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its gratification. And if Nature has given an appetite, and supplied the most ample means for its indulgence, it has also fixed the limits beyond which that indulgence is incompatible with the well being of the system. While no inconvenience, or any greater ill effects result from the gratification of the appetite for food, there can be no impropriety in obeying its commands; but every man is blessed with reason sufficient to convince him of errors in this respect, and with will sufficient to restrain his desires. What seems to me to be of more importance than the hackneyed subject of diet, is to point out to the people the detrimental consequences which arise from the inconsiderate use of drugs.
There is, perhaps, no country in which all kinds of drugs are used in such quantities, and in quick succession as in the United States, especially in the south and west. And what may be the cause of this injudicious, most lamentable way of proceeding? 1st. The absolute ignorance of most people of the structure of the human organs, their functions, and diseases, and the imperfect knowledge of the powers of medicine. Were it otherwise, had people but a superficial conception of these sciences, we doubt much if they would be as eager to accept all kinds of compounds offered to them. If a man sits down at the table, he considers well what is set before him before he partakes of it. Why not pursue at least the same course with drugs?
It is the prevailing opinion that medicine possesses a
be true to a certain extent,
yet medicine is but another name for poison, when improperly applied, or used in great quantities: and what is worse than all, is the too frequent repetition of them.
We need but examine the countenance of a person who is in the habit of taking medicine, and we'll soon notice that it is sicklied o'er with distress, the energies of the body exhausted, and almost brought to the brink of the grave by this most porverted plan of taking medicine like food. Indeed, many happy beings, in their idiotic ignorance, think that food could be spared when medicine is used, because this alone feeds sufficiently.
In a country like ours, where every one is not only his own judge in politics and religion, but also in medicine, it would be well to teach the principal branches of medicine, especially Toxicology, at the seminaries. It is, assuredly, the interest of every one, to know at least as much of medicine as shall enable him to form a genera estimate of the treatment to which he subjects himself and those who are dearest to him, as well as to form some notion of the ability of the practitioner who applies and administers it.
2. What may have further contributed to the abuse of drugs, is the incorrect classification of remedies in stimulating, corroborating, or tonics; antispastic, purgatives, emetics, alternatives, etc. Healing powers have been assigned to them which they do not possess, drawn from an imperfect analogy, which originated from an
imporfect physiological and pathological knowledge of past ages. Emetics and purgatives were brought intonotice through the erroneous doctrine of humoral pathology. Stimulating remedies, and tonics, were brought into fashion through the false conclusions of Cullen and Brown, etc.
"It were a task of immense labour to advert, by special cnumeration, to all the numerous cases of such fallacy, arising from extravagant views of the medicinal properties of the various agents, which, from age to age, and from year to year, have received the unspairing and undistinguished eulogies of physicians."
"General classification (says the reviewer of Dr. Dunglison's book) is unfriendly, so far as it goes, to a close discriminating study of the peculiar properties of the separate articles of the materia medica; and that the great object of our therapeutical researches on this particular point ought to be, to ascertain the exact individual specific value of these separate articles. (I wish it were so.) Tartarized antimony and ipecacuanha, are, both of them, emetics; but it will hardly be pretended that their opera tion on the stomach, and through this organ, on the entire system, is identical in its nature, differing only in activity, Each has its peculiar action. Similar remarks may be made in regard to the other important articles of the materia medica, and any generalization, the tendency of which is to merge these peculiar properties into some common family character, is unfriendly to the progress and certainty of therapeutical science. This spirit of
goneralizing, which we are endeavoring to combat, is objectionable not merely on the grounds of its abstract or scientific falsity, if we may so speak. If this were all, we could easily let it pass unnoticed. But this is not all. The error is full of practical danger. It influences, directly and unavoidably, our whole method and conduct in the application and selection of remedies."
I have frequently noticed, in different sections of this country, the great havoc made under the general terms of tonics, stimulants, alternatives, cleansing or purgative medicine! etc. etc. A man, for instance, is laboring under indigestion which may have proceeded from some cause or other, thinks it owing to debility. Tonics (his materia medica tells him) is an oxcellent remedy for a weak stomach; consequently he buys a "bottle of a bitter mixture," and after having taken it a few days finds himself worse, he is inclining more and more to listlessness and languor, his countenance is becoming more sallow, the tongue is coated; all (according to common doctrines) the exact indications of the torpid action of the liver! and he now thinks he has mistaken the disease: and being told that he needs "alternatives?! which means taking mercury in small doses in the shape of "blue pills," which is to be taken at night, and then bring up a reinforcement in the morning, in the 80 shape of calomel, rhubarb, and aloes (?) equal parts, which is thrown into the dilapidated castle to operate as a CONGREVE ROCKET. And in this way the falling castle is
played upon until the constitution can resist no longer, and yields to the unconquerable enemy.
How far the doctrine of humoral pathology is consistent with the present physiological and pathological knowledge; -on what grounds even the leading members of the profession can teach and propagate such erroneous principles we are at a loss how to explain. There can be no doubt that most gastric affections, acute as well as chronic, depend on a morbid nervosity, or subinflamation of the mucous membrane of the intestinal canal.
The American physician should break off this bad habit of using such quantities of mercurials and most irritating cathartics in derangements of the intestinal canal.
If cleansing remedies are indicated, (and I am sure in most cases a suitable plan in diet would answer the purpose better,) let them be of a mild character, such as tamarind, manna, salts, etc. They have at least the advantage, that they don't injure the intestines, which this mischievous calomel and purgative practice certainly do, producing, in the course of time, disorganizations and organic af fections, such as prolapsus ani, hæmorrhoides fluentes et coecae. Prolapsus uteri, diseased secretions of all characters, ulcers of the intestines, etc.
We do not wish to be captious, yet our feelings are so much excited at this detestible mania of purging, that we must call it a monstrous practice.
To keep principally in view (says Boisseau,) the