Is alcoholism a disease? All the apologists for the ghastly toll of human life, wrecked homes and broken hearts taken by alcohol say it is. This has become the popular apologetic shibboleth of those who defend John Barleycorn. One of the best answers we have seen to this pretentious fallacy comes from the pen of the superintendent of a rescue mission in the United States. He says: If it is. . . .
It is the only disease that is contracted by an act of the will.
It is the only disease that requires a license to propogate it.
It is the only disease that is bottled and sold.
It is the only disease that requires outlets to spread it.
It is the only disease that produces a revenue for the government.
It is the only disease that provokes crime.
It is the only disease that is habit forming.
It is the only disease that is spread by advertising.
It is the only disease without a germ or virus cause, and for which there is no human corrective medicine.
It is the only disease that bars the patient from heaven.
One thing we know—alcohol misused is an enemy to society. Alcohol has taken its toll among doctors, lawyers, business executives, and even clergymen, as well as the man on skid row. The American people, when fully aroused, have risen to every occasion financially and otherwise to combat a disease that demonstrates itself to be a killer.
What have we done about alcoholism? Nothing! What will we do in the future? Nothing! Why? A campaign against alcoholism as a disease would close down every brewery and distillery in America.
That these words are one hundred per cent true every thinking person knows. Even the law does not view alcoholism as a disease, but a crime. When a person suffering from this "disease" kills another, he is not sent to the hospital but to the penitentiary.
This was taken from the Evangelical Christian, Toronto, Canada, June, 1962.
Ida Clemens, writer for the Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, issue of June 13, 1962, wrote this about the dire effects of alcoholism: "Teenagers who are bending the elbow too often run the risk of being unable to straighten them. The fever of the bottle today too often becomes the disease of alcoholism tomorrow. These warnings came from two Memphis neuropsychiatrists concerned about teen-agers who are distorting their views of the world and themselves through the bottoms of liquor glasses."
She writes that Dr. Justus H. Adler said: "The most harmful effect of drinking is the gradual deterioration of the person's ability to distinguish between right and wrong. This emotional deterioration greases the slide from average to excessive drinking. Alcohol is not a stimulant. It is a narcotic. A person who takes narcotics in small doses eventually needs more and more to achieve the effect of 'feeling good,' an effect which comes only from the dulling of inhibitions. Drinking inevitably brings feelings of anxiety and guilt. The individual drinks more to anesthetize himself against this tension."
This able writer wrote: "The effects of alcohol on the body are the same in both sexes, but a young woman has a lot more to lose. She is aiming recklessly at her self-respect, her appearance and her health with frequent shots of liquor. When the fine ethical sense is dulled, then morals are affected. The removal of inhibitions promotes promiscuity."
She further writes that Dr. Carroll C. Turner said: "Gastritis—inflammation of the stomach lining—is an immediate physical damage from drinking. Continued gastric irritations from alcohol lead to gastritis. This produces lack of desire to eat, inability of the body to retain nourishing food and subsequent loss of weight. Alcohol anesthetizes body cells, cutting down their efficiency in utilizing nourishment including vitamins.
"Continual drinking may tragically rob young people of their highest development physically, mentally and emotionally. Many who are good students now may find their ability to comprehend, learn and retain sadly impaired.
"It may take time, but once an individual crosses the line separating social drinking from alcoholism, physical effects are disastrous and often fatal. One possible complication is so-called alcoholic neuritis which results from the body's inability to keep vitamin reserves up. There is evidence that alcohol damages the liver. Not many alcoholics go blind, but in time, alcohol affects the optic nerve and impairs vision. Various types of mental diseases are due to alcohol. In late stages, alcohol can cause shrinking of the brain with resultant death of all functions. Damage to vital organs such as the heart and kidney are secondary effects of alcoholism."