Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/October 1883/The Remedies of Nature VI
|←How the Earth was Peopled II||Popular Science Monthly Volume 23 October 1883 (1883)
The Remedies of Nature VI
By Felix Leopold Oswald
|The Aim of Thermo-Chemical Investigations→|
By FELIX L. OSWALD, M.D.
IN the tragedy of errors, called the history of the human race, ignorance has often done as much mischief as sin; and the erroneous theories of the cause—and, consequently, the proper cure—of the Poison-Vice have caused nearly as much misery as that vice itself. They have made intemperance an all but incurable evil; they have helped to originate the dogma of natural depravity, the confidence in the efficacy of anti-natural remedies, and that baneful mistrust in the competence of our natural instincts that still vitiates our whole system of physical education.
Physiology is a true thaumaturgic science—a description of wonders. The veriest savage must dimly recognize the fact that man can not measure his cunning against the wisdom of the Creator, and, if the development of science should continue at the present rate of progress for a thousand generations, the accumulated knowledge of all those ages would convince its inheritors that a blade of grass is a greater marvel than all the products of human skill. No human artificer can imitate the mechanism of a motor-nerve; the structural devices which the microscope reveals in the tissue of the meanest moss are perfect hyperboles of wisdom and plastic skill. But the greatest miracles of that wisdom manifest themselves in the self-protecting contrivances of a living organism. Our nervous system performs its functions by a combination of alarm-signals that apprise us of an infinite variety of external dangers and internal needs, in a language that has a distinct expression for every want of our alimentary and respiratory organs, for every distress of our tissues, sinews, and muscles, for every needed reaction against the influence of abnormal circumstances; our skin protests against every injurious degree of heat and cold, our lungs against atmospheric impurities, our eyes against the intrusion of the smallest insect; the human body is a house that cleanses its own chambers and heats its own stoves, opens and shuts its windows at proper intervals, expels mischievous intruders, and promptly informs its tenant of every external peril and internal disorder.
How, then, can it be explained that the wonderful architect of that living house has provided no better safeguard against such a dreadful danger as the alcohol-habit? Millions of our fellow-men complain that they owe their temporal and eternal ruin to the promptings of an irresistible appetite—as if Nature herself had lured them THE REMEDIES OF NATURE. 761
to their destruction. Temperance-preachers descant on the "danger of worldly temptations " and " selfish indulgence," on the " lusts of unregenerate hearts." Drunkards plead their willingness to reform, but " the flesh is stronger than the spirit," the clamors of instinct silence the voice of every other monitor. Does the power of such appetites not suggest the occasional incompetence of our natural in- tuitions ? Does it not seem to confirm the dogma of natural depravity, and prove an essential defect in the constitution of our physical con- science ? Nay, in the light of Nature, for reason too often fails to supply the shortcomings of instinct ; the teachers whom the ignorant must follow seem themselves to be in need of a guide ; the stimulant- vice has found learned and plausible defenders ; zealous priests of Moloch have worshiped the man-devouring fire as a sacred flame ; for thousands of honest truth-seekers the disagreement of doctors makes it doubtful if alcohol is a friend or a foe, a health-giving tonic or a death-dealing poison.
Does all this not prove that, in one most important respect, Nature has failed to insure the welfare of her creatures ?
What it really proves is this : That habitual sin has blunted our physical conscience till we have not only ceased to heed, but ceased to understand, the protests of our inner monitor ; it proves that the victims of vice have so utterly forgotten the language of their in- stincts that they are no longer able to distinguish a natural appetite from a morbid appetency.
For the Creator has not intrusted our physical welfare to accident or the tardy aid of science, and, in spite of the far-gone degeneration of our race, our children still share nearly all the protective instincts of the Nature-guided animals. Children abhor the vitiated air of our city tenements ; they need no lecturer on practical physiology to im- press the necessity of out-door exercise ; their instinct revolts against the absurdities of fashion and the unnatural restraints of our seden- tary modes of life. And the same inner monitor warns them against dietetic abuses. Long before Bichat proved that our digestive or- gans are those of a frugivorous animal, children preferred apples to sausages and sweetmeats to greasy made-dishes ; they detest rancid cheese, caustic spices, and similar whets of our jaded appetites. No human being ever relished the first taste of a "stimulant." To the palate of a healthy child, tea is insipid ; the taste of coffee (unless disguised by milk or sugar) offensively bitter, laudanum acrid-caustic ; alcohol as repulsive as corrosive sublimate. No tobacco-smoker ever forgets his horror at the first attempt, the seasick-like misery and head- ache Nature's protest against the incipience of a health-destroying habit. Of lager-beer "the grateful and nutritive beverage which our brewers are now prepared to furnish at the rate of 480,000 gallons a day " the first glass is shockingly nauseous so much so, indeed, as to be a fluid substitute for tartar emetic. Nor do our instincts yield
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after the first protest : nausea, gripes, nervous headaches, and gastric spasms, warn us again and again. But we repeat the dose, and Nature, true to her highest law of preserving existence at any price, and feel- ing the hopelessness of the life-endangering struggle, finally chooses the alternative of palliating an evil for which she has no remedy, and adapts herself to the abnormal condition. The human body becomes a poison-engine, an alcohol-machine, performing its vital functions only under the spur of a specific stimulus.
