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condition of body tissue affected by a poisonous substance. Poisonous materials, or toxins, are to be found in heavy metals such as lead and mercury, in drugs, in chemicals such as alcohol and carbon tetrachloride, in gases such as carbon monoxide, and in radioactive materials. Toxins are also elaborated by the microorganisms that cause such diseases as diphtheria, tetanus, and botulism. The body itself may produce poisonous substances in the course of such disorders as diabetes (ketones) and in some infectious diseases. Which body tissues are affected depends on the type of toxin. Phosphorus, for example, affects the liver, poisonous mushrooms the nervous system and red blood cells. See alcoholismalcoholism,
disease characterized by impaired control over the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholism is a serious problem worldwide; in the United States the wide availability of alcoholic beverages makes alcohol the most accessible drug, and alcoholism is the most
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; leprosyleprosy
or Hansen's disease
, chronic, mildly infectious malady capable of producing, when untreated, various deformities and disfigurements. It is caused by the rod-shaped bacterium Mycobacterium leprae, first described by G.
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; lead poisoninglead poisoning
or plumbism
, intoxication of the system by organic compounds containing lead. These enter the body by respiration (of dust, fumes, or sprays) or by ingestion of food or other substances that contain lead.
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; radiation sicknessradiation sickness,
harmful effect produced on body tissues by exposure to radioactive substances. The biological action of radiation is not fully understood, but it is believed that a disturbance in cellular activity results from the chemical changes caused by ionization (see
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



poisoning of the body by toxic substances that have formed within the body itself or have entered it from without.

Toxins that have entered the body from without (exogenous toxins) include poisons of animal or plant origin (bacterial toxins, snake venom), industrial poisons (arsenic, lead, benzene), drugs (when taken without a physician’s supervision or in case of individual intolerance), and war gases. Among the toxic products formed within the body itself (endogenous) are the substances formed in severe liver and kidney diseases, metabolic disorders, and endocrine impairment, microbial toxins (in infectious diseases), and products of tissue breakdown (in malignant tumors, extensive burns, and so forth). Intoxication by substances formed within the body is called autointoxication. Poisonings by hormonal products are called toxicoses (poisonings caused by exogenous poisons are sometimes also called toxicoses). The pathogenic effect depends on the amount of poison, the duration of action, the physicochemical and biological properties of the poisons, and the reactivity of the body. Toxic substances may act either directly on tissues or after being absorbed by individual organs or systems (chiefly the nervous, cardiovascular, and hematopoietic). They can inhibit the saturation of the blood with oxygen and can disrupt various metabolic (biochemical) processes.

The steps taken in cases of poisoning aim at removing the poisons from the body as quickly as possible. These measures include the use of antidotes and symptomatic agents and cleaning the blood in an artificial kidney. The primary disease in which toxins are formed should be treated in cases of autointoxication.




the condition that results from the ingestion of alcohol and other narcotics, in which the physiological functions of the body are disturbed and the central nervous system is primarily affected.

The symptoms of intoxication include euphoria—an exaggerated sense of well-being not in keeping with real events—and emotional excitement that in severe cases changes into depression. Intoxicated persons lose sight of the role of their own personality and are unable to realistically appraise their situation. Disturbances of memory, attention, speech, and motor coordination also arise. Alcoholic beverages are the most common intoxicant; 20 percent of the alcohol is quickly absorbed into the blood from the stomach, and 80 percent from the intestine. The alcohol selectively accumulates in the brain, where its concentration is 75 percent higher than in the blood.

Three degrees of alcoholic intoxication can be described. Mild intoxication may ensue after ingesting an average of 30–40 g of pure alcohol. It is characterized by moderate excitement, a sensation of warmth in the body, and a decrease in the quality of physical and mental performance. Ingestion of an average of 50–100 g of pure alcohol results in moderate intoxication. This is characterized by a sharply expressed, prolonged stage of excitement during which the intoxicated person demands attention, persistently attempts to communicate with others, and frequently becomes involved in crimes, injuries, and accidents. This stage of emotional excitement is followed by depression, characterized by sluggishness and drowsiness.

Sobering is usually accompanied by the symptoms of hangover—general exhaustion, nausea, and headache.

Severe intoxication results when 100–300 g of pure alcohol are ingested. A brief period of violent excitement, lasting from one-half to one hour, is followed by deep sleep. Sobering occurs within six to eight hours and is accompanied by considerable exhaustion. Severe intoxication can result in death. For adults, a lethal dose of alcohol is 4–8 g per kg of body weight, and for children, 3 g per kg of body weight.

Ordinary intoxication is contrasted with pathological intoxication, a rare disorder that occurs with relatively small doses of alcoholic beverages and is manifested by the sudden onset of a twilight state. Pathological intoxication can be accompanied by dangerous aggressive acts. (See ALCOHOLISM and NARCOMANIA.)


Baliakin, V. A. Toksikologiia i ekspertiza alkogol’nogo op’ianeniia. Moscow, 1962.
Strel’chuk, I. V. Ostraia i khronicheskaia intoksikatsiia alkogolem, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1973.
Herber, F. Alkohol. Prozente. Promille. Probleme. Berlin, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The state produced by overindulgence in alcohol.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.