ALCOHOL, PHYSIOLOGICAL AND POISONOUS ACTION OF. A. in a concentrated form exerts a local irritant action on the membranes and tissues of the animal body. Accord ing to various circumstances, as, for example, its greater or less dilution. the quantity in which it is administered, the emptiness or fullness of the stomach, and the nature of animal on which the experithent is made, A. may either net as a gentle stimulus, which assists the digestive process, or it may excite such a degree of irritation as may lead to the disorganization of the mucous membrane. It is well known that dilute A., in contact with animal matter, at a temperature of from 60' to 00 undergoes acetic fermentation, and it was maintained by Leuret and Lassaigne that a similar change took place in the stomach. It appears, however, that only a small part of the A. under goes this change; and it is the small part thus changed which produces the penetrating and disagreeable acidity which characterizes the eructations and vomited matters of drunkards. A. is, however, for the most part, rapidly absorbed in an unchanged state, either in the form of liquid or vapor; and this absorption may take place through the cellular (or connective) tissue, the serous cavities, the lungs, or the digestive canal. This is shown by the experiments of Orfila, who fatally intoxicated dogs by injecting A. into the subcutaneous cellular tissue, or by making them breathe an atmosphere charged with alcoholic vapor; and by Bayer, who injected about half an ounce of proof-spirit into the peritoneum of rabbits, which almost immediately became comatose, and died in a few hours. It is, however, only with absorption from the intestinal canal that we have to deal, in relation to man. Almost the whole of this absorption is effected in the stomach, and it is only when A. is taken in great excess, or is mixed with a good deal of sugar, that any absorption beyond the stomach occurs. The rapidity of the absorption varies according to circumstances. The absorption is most rapid when the stomach is empty and the drinker is fatigued; while the action is delayed by a full stomach, and especially by the presence of acids, tannin, or the mucilaginous and saccharine ingredients of many wines. Fatty matters have a similar action, and hence it is that (as we learn from Dr. Perrin's elaborate article on "The Physiology of Alcohol," in the Diction noire .Encyclo pedique des Sciences iledicales, vol. ii. p. 577, 1865) " we must account for the English habit of taking a very fat soup, or even a glass of oil, before proceeding aux libations." The mode of action of A. on the system, and the various phenomena of drunkenness, are sufficiently described in the article INTOXICATION. Previously to the year 1860, the actual presence of A. in the blood had been attempted to be proved by ninny chemists,
but no satisfactory evidence upon this point had been adduced; and its presence had also been sought for in the expired air and in the secretions, but the results were equally doubtful; and Liebig's view, that A. was oxidized in the blood, and after passing through various stages of oxidation, was finally converted into, and eliminated from, the system as carbonic acid and water, was almost generally accepted. In that vear, however, an elaborate work, abounding in well-devised experiments, and entitled .Du Rae de l' Alcohol et des Anesthesiques dans 'Organism, was published by three well-known physiological inquirers, MM. Lallemande, Perrin, and Duroy, and received a prize, with high com mendation, from the academy of sciences. In this work, it seems to be proved beyond all doubt that " A. stays for a time in the blood, that it exercises a direct and primary action on the nervous centers, whose functions it modifies, perverts, or abolishes, accord ing to the dose; that neither in the blood nor in the expired air are any traces to be found of itstransformation or destruction; that it accumulates in the nervous centers, and in the liver;.and that it is finally discharged from the system by the ordinary channels of elimination."—Perrin, op. cit., p. 580. So far from carbonic acid being one of its final products, it is now ascertained that A. causes a diminished exhalation of that gas. The A., when it has entered the blood, is diffused over the whole organism, remains during, apparently, different periods in different organs, and almost immediately begins to escape; and if as much wine or spirit is taken as contains 80 grammes, or rather more than 21 oz. of A., the urine passed some hours afterwards yields, by distillation, an amount of A. capable of burning; and the elimination by this channel continues for 16 hours or more. The elimination by the lungs continues for about S hours. The authors believe that in man the chief excreting channel is the skin, but they have no data to show how long this elimination is continued: They further shot that when a quantity of via ordinairc, equivalent to half an ounce of A., has been taken by a healthy man, the presence of A. may be readily detected in the blood, the expired air, the urine, and the cutaneous exha lation in the course of half an hour after the wine has been taken. In animals destroyed when intoxicated, the portions of the brain and of the liver are found to yield, weight for weight, considerably more A. than the blood. The fact of the retention and accu mulation of A. in the nervous centers and liver, tends to throw much light on the special diseases of drunkards.