And only then the unnatural habit begets that craving which the toper mistakes for the prompting of a healthy appetite a craving which every gratification makes more exorbitant. For by-and-by the jaded system fails to respond to the spur ; the poison-slave has to resort to stronger stimulants ; rum and medicated brandy now mock him with the hope of revived strength ; the gathering night still gives way to an occasional flickering-up of the vital flame, till the nervous exhaustion at last defies every remedy : the worshiper of alcohol must consummate his self-sacrifice, the shadow of his doom has settled on his soul, and all the strongest stimulants can now do for him is to recall a momentary glimmering of that light which filled the unclouded heaven of his childhood.
In order to distinguish a poison-stimulant from a harmless and nutritive substance, Nature has thus furnished us three infallible tests :
1. The first taste of every poison is either insipid or repulsive.
2. The persistent obtrusion of the noxious substance changes that aversion into a specific craving.
3. T7ie more or less pleasurable excitement produced by a gratifica- tion of that craving is always followed by a depressing reaction.
The first drop of a wholesome beverage (milk, cold water, cider fresh from the press, etc.) is quite as pleasant as the last ; the indul- gence in such pleasures is not followed by repentance, and never be- gets a specific craving. Pancakes and honey we may eat with great relish whenever we can get them, but, if we can't, we won't miss them as long as we can satisfy our hunger with bread and butter. In mid- winter, when apples advance to six dollars a barrel, it needs no lectures and midnight prayers to substitute rice-pudding for apple-pie. A Turk may breakfast for thirty years on figs and roasted chestnuts, and yet be quite as comfortable in Switzerland, where they treat him to milk and bread. Not so the dram-drinker : his " thirst " can not be assuaged with water or milk, his enslaved appetite craves the wonted tipple or else a stronger stimulant. Natural food has no effect on the poison-hunger ; Nature has nothing to do with such appetites.
The first choice of any particular stimulant seems to depend on such altogether accidental circumstances as the accessibility or cheap- ness of this or that special medium of intoxication. Orchard countries use distilled or vinous tipples ; grain-lands waste their products on malt-liquors. The pastoral Turkomans fuddle with koumiss, or fer-
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mented mare's-railk, the Ashantees with sorgho-beer, the Mexicans with pulque (aloe-sap), the Chinese and Persians with opium and hasheesh ( Cannabis Indica), the Peruvians with the acrid leaves of the coca-tree. Even mineral poisons have their votaries. There arc thou- sands of arsenic-eaters in the southern Alps. Arsenious acid, anti- mony, cinnabar, and acetate of copper, are mistaken for digestive tonics by Spanish and South American miners. By the process of fermentation, rice, sago, honey, sugar, durrha (Sorghum vulgaris), dates, plums, currants, and innumerable other berries and fruits, have been converted into stimulants. The pastor of a Swiss colony on the Llanos Ventosos in the Mexican State of Oaxaca told me that the Indians of that neighborhood stupefy themselves with macerated cicuta, a kind of water-hemlock, and remarked that the delirium and the subsequent reaction of a cicuta-debauch correspond exactly to the successive phases of a whisky-spree, the only difference being in the price of the tipple. If intoxication were a physiological necessity, it would, indeed, be folly to buy the stimulant at the dram-shops, since cheaper poisons would serve the same purpose. A dime's worth of arsenic would protract the stimulant-fever for a week, with all the alternate excitements and dejections of an alcohol-revel. A man might get used to phosphorus and inflame his liver with the same lucifer-matches he uses to light his lamp ; we might gather jimson- weed or aconite, or fuddle with mushrooms, like the natives of Kam- chatka, who prepare a highly-intoxicating liquor from a decoction of the common fly-toadstool (Agaricus maculatus).
These facts teach us two other valuable lessons, viz., that every poison can become a stimulant, and that the alcohol-habit is charac- terized bg all the symptoms which distinguish the poison-hunger from a natural appetite. One radical fallacy identifies the stimulant-habit in all its disguises : its victims mistake a process of irritation for a process of invigoration. The self-deception of the dyspeptic philoso- pher, who hopes to exorcise his blue-devils with the fumes of the weed that has caused his sick-headaches is absolutely analogous to that of the pot-house sot who tries to drown his care in the source of all his sorrows ; and there is no reason to doubt that it is precisely the same fallacy which formerly ascribed remedial virtues to the vilest stimulants of the drug-store, and that, with few exceptions, the poisons administered for "medicinal" purposes have considerably increased, instead of decreasing, the sum of human misery.
