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Vol. 16 JANUARY 1913 No. 4

Copyright 1913 by H. W. PERCIVAL


THE word intoxication is in the “Standard Dictionary” said to mean, “The act of making drunk, or state of being drunk; drunkenness. A state of great mental excitement; elation, rising to frenzy.” Drunk, is defined as “Under the influence of intoxicating liquor to such an extent as to have lost the normal control of one’s body and mental faculties, … to evince a disposition to violence, quarrelsomeness and bestiality.”

Intoxication is a word made up of the subject or body, toxic, from Latin, toxicum, or Greek, toxikon, meaning poison; the prefix in meaning take in or to produce; and, the suffix, tion, meaning act, state, or agent. Toxication is said to be “the act of poisoning or the state of being poisoned.” The prefix in denotes the entering into or the producing of “the state of being poisoned.”

Poison is said to be “any substance that when taken into the system acts in a noxious manner by means not mechanical, tending to cause death or serious detriment to the health.” So that intoxication is the taking in of poison, or the producing of a state of being poisoned; which may “cause death or serious detriment to health.” The time figured for this, depending on the amount and quality of the intoxicant taken or produced and on the ability or inability of the constitution to assimilate or resist it.

The word intoxication is not used by modern lexicons in the sense only of taking alcohol or drugs, but in a broader sense, as applied to the mind and the morals. The idea of the word is as true in its application to the mind and morals as it is when applied to an alcoholic condition. Here, the word intoxication will be used in a fourfold sense.

There are four kinds of intoxication to which man is subject, according to his four natures: Intoxication of his physical nature, of his psychic nature, of the nature of his mind, and of his spiritual nature. The intoxication of one of his natures may act upon one or upon each of the other three. The forms of intoxication treated will be physical intoxication, psychic intoxication, mental intoxication, and spiritual intoxication.

Used in reference to these four intoxications the meaning of the word intoxication is: The state of poisoning resulting from undue stimulating or preventing the use by the conscious principle of its bodily functions, its senses, its mental faculties or its powers.

For each of the four intoxications there are causes, its intoxicants, its ways of development, reasons for taking intoxicants, the effects of the intoxication, its duration and termination, and its cure.

Alcohol and narcotics are causes of physical intoxication. Such drinks as beers, ales, wines, gins, rums, brandies, whiskies, liqueurs, are drinks in which the spirit of alcohol is the intoxicating principle. The way of becoming intoxicated is by the drinking of these or other alcoholic substances, or taking them as ingredients in food. There are reasons given for taking alcoholic intoxicants, such as that it is a means of sociability, produces good fellowship, evokes good humor, causes joviality, that it is an appetizer, a refreshment, that it prevents the blues, that it quiets trouble, drives away dull care, relieves from sorrow, causes forgetfulness of misery, and overcomes despair, that it gets up courage, that it is a stimulant to thought. Others again, take it for the love of the sensation it produces, and others for medicinal purposes prescribed by the doctor.

The effects of the intoxication are shown by the physical actions, the bodily condition, the senses, the character, and by the mind of the individual; which are determined by the kind and quantity of the intoxicant taken, the condition of the body which consumes it, and the ability of the mind to deal with the intoxicant and the body. According to the nature of the individual and the different degrees of intoxication, there is exhibited a warmth, mellowness, exhilaration of manner accompanied by volubility, argumentativeness, combativeness, boisterousness, quarrelsomeness of speech; and these are followed by depression, relaxation, exhaustion, sluggishness, unsteadiness of gait, a thickness and uncertainty in speech, stupefaction, torpor, insensibility. The sensations vary from a mild pleasantness to shocks of violence, from intense excitement to suffering and deadness.

