Richards has shown that if the hearts of dogs which have received alcohol for some time be perfused with a nutrient solution containing alcohol, they are much more sensitive to alcohol than hearts of normal controls.
Another experiment which shows apparent change in the organism under the influence of alcohol, has been accomplished by Reid Hunt. Hunt determined the toxic dose of aceto-nitrile in mice, rabbits and guinea pigs. This substance acts as a poison through the liberation of hydrocyanic acid within the body. Hunt found that if animals were given alcohol for several days, their susceptibility to aceto-nitrile was very greatly increased. That is to say, hydrocyanic acid was much more readily liberated within their tissues than in the normal controls. Hunt interpreted this as indicating an increased oxidative power on the part of the cells for the methyl group contained in the poison. However this may be, it is certain that his experiments have shown that metabolism is different when alcohol is given than it is under conditions when fat and carbohydrates form the energy producers which maintain life.
Alcohol has long been given in disease on account of the belief that it was of benefit in certain disturbances of the circulatory system. The value of alcohol under these circumstances has been disputed. The reports of the Vienna General Hospital in 1897 show that $10,000 was spent for alcoholic beverages during that year, whereas in 1905, the sum so expended had fallen to one half. Dixon says that alcohol actsthe isolated heart as a food stuff, and favors its contraction. A recent discussion of this subject by Miller, of Chicago, shows that circulatory disturbances in acute affections are of vaso-motor origin, and that the heart itself is usually perfectly able to fully perform its work. He calls attention to the fact that alcohol in certain diseases acts as a cardio-vascular stimulant producing vasco-contraction of the blood vessels and thereby favoring the circulation. However, if the dose which brings about this reaction be but slightly exceeded, there is paralysis of the vaso-motor centers with resulting dilatation of the blood vessels. He regards alcohol, therefore, as a drug which is to be used in these conditions with extreme care.
Alcohol has a profound effect upon the central nervous system. There are two theories with regard to its action. By some it is considered a stimulant, by others it is thought always to cause depression. Small amounts of alcohol may bring about an increased sense of liveliness and a general feeling of well-being which is most pronounced when the lights are bright, and the company congenial. Larger quantities induce incoordination of speech and movement, whereas still larger quantities result in complete anesthesia which may be fatal to the individual. For the first few minutes after taking alcohol, it has been found