« PreviousContinue »
In Germany, during mobilization as well as after, no canteen was provided for the thirsty soldier. What steps France has taken to keep its army away from the accustomed use of wine and other liquors, is not known, except that commanding officers have been reported to demand the utmost temperance.
It is apparent, however, that some modifications of the original orders have already occurred. According to the Manchester Guardian, which is usually very well informed in such matters, both the German and English Governments have found it necessary to supply spirits for the use of the troopers in the field. This does not appear to be confined nierely to the troops while under the terrific strain of work in the trenches, but generally.
Much has been said about the necessity of keeping armies totally abstinent in order not to reduce in any way their fighting capacity. Just what effect a moderate use of liquors will have upon the ability of the common soldier does not appear to be adequately established. Self-evidently, for the purpose of maintaining order and decency, unrestrained indulgence cannot be permitted and is most easily prevented by absolute prohibition. As none of the troops of any of the participating armies can be said to be made up of peoples particularly noted for abstinence, it is not possible as yet to get any data on the subject which are worth while. It is a curious fact that the various armies are drawn from peoples who are the heaviest consumers of liquors in the world, and if one may make any inference from current descriptions and reports, there does not appear to be any lack of endurance or courage on any side. Perhaps the Turkish army forms an exception, as it is supposed to be made up of men whose religion forbids them to use spirituous liquors. If one can trust current accounts, the Belgians, who are the heaviest beer consumers in the world and also liberal users of spirits, have shown uncommon pluck, endurance and ability.
But to use this fact as an argument for or against abstinence would be silly, as the qualities which make the soldier for the time being a good fighter, are not by any means all of a physical order.
Whether the war is at all likely to have any permanent effect on the liquor legislation of any country with the exception of Russia seems very doubtful. Even there beers and wines will continue to be sold if under restrictions. Fiscal considerations will play their part the world over, as well as consideration of public morality. The necessity of governments to secure revenue from whatever possible source will grow rather than diminish after the close of the war, and so long as the liquor traffic remains a large source of revenue, one can hardly look for its general abolition; nor can it be believed that on the grounds of morality a government would take so drastic SOCIOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF RECENT LEGISLATION IN
NORWAY RELATING TO ALCOHOL AND ALCOHOLISM
By DR. JON ALFRED MJOEN Director of the Chemical and Race-Hygiene Research Laboratories, Christiania,
Norway; Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science
If I am not mistaken, it was Dr. Alfred Ploetz who first drew attention to the fact that the germ-cells are located in the human organism in such a way that the individual has a natural protection against racial poisons, and especially those which, like alcohol, modern industry provides by an elaborate process of manufacture. Surrounding the germ-cells of the individual we find a sort of protecting membrance. No blood vessels are in direct contact with spermatozoon or ovum. When chemical poisons are brought into the animal body, they find their way to all organs and all cells of the organism, with perhaps the only exception, the germ-cells. Nature has in its wisdom arranged a special protection for the most sensitive stage of human life—the stage of conception. There is hardly any doubt that the above-mentioned protective apparatus acts against most of the poisons, but there are exceptions to the rule. Such exceptions are ether, chloroform, and the stronger alcohols. The proof that this is the case lies in the fact that these bodies have been found in the germ-plasm by means of chemical analysis.
From the fact that alcohol can reach the germ-cells, we are not allowed to draw the conclusion that it is therefore hurtful to these cells. Alcohol as compared with many other chemical bodies, is somewhat indifferent in its nature and action. It does not easily go into reaction, like such bodies, for instance, as we designate
1 Dr. J. Alfred Mjoen, the author of this article, has been the chief, or director, of the State control of alcohol in Norway. As a member of a Royal Commission, he drafted a bill known as “The Progressive Class System for Beer.” This bill was favorably received by the Norwegian Minister Knudsen, and brought before the Storthing as a Government measure. It was accepted as a part of the election programme of the Radicals, the Socialdemokrats, and supported by all total abstinence organizations, and after four years of discussion was adopted by the Norwegian Parliament in July, 1912, and came into force on July 1, 1913. Dr. Mjoen is a member of the Academy of Science of Christiania.—Editor British Journal of Inebriety, from which publication this article is reprinted.
