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It is much to be regretted, says Dr. Graham, that there is a fashion in medicine as well as in the other affairs of life. A few years ago, the majority of ordinary complaints were said to be on the nerves; now they all depend upon, and centre in the liver. On this subject a modern writer has well observed.
The Princess, afterwards Queen Anne, was subject to hypocondriacal attacks, which her physicians pronounced to be spleen, vapours, or hypo, and recommended Rawleigh's confection and pearl cordial for its curo. This circumstance was sufficient to render the disease and remedy fashionable; and no other complaint was ever heard of in the precincts of the court but that of the vapours. Some years afterwards, in consequence of Dr. Whytt's publication on nervous diseases, a lady of fashion was pronounced to be nervous. The term became general, and the disease fashionable; and spleen, vapours, and hypo, were consigned to oblivion. The reign of nervous diseases, however, did not long continue, for a popular work appeared on biliary concretions, and all the world became bilious. It is an unhappy circumstance that the world still continues in this state, and that both the disease and its remedy have taken so deep a root in the professional mind, that there is yet no appearance of a change to another ideal, fashionable malady, whose favourite remedy, we might hope, would be a medicine more like the pearl cordial of Rawleigh's confection than calomel, and there
fore more congenial to the human constitution, and which, if it were not attended with any sensible benefit, would possess at least the advantage of being innocent.
The term "liver complaint" is now in the mouth of every one and it is well known that mercury, in some form, generally the most injudicious, is the universa! medicine for all kinds and degrees of disorder in the digestive organs. A patient, suffering from such disorder, which is usually denoted by oppression at the stomach after eating, want of appetite, weakness, depression of spirits, can at this time hardly consult his physician with out being told he has a liver complaint; and as a necessary consequence, being soon loaded with calomel or blue pill. Indeed, it is a fact, of which I am convinced from ample experience, that even the slighter forms of derangements in the assimilative viscera are often designated by the above fashionable term, and treated accordingly. In the United States, (aays the American Editor of Dr. Graham's book on indigestion,) and especially in those states situated toward the south and west, a physician often rises in celebrity in proportion to the magnitude of the doses of calomel which he ordinarily prescribes. Notwithstanding the temerity of such a practice, the patients often recover from the disease with which they were attacked, and the calomel so skilfully administered, gets the credit of the cure. Should the patient subsequently suffer the horrors of a mercurial fever, and a salivation, which causes the palate and gums to alough, and the teeth to become loose,
or even drop out, the chance is, that the physician will get more praise than censure, since it will be inferred that, in all probability, death would have ensued but for the salivation.
To be sick is, of itself, misfortune enough: but, in our days, diseases multiply through abuse of strong remedies, whose powerful operations have abbreviated many valuable lives, and undermined many precious constitutions.
Dr. Blackhall, of Exeter, expresses himself very strongly on this subject. Parents have something to regret, who are so perpetually giving calomel to their children, without any distinction or care, as a common domestic remedy. And it is difficult to conceive on what view of the subject even practitioners proceed, who indulge in its use with less scruple than ever-with less attention as to dose with less caution as to management, whilst they are observing and lamenting the daily increasing ravages of hereditary scrophulous, and other disorders.
Indeed, the powerful and depressing effects of calomel on the whole nervous and vascular systems unequivocally proves its poisonous qualities, and raise indisputable objections to its frequent employment.
That so powerful an article, taken or administered by all descriptions of persons, without care or discrimination as to the dose or disease, must be attended with the most lamentable consequences, no one, with truth, can deny; for this medicine is not only a poison in excessive doses, but even in ordinary doses of two and three grains, it is
an active stimulant to the organs of digestion, and to the whole constitution.
There is not another article in the materia medica, in common use, which so immediately and permanently, and to so great a degree, debilitates the stomach and bowels, as calomel; yet this is the medicine which is sent for and prescribed on every occasion, the most trifling as well as the most urgent! Its action on the nervous system is demonstrative of its being an article in its nature inimical to the human constitution, since what medicine, besides its frequent use, will excite feelings so horrible and indescribable as calomel, and other preparations of mercury. An excessively peevish, irritable, and despondent state of mind, is a well known consequence of a single dose of this substance. Dr. Falkoner, of Bath, in a paper, where he forcibly animadverts on its abuse, observes, Among other ill effects, it tends to produce tremor, palpitation, inclina. tion to nightsweating, paralysis, and not unfrequently incurable mania. I have myself seen, repeatedly, from this cause, a kind of approximation to these maladies that embittered life to such a degree, with a shocking depres sion of spirits and other nervous agitation with which it was accompanied, as to make it more than commonly probable that many of the suicides which disgrace our country, were occasioned by the intolerable feelings that result from such a state of the nervous system.*
*Transactions of the Medical Society of London, vol. 1, page 110.
To set the poisonous qualities of mercury in a still clearer light, I would here insert an extract from Dr. Hamilton's work on the abuse of mercury, and also from Dr. Alley's observation on hydrargyria, an eruptive discase which is sometimes produced by this mineral:
"In a lady, whom the author attended some years ago, along with his intelligent friend, Dr. Fargharson, who had had such small doses of blue pill, combined with opium, for three nights successively, that the whole quantity amounted to no more than five grains of the mass. Salivation began on the fifth day; and notwithstanding every attention, the tongue and gums became swelled to an enormous degree; bleeding, ulcers of the mouth, and fauces took place, and such an excessive irritability and debility followed, that for nearly a whole month her life was in the utmost jeopardy."
Dr. Alley observes, page 40, that he has seen the mercurial eruption appear over the entire body of a boy about seven years old, for whom but three grains of calomel had been prescribed, ineffectually, as a purgative.
Some may think that these instances prove only idiosyncrasy in the individuals affected, rendering them in an extraordinary degree obnoxious to the pernicious effects of this single substance; that the conclusions here drawn touching the deleterious properties of mercury, are inconclusive. But this cannot be consistently affirmed, because the above instances of the poisonous operation of mercury are not of rare occurrence; on the contrary, they are