The alcohol in all alcoholic intoxicants begins to produce its effects on the entire constitution of the body as soon as it is taken into the stomach. Whether its perniciousness will be immediately produced or long deferred will depend on the compounding of the drink and proportion and the power of the spirit of alcohol in the compound. Depending on the compound, the alcohol first affects the body or the brain. In every case, however, it acts directly on the nervous systems, then on the fluids of the body, the muscles, and leaves no part of the body unaffected. When taken in small quantities by persons whose body is strong, whose health and digestion are good, the effects may be apparently beneficial; at least, no inconvenience is suffered. By long and habitual use, even in small quantities, and particularly by those with weak minds, weaker morals and unsound bodies, the effects are pernicious. When first taken, the alcohol acts as a stimulant in a small dose. In large doses it produces drunkenness; that is, the central and sympathetic nerves are acted on, the lobes of the cerebrum are numbed. These react on and still the cerebro-spinal system, a paralysis of the central nervous system results, the voluntary muscles are rendered inactive, the stomach suffers and its activities are inhibited. The only parts of the body not seized by numbness and paralysis are the automatic centers in the medulla oblongata, which carry on and regulate the circulation and respiration. If more alcohol is not taken, the period of drunkenness ends, the body resumes its functions, rights itself and the effects of the alcohol may disappear. By repeated periods of drunkenness, or by the habitual use of alcohol in any form, the nervous system often becomes deranged, the organs are incapacitated or diseased and cannot perform their regular functions. The alcohol causes the shrinking of the secretory glands of the stomach and checks its functions and impairs digestion. It hardens the liver, weakens the heart and kidneys, causes degeneration of the brain. In short, undermines the constitution by causing overgrowth of connective tissue in practically all the organs and tissues of the body. After death the presence of alcohol can be found in all the body fluids. It is easily found in the cerebro-spinal fluid when all traces of it have disappeared elsewhere in the body; that shows its particular affinity for the nervous system.

Possibly unmindful of the after-effects, and with confidence of the immediate good it may do their patients, physicians have been the causes of numerous alcoholic wrecks. Many physicians prescribe alcohol in any of its forms as a stimulant or tonic, and it is sometimes said it will in some forms make blood, give strength, build up the body. Whether this is or is not so, it is certain that the alcohol taken as a medicine has insidiously created an appetite and desire for alcoholic intoxicants in the body, and the patient frequently develops into a drunkard.

Another way of developing drunkenness is by the enormous manufacture and sale of alcoholic intoxicants under the mask of what is called “patent medicines.” These are widely advertised to cure every known or supposed ill and disease. Those who buy the sure cure patent medicine intoxicant believe they have been benefited by the stimulating effect it produces, and they buy more. The other ingredients of the cure-all are often harmless. But the alcohol in the patent medicine often produces the effect on those who use it, which those who manufacture it intend that it should. That is, it creates an appetite and desire for alcohol in that form.

The effect of alcoholic intoxication on the senses is varied from sensations of mildness to acuteness and great intensity, and then decreasing to complete insensibility. These changes may follow each other gradually or rapidly. There is a grateful glow which creeps through the body and produces an agreeable feeling. The eye and ear become more alert. The taste is keener. There is a feeling of conviviality and jolliness which prompts to seek association with others, or else a moodiness, moroseness, surliness and taciturnity with the desire to get away from others and be alone, or with a tendency to antagonism and ill nature. There is a feeling of heat, a readiness to take offense, to quarrel or fight about what is done or said. A feeling of sickness or of numbness is felt. Objects around seem to move about and blend. The ground moves in gentle waves, or like a troubled sea. There is no certainty of distances. The feet and legs become great weights. The eyes become heavy and swim, the ears dull. The tongue is too thick, and refuses to articulate. The lips lose their flexibility; they are wooden and will not assist in forming sound into words. Drowsiness comes. The body feels like lead. The conscious principle is disconnected from its nervous center in the brain, and there is a collapse into insensibility and deadness. The after effects of the intoxication are stomach qualms, headaches, thirst, burning, trembling, nervousness, a loathing disgust at the thought of the intoxicant, a ravenous craving or a gnawing hunger for more drink, a stolidity, stupidity or soddenness, a condition called delirium tremens, in which the conscious principle is forced below the physical state, where it sees harmless or hideous creatures, flies, insects, bats, snakes, misshapen monsters, which the besotted attempts to chase or from which he tries to escape with little or no attention to physical conditions or those around him. In this state the one suffering may prattle about and pick the flies from the wall, or chase things through the air which no one but he can see, with eyes bulging with terror, panting with excitement, or he may, cold and livid with fear, try to dodge the things which pursue him, or to escape from what he sees, until he goes into convulsions, or from sheer exhaustion falls.

The effects of alcohol on the thought, the character, the mind of an individual, will depend largely upon the ability of the mind to control its use; but, however strong the mind, the continued consumption of alcoholic intoxicants in large quantities will inevitably produce the same physical effects. It must affect the thought and character; and, unless overcome, it will break down and enslave the mind.