"acids" or "alkalies.” If alcohol, therefore, should have a retarding or disturbing influence on the chemical synthesis which takes place in the living cells, it has to be characterized as an anti-catalytic effect. It does not itself take part in the chemical reaction, but disturbs through its presence alone the reactions between the other bodies in the cell. The questions then arise: Have we any proof that alcohol has such an anti-catalytic effect on chemical reaction in general? And, further, is there any evidence that alcohol has such an effect upon the germ-cells or the reproductive organs that it is to be considered injurious to the offspring? We need to inquire also: Are the toxic effects of alcohol, if such exist, independent of the strength or concentration of the alcoholic preparation ?
Experiments with artificial digestion in the presence of alcohol of different concentration have shown that alcohol up to 2 per cent. has no effect or leads to only a very slight increase of the digestive power of the solution. From 2 to 3 per cent. of alcohol gave no effect at all, and from 372 to 4 per cent. a slight decrease. I have recently continued these experiments, together with the Director of the Chemical State Control Station of Norway Hals; we have aimed at fixing the exact point of concentration when and where the disturbing effect of alcohol commences. We found no effect at all up to about 2/2 per cent., but from 3 to 4 per cent. a slowly growing decrease of the digestive power was noted, and from 8 per cent. a considerable inhibiting effect occurred. From these and other observations I feel convinced that alcohol can play an anti-catalytic part in chemical reactions without taking a direct part itself, and the effects are dependent upon the degree of the concentration. This discovery, if we can call it so—that the effect of alcohol is dependent on the concentration-ought not to surprise us when we take into consideration that the chemical and physical qualities of so-called "poisons" in general change according to the quantity and quality of foods and fluids taken with them. Prussic acid, for instance, is taken without harm in the form of fruits. In concentrated state, on the contrary, it is the quickest acting poison that we know of. So also formic acid. The effect of chloroform and ether as an anæsthetic is so much dependent on the concentration in which it is administered that no narcosis at all is obtained when the mixture of chloroform vapor with air or oxygen is below a certain percentage. In other words, the effect of the same quantity of the narcotic substance varies according to dilution. Concentrated hydrochloric acid in very small quantities destroys life, but.im dilute form it is not only harmless, but on the contrary-it is a normal and necessary part of the digestive fluid of the stomach.
When alcohol through distillation is separated from the fluid in which it is produced by fermentation, it changes its physical, chemical, and physiological character. It precipitates albumen, which it does not do in its original form. When it reaches a strength of 96 per cent. it loses one molecule of water, which is chemically bound to the atom complex, and it changes its qualities so much at the same time that it must now be classified as a corrosive liquid like the strongest acids. A small amount of this alcohol is able to cause, and has caused, the instantaneous death of a person taking it. These examples show that alcohol of different concentration can hardly be considered the same agent, and ought not to be handled as the same agent.
The next question is, Can we, by studying the effect of alcohol upon the offspring (animal experiments or by observations on human material), find that the effect is dependent on the degree of concentration of the toxic agent?
When I commenced to study the effect of alcohol on the offspring, I took a few single cases and studied these for years, noting the form of alcohol used (concentration), general state at time of conception, maternity, lactation, etc., and, of course, the quality of the offspring produced. I also took like stocks for comparison. From the cases I had under observation I am able to draw the conclusion that parental drinking will in one case where lighter drinks are used, have no perceptible effect, and in another, where stronger drinks are used, have a serious effect on the offspring, even if the alcohol used (quantity reduced to pure ethyl alcohol) was practically equivalent. But I hardly believe that even the strongest alcohol can create a defective germ-plasm in perfectly sound and healthy stock. It would seem that the effect is principally an anti-regenerative one.
I have also made experiments to find the intoxicating effect that alcohol of different strength has upon individuals. The results of these observations were that below a certain percentage, which varies somewhat with the individual, there is no intoxicating effect of alcohol whatever. And that stronger drinks-for instance, brandy of 50 per cent.—have double, three times, or four times, the effect of lighter drinks containing the equivalent amount of alcohol.
We have by accident had an opportunity in Norway of seeing