Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/395

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
385
ALCOHOL—ITS USE AND ABUSE

that a larger quantity of physical work may be performed. This is followed, however, by a period of depression during which the quantity of mechanical energy which may be expended by the individual is greatly reduced. The sum total of the effect is very decidedly to reduce the amount of mechanical work which can be accomplished during the day. It is on this account that alcohol is no longer given to soldiers on the march in the hope of increasing their endurance. The actual result would be quite the contrary.

Experiments regarding the action of the brain after taking alcohol as compared with its action before taking alcohol have been made by Kraepelin. Typesetters were used as subjects. It was found that those who had partaken of alcohol made a greater number of errors and worked less rapidly than those who were abstemious. Kraepelin has found that this effect lasts as long as twenty-four hours after alcohol has been taken. Curiously enough, those who had taken alcohol thought they were doing their work to better advantage than those who had not.

Other experiments have been made upon people, the test being the length of time which was required to memorize twenty-five lines of poetry. Here, when alcohol was taken before breakfast, it was found that the length of time required to memorize was increased 69 per cent. Also, when these individuals were requested to repeat the lines which they had learned, it was found that they did so less readily and made more errors when they had previously taken alcohol, than when they were free from the effect of this drug.

It is very apparent from such experiments as these, that alcohol does not stimulate to mental activity. The theory of Schmiedeberg is that the effect of alcohol is always a depressant one. The first depression upon the mind acts upon those highest faculties which are developed latest in life. That is, the faculties of self-control and self-respect. If these faculties are paralyzed first through the depression of alcohol, then it is as Cushny has pointed out, as though the brakes were removed from the mind, and the man becomes a child again. He becomes regardless of the ordinary conventions of life, regardless of the feelings of other people, regardful of himself alone. It is easy to see that where restraint is removed from the mind so that the normal action of self-control is abolished, the individual becomes open to all kinds of suggestions which he otherwise would not suffer. The mental condition is truly pathological.

It is thus that alcohol becomes the principal power behind prostitution. It is thus that the saloon in politics becomes dominant. The saloon through the alcohol which it furnishes is perfectly able to reduce the self-respect of the individual to such a level that he is glad and willing to accept a bribe for his action with regard to a political matter. It is easy to see to what extent alcohol becomes the auxiliary of crime.