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A Handbook of Health by Woods Hutchinson

As a deadener of the sense of discomfort


fact, it was quickly found in the bitter school of experience that alcohol, though producing an apparent glow of warmth for the time, instead of increasing our power to resist cold, rapidly and markedly lessens it; so that those who drink heavily are much more likely to die from cold and exposure than those who let alcohol alone. Nowadays, Arctic explorers, explorers in the tropics, officers of armies upon forced marches, and those who have to train themselves for the most severe strains on their powers of endurance, all bear testimony to the fact that the use of alcohol is harmful instead of helpful under these conditions, and that it is not for a moment to be compared to real foods, like meat, sugar, or fat.

Its Effects on Working Power. Then it was claimed that alcohol increased the working power of the body; that more work and better work would be done by men at hard labor, if a little beer, or wine, was taken with their meals. Indeed, most of those who take alcohol believe that they work faster and better, and with less effort with it than without it. But the moment that this _feeling_ of increased power and strength was submitted to careful tests in the laboratory and in the workshop, it was found that instead of _more_ being accomplished when alcohol was taken, even in very moderate amounts, _less_ was accomplished by from six to twelve per cent. The false sense of increased vigor and power was due to the narcotic power of alcohol to deaden

the sensations of fatigue and discomfort.

It was discovered long ago, almost as soon as men began to put themselves into training for athletic feats or contests, that alcohol was not only useless, but very injurious. Any champion who, on the eve of a contest, "breaks training" by "taking a drink," knows that he is endangering his record and giving his competitors an advantage over him.

Its Deadening Effect. In short, we must conclude that the so-called stimulating effects of alcohol are really due to its power of deadening us to sensations of discomfort or fatigue. Its boasted power of making men more "sociable" by loosening their tongues is due to precisely the same effect: it takes off the balance-wheels of custom, reserve, and propriety--too often of decency, as well. This is where the greatest and most serious danger of alcohol comes in, that even in the smallest doses, it begins to deaden us both mentally and morally, and thus lessens our power of control. This loss of control steadily increases with each successive drink until finally the man, completely under the influence of liquor, reaches a stage when he can neither think rationally nor speak intelligently, nor even walk straight or stand upright--making the most humiliating and disgusting spectacle which humanity can present.

Harmful Effects on the Body. All doctors and scientists and thoughtful men are now practically agreed: First, that alcohol in excess is exceedingly dangerous and injurious, and one of the most serious enemies that modern civilization has to face.

Second, that even in the smallest doses, as a deadener of the sense of discomfort, it blinds the man who takes it to the harm it is doing and, as soon as its temporary comforting effects begin to pass off, naturally leads its victim to resort to it again in increasing doses. In fact, unlike a true food which quickly satisfies, the use of alcohol too often creates an appetite that grows by what it feeds on, and is never satisfied. For every natural appetite or instinct, nature provides a check; but she provides none for tastes that must be acquired. The last man to find out that he is taking too much is the drinker himself. Taken first to relieve discomfort, its own poisonous after-effects create a new and permanent demand for it.

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