Category Archives: delirium tremens

A 21-unit-a-day man

In the arms of Bacchus and Morpheus

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dalrymple reminds us, was

an all-you-can-drink man.

He was a prodigious

bibber of claret

who suffered from delirium tremens, downing tincture of opium

by the pint.

Witnesses testified to his

morning shakes and sweats, which improved after the first laudanum of the day.

Coleridge’s unpleasant dreams were, Dalrymple believes,

the consequence of alcoholic excess. Is there any of us who has not tossed and turned after drinking too much, and dreamed vividly and disturbingly?

Boozehounds should bring themselves to heel

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The sublime pink elephant: Dalrymple describes Belgian beer, accurately, as nectar, and one of the best examples of the strong pale ale style is Delirium Tremens (8.5% ABV) from Brouwerij Huyghe in the East Flanders town of Melle. ‘Kleur en uitzicht: bleek blond, de fijne en regelmatige pareling zorgt voor een fijne, stabiele schuimkraag. Geur: Licht moutig, flinke touch alcohol, kruiderig. Smaak: Een flinke scheut alcohol ontvlamt als het ware in de mond, die de tong en het gehemelte werkelijk opwarmen. De smaak is ook gekenmerkt door zijn rondheid. De afdronk is sterk, lang en droogbitter.’

Binge-drinking is not a fate but a vice, albeit a delightful one

Inebriates can easily, writes Dalrymple,

control their drinking, if motives—including fear—are strong enough.

Among the things that encourage sobriety are

fright

and

the hospital experience.

The problem of compulsive, chronic, unbridled and joyless dipsomania

lies in the psychological, spiritual, and moral realm.

Pull yourselves together!

Inebriates possess

the freedom to resist it, unlike an impersonal force such as gravity.

They should get a hold of themselves.

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Incontinence of urine and fæces consequent upon severe inebriation

The British no longer manufacture anything the world wants or provide any services the world wants, but in one field they are world-class: binge-drinking

Dalrymple describes his experience of working as a doctor on a British government aid project in Africa.

We were building a road through remote bush. The contract stipulated that the construction company could import, free of all taxes, alcoholic drinks from the UK. These drinks the company sold to its British workers at cost, in the local currency at the official exchange rate, which was approximately one-sixth the black-market rate. A litre bottle of gin cost less than a dollar.

Drunkenness among the British workers

far outstripped anything I have ever seen, before or since. I discovered that, when alcohol is effectively free of charge, a fifth of British construction workers will regularly go to bed so drunk that they are incontinent both of urine and fæces. I remember one man who very rarely got as far as his bed at night: he fell asleep in the lavatory, where he was usually found the next morning.

Half the men

shook in the mornings and resorted to the hair of the dog to steady their hands before they drove their bulldozers and other heavy machines (which they frequently wrecked, at enormous expense to the British taxpayer). Hangovers were universal. The men were either drunk or hung over for months on end.

In these circumstances

even formerly moderate drinkers turned alcoholic and eventually suffered from delirium tremens.

When the company inquired of its workers what it could do to improve their conditions,

they unanimously asked for a further reduction in the price of alcohol.