leads them to feel a need of freeing them-selves from their weakness and lassitude and of cheering themselves up, and as a result the bottle is soon resorted to. An abnormal condition of the mind is of exceedingly frequent occurrence among the children of alcoholics, and definite mental disturbances in many instances make their appearance among them. Even idiotic, mentally backward, or otherwise abnormal children are brought into the world from such unions, and unfortunately such mental impairment is often further transmitted to the succeeding generations.
In this we observe a condition similar to that noted in syphilis, these two scourges of mankind, indeed, generally being in close inter-relationship. Alcohol is an accomplice and abettor of syphilis, for which it often prepares the ground, representing the biblical snake which induced man to bite into the apple of perdition. Bacchus takes Venus by the hand, the two of them perform a round dance, and the people follow them in long, long columns, casting aside all restraints, to a premature end, like the moths dashing themselves into the flames,