The Europeans probably learned that it wasn’t enough to just get Indians infected with blankets. They probably knew it took more than that to kill Indians with disease. Even though disease may be pretty deadly on its own, we still have to make mistakes in our lifestyles to further compound problems and lead to an early death.
I read that aspirin was likely to have helped kill a lot of people who were sick from the Spanish flu during World War 1. It’s unclear how exactly the aspirin killed sick people, but my guess is that it’s dangerous in its extracted form. Any extract of an herb usually is exposed to solvents, such as alcohol, which makes it more potent. The sick soldiers were probably receiving overdoses. They didn’t exactly know that more is not better.
Indians seemed to have given into alcohol quite readily. On top of that, their bodies were not used to alcohol. Furthermore, with the right timing of being exposed to alcohol and sickness, the Indians were quickly eradicated on their own merits. It’s a compounding of addiction and disease that may have hit them unsuspecting.
Europeans may have challenged the Indians bravado by challenging them to drink more fire water. Imagine having the courage to drink water that burns the mouth and survive it. You might feel like a god to control fire water, or it could be that you are just drunk -with power.
Alcohol does a number of things to help exacerbate disease. The acidity can lower oxygen levels in the body, for example. With reduced oxygen, the body has a harder time removing bacteria and viruses. You stay sick longer and are more likely to die.
Did the European settlers really know that alcohol would makes the Indians sickness worse? Maybe not. They just came into contact with a new race of people and we’re learning about them. Europeans probably took it for granted that all cultures probably drank alcohol in some form or another. Their perspectives were limited to their own culture.