27 March 2008

Thursday Thirteen:
A Little Drink Can Kill You

By Delia DeLeest

The Volstead Act, aka Prohibition, did not prohibit the prescribing of intoxicating liquor for medicinal purposes. Problem was, bootleg booze was just as likely to put you in the hospital as it was to cure what ailed you. Today's Thursday 13 involves both.

1. Doctors were allowed to withdraw six quarts of whiskey and five gallons of beer for laboratory purposes.

2. They were not allowed to prescribe more than one pint of whiskey or one quart of wine per person every ten days.

3. There was no friend like your doctor when you suffered from 'chronic thirstitis.'

Of course, if you couldn't get a doctor to prescribe government grade liquor for you, you could always run the risk of drinking bootleg hooch--which was a tad bit riskier.

4. Liquor corroded the zinc tops of mason jars. The resulting zinc salts created acute gastritis, which could be fatal.

5. The 'heads' or first shots of moonshine were high in aldehydes--very strong acids.

6. The 'tails' or dregs of moonshine were high in fusel oil, which could cause nausea, vomiting or even a comatose state.

7. Many times the alcohol was not properly aged, resulting in 'raw spirits' which contained numerous poisons.

8. Some bootleg was made with denatured alcohol, a non-beverage liquor made for industrial usage.

9. Poisons were sometimes added to homemade liquor to give it a little 'kick' (more like 'kick the bucket' if you ask me).

10. Sometimes wood alcohol would be used by mistake, causing victims to die a much faster, more violent death than those who drank either denatured alcohol or corrupt moonshine.

11. The aftermath of bad bootleg liquor could cause delirium so severe it resulted in stupefaction followed by uncontrolled frenzy.

12. Some people had been known to commit suicide from the agitation resulting from bad liquor.

13. And if the booze itself didn't kill you, you always ran the risk of getting caught in the middle of the gangland wars over bootlegging territory.

Sounds like it was easier and safer just to stay sober, doesn't it?