Tuesday, 4 November 2014

This is Hardcore pt 1

Here's another tale from Dr David Marjot's book, The Diseases of Alcohol. Don't try this at home.

In 1955 ten male prisoners were asked to take part in a scientific experiment. All were, allegedly, willing volunteers.

The aim of the experiment was to see if delirium tremens and/or 'rum' fits were caused by alcohol withdrawal.

The prisoners were sane and physically fit.

They started off being given a 133ml daily dose of alcohol every two hours across the course of the day. 133ml is the equivalent of an 18% vol bottle of port, or 13.5 units a day.

Each day the dose was increased.

The prisoners were soon being given between 367ml and 465ml of alcohol a day.

367ml is roughly equivalent to a 70cl bottle of 40% vodka and a 75cl bottle of 12% wine. A day.

465ml is roughly equivalent to a 70cl bottles of 40% vodka, a 75cl bottle of 18% port washed down with two cans of Kronenbourg. A day.

In all cases, both metabolic and behavioural tolerance occurred, brain activity slowed, and the men displayed symptoms such as tremor, nausea, vomiting, hyper-reflexia, anxiety and depression.

At one stage, one of the prisoners had to cut back on his alcohol intake because of nausea and vomiting. He developed hallucinations as his blood alcohol declined, but these disappeared once he got back on the programme. Dedication.

After 36 days of being given increasing doses of pure alcohol, the volunteers had their supply abruptly cut off.

Six patients rapidly became tremulous, hyper-reflexic, sweated profusely, could not sleep and lost weight. Two of the six had convulsions. Five of the six developed hallucinations and three of the six were disorientated. The other four showed only mild tremors, weakness and nausea.

It is not noted whether any or all of the men suffered lasting medical problems.

The experiment's basic conclusion was that it is possible to suffer from the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal whilst very drunk. Useful stuff.

It wouldn't happen nowadays, of course.

But it did happen again. A decade later, in the sixties. This time the experiment was expanded.


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