Under the influence of alcohol strange changes appear to be wrought in the character. A quiet and good-natured person will be turned into a rowdy or a demon, and one who is usually given to much talk and aggressiveness may be mild-mannered and inoffensive. Under the influence of alcohol some will prattle like children or babble like imbeciles. Some will insist upon telling the story of their lives. Stern men may become sentimental and weak about some trifling event. Those who ridicule religion and its forms, may quote long passages from the scriptures, give dissertations on religious subjects, champion some form of religion or religious observances and argue the cause and desirability of saintliness, and perhaps of the evils of drunkenness. Under the influence of alcohol some men filling positions of trust and honor are changed into beasts who give free reign to and indulge their wildest passions and lusts, engage in lewd orgies, the thought of which would horrify their associates as it would themselves in sober moments. Under the influence of alcohol murders and other crimes are committed which men could not otherwise be made to do, and which bring sorrow and ruin to themselves and others.

Alcohol suppresses the thought of some and stimulates thought in others. Some writers and artists claim that they do their best work when under its influence; but these are only temporary effects, under the stimulation of alcohol. Habitual intoxication undermines the morals, colors the thought, and breaks down the mind. Other kinds of physical intoxication may cause debauchery, produce family troubles, destroy health and cause death; but only alcohol intoxication can completely destroy integrity and probity, remove all traces of honor and self-respect, change men of trustworthiness and kindness into heartless brutes and thieves and mean forgers, insensible to injury to others, and produce utter shamelessness and depravity. Alcohol only has been able to make men of wealth and culture actually crawl in the gutter, and from there, reduced, raise their bloodshot eyes and reach out their unsteady hands to beg the passerby for enough to buy a drink.

The causes of physical intoxication by narcotics are consumption of opium, ganjah (from cannabis indica), bhang (cannabis sativa), the variants of these in their various compounds and with other substances.

The reasons given for the taking of a narcotic are, that they quiet the nerves, relieve from pain, produce sleep, and enable the consumers to get away from trouble, see visions and hear unusual sounds, and that they have to be taken because—it can’t be helped. The ways by which the narcotic may be taken are consumption in the form of a pill, a draught, by injection, by smoking or eating it. Physicians are frequently the ones to introduce narcotics to those who later become victims to narcotic intoxication. Knowing the desire of the patient to have quick results and to get relief from pain, or to satisfy their craving for a drug, the physician prescribes or gives the narcotic without giving due consideration to the consequences which may follow. By the use of their needles, their pellets and their potions, some physicians swell from their patients the ranks of morphine fiends in every year. Hearing the wonderful effects produced by the smoking of opium, having “a friend,” addicted to the habit who suggests trying it, going slumming, seeing the smokers with their pastes and pipes, out of idle curiosity, or from morbid desire, one tries a pipe, “just one.” That is not usually enough. Another is necessary “to produce the effect.” The effect is not usually what he has expected. He must get the expected effect. He does it again. So he becomes a “drug fiend.” In a similar way one may get into the habit of ganjah, which is usually smoked. Bhang is drunk, or eaten as a confection, or taken as a beverage in its weaker form, called siddhi. Bhang is not hashish or Indian hemp. Its effects are different. Hashish is the tender leaves from cannabis sativa, before its buds have opened, and the leaves dried and smoked. Bhang is the leaves taken after flowering, washed, steeped and drunk. Bhang is not generally known in the West, but is said to be in common use in India. There it is said to be taken by the individual alone, or in select gatherings, or at the great annual festival—Durja Pujah.

The effect of narcotics on the body are, that they interfere with digestion, increase or lessen respiration and circulation and deaden the nerves or make them acute. Opium makes the body inactive. Ganjah may act as an excitant. Bhang produces calmness. The effects of narcotic intoxications on the senses are, the stilling of the physical and the opening of other senses to things not physical, not normal. There is a languorous, dreamy feeling, as the passing into a waking slumber. Physical surroundings may be exaggerated, blend with or fall away from new scenes which appear. Women of beauty, handsome men, act or talk with engaging manners. In enchanted gardens which delight the eye, rapture-making music is heard and delicious perfumes add to the charm. That which most appeals to his sense, engages the attention of the subject. Relaxation, languor and ease are more pronounced from the effects of opium than from ganjah. Ganjah usually causes the sensual instincts to be more active than they are from the effects of opium. The sensations resulting from bhang are dominated by those which prevail at the time of its taking, while those from opium and ganjah are usually quite different. In ganjah and opium the sensations increase. In opium the languor increases until the subject becomes unconscious. From the unconscious state he emerges slowly or with a shock. The charm, the rapture, the delight are often reversed. Instead of the creatures of loveliness which enticed or bewildered him, he is beset by fiends, reptiles, vermin, and other loathsome and horrifying things, from the presence of which he can escape only by taking the narcotic again. Perhaps he is only seized by a burning dryness or splitting headache and other bodily discomforts which he may relieve by taking another dose. The after effects of bhang are not so pronounced, though it may take away the appetite; indeed, it will prevent hunger; and it, too, is likely to produce a feeling of emptiness, voidness and uselessness. If too large a dose is taken, the consumer will not wake up.

Narcotic intoxication has a pronounced effect on the thought and character of one who is subject to it. He experiences a certain freedom and stimulation of thought and play of fancy, which no ordinary person can have in his normal condition. This thought takes wing and travels through seemingly boundless spaces, in any part of which and according to the wish of the imagination, builds structures, equips armies, establishes empires. He even creates a world and peoples it; in all of which he wields the magic power to do and to enjoy. Under narcotic intoxication a humble clerk may become a king of finance, and control the markets of the world; a shop girl becomes a queen, attended by courtiers and adored or envied by her ladies; a homeless wanderer may at once be the lord of vast possessions. Anything which the thought and imagination may make possible is as reality itself in narcotic intoxication.

This action of the thoughts produces a reaction on the character which unfits it for its responsibilities and duties in the world. There is an unbalancing of values of things. The attention is divided between the periods of intoxication and obligations in the world. The moral tone is lowered, or morality may be thrown to the winds. However one long addicted to narcotic intoxication may try to hide his habit, it will be known to those who understand its nature. There is a certain emptiness, uncanniness, unhumanness, about the person, as though his senses were acting somewhere else. He is marked by a certain absence of awakeness, and he is surrounded by a peculiar atmosphere or odor which partakes of the character of the narcotic to which he is addicted, and which he seems to exude.

The effects of bhang differ from those of opium and hashish in that the user of bhang may determine the subject of his thought before getting under its influence. Under the influence of bhang, one may carry on a conversation or conduct a course of reasoning. But everything he thinks or does will be exaggerated, enlarged or extended to a remarkable degree. Any subject of thought may be examined mentally as minutely as a piece of tissue under a high power microscope. Surrounding objects or word pictures will be enlarged and colored to accord with the prevailing sentiment. Every movement appears of great importance. A movement of the hand covers a long period of time. A step is like a hundred yards; a minute like a month, an hour an age; and all this may be experienced without being cut off from the physical.

The effects on the mind of narcotic intoxication are, that the mind loses the sense of values and the idea of proportion; it is undermined, and becomes unbalanced, incapable of grappling with the problems of life, of carrying on its development, of fulfilling its responsibilities or doing its share in the world’s work.

The duration of alcoholic or narcotic intoxication may be lasting or only temporary. There are some who, after suffering temporary effects have refused to renew them. But usually when one becomes addicted to either habit, he remains its slave through life.

There are certain cures for alcoholism, under the names of their originators, which will suppress the desire for any alcoholic drink. The treatment for the cure of narcotic intoxication is not often successful. If the one “cured” does not again take drink he will remain cured. But if he is not first cured in his thought and if he allows his thought to ponder on the subject of his drinking and to consider the act of his drinking, the thought of drink will bring about a critical situation, in which he is urged by some one or by his own thought, “to take just one more.” Then the old hunger is awakened, and he falls back to where he was before.

Cures for alcoholic or narcotic intoxication may give relief and help in effecting a cure, but the only cure for physical intoxication must be begun and effected by thought. There the struggle for mastery and immunity must be fought out to a finish and won, before there can be any permanent cure in fact.

The spirit which acts through narcotics dwells at the threshold of the senses. It will not allow the conscious principle in man to pass beyond its realm, or to know its secrets and mystery, until he has proved himself immune to the seductions of the senses and has learned to control them.

The spirit of alcohol is a high officer of the law. It stands at the boundary lines of the worlds. It is a servant of those who obey and are masters of the law, and will allow them to pass and even bear them on when they know and are able to control it. But it is a tyrant, merciless and cruel, to those who abuse it and disobey the law which it must serve.

(To be continued)

In the February number will be treated other forms of Intoxicants.