The milder stimulants (light beer, cider, and narcotic infusions) would be comparatively harmless, if their votaries could confine them- selves to a moderate dosis. For sooner or later the tonic is sure to pall, while the morbid craving remains, and forces its victim either to increase the quantity of the wonted stimulant, or else resort to a stronger poison. A boy begins with ginger-beer and ends with ginger- rum ; the medical " tonic " delusion progresses from malt-extract to
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Munford's Elixir ; the coffee-cup leads to the pipe, and the pipe to the pot-house. Wherever the nicotine-habit has been introduced, the alcohol-habit soon follows. The Spanish Saracens abstained from all poisons, and for seven centuries remained the teachers of Europe in war as well as in science and the arts of peace freemen in the fullest sense of the word, men whom a powerful foe could at last expel and exterminate, but never subdue. The Turks, having learned to smoke tobacco, soon learned to eat opium, and have since been taught to eat dust at the feet of the Muscovite. When the first Spaniards came to South America they found in the Patagonian highlands a tribe of warlike natives who were entirely ignorant of any stimulating sub- stance, and who have ever since defied the sutlers and soldiers of their neighbors, while the tobacco-smoking red-skins of the North suc- cumbed to fire-water. In the South-Sea Islands, too, European poisons have done more mischief than gunpowder : wherever the natives had been fond of fermented cocoa-milk, their children became still fonder of rum ; while the Papuans, whose forefathers had never practiced stimulation, have always shown an aversion to drunkenness, and in spite of their ethnological inferiority have managed to survive their aboriginal neighbors. International statistics have revealed the re- markable fact that the alcohol-vice is most prevalent not in the most ignorant or most despotic countries (Russia, Austria, and Turkey), nor where alcoholic drinks of the most seductive kind are cheapest (Greece, Spain, and Asia Minor), but in the commercial countries that use the greatest variety of milder stimulants Great Britain, Western France, and Eastern North America. Hence the apparent paradox that drunkenness is most frequent among the most civilized nations. The tendency of every stimulant-habit is toward a stronger tonic. Claude Bernard, the famous French physiologist, noticed that the opium-vice recruits its female victims chiefly from the ranks of the veteran coffee-drinkers ; in Savoy and the adjoining Swiss cantons kirsch-wasser prepares the way for arsenic ; in London and St. Peters- burg many ether-drinkers have relinquished high wines for a more concentrated poison ; and in Constantinople the Persian opium-shops have eclipsed the popularity of the Arabian coffee-houses.
We see, then, that every poison-habit is progressive, and thus real- ize the truth that there is no such thing as a harmless stimulant, be- cause the incipience of every unnatural appetite is the first stage of a progressive disease.
The facts from which we draw these conclusions have long been fa- miliar to scientific specialists, and have separately been commented upon ; but in science, as in morals, the progress from special to general inferences is often amazingly slow. The ancient Athenians would have shuddered at the idea of selling and buying a burgher of their own city, but had no hesitation to enslave the Greeks of the neighboring states. The Romans enfranchised the citizens of Latium, and at last
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all the natives of the Italian Peninsula, but kidnapped all the "barba- rians " they could lay their hands upon ! The French and Spaniards of the last century were deeply shocked at the indiscriminate man- hunts of the Algerian corsairs, and even refused to retaliate on the men of Argel, because, in spite of their black turpitude, many of those misbelievers had something like a Caucasian skin on their faces, but those same moralists thought it perfectly proper to kidnap and cow- hide the black sons of Ham ; but, since the children of a negress were as salable as their mothers, and miscegenation and mistakes could not always be avoided, it sometimes happened that the auctioneer got hold of a white slave, till William Wilberforce at last arrived at the grand conclusion that all human slavery is wrong. More than a hun- dred years ago, Dr. Boerhaave entered an emphatic protest against rum, French high-wines, and "other adulterated spirits," but con- fessed a predilection for a drop of good Schiedam. Dr. Zimmermann objected to all distilled liquors, but recommended a glass of good wine, and a plate of beer-soup the latter a Prussian invention, and one of those outrages on human nature that embittered the childhood of Frederick the Great. The hygienic reformers of our own country denounce intoxicating drinks of all kinds, but connive at mild ale, cider, opiates, narcotics, and patent " bitters." The plan has been thoroughly tried, and has thoroughly failed. We have found that the road to the rum-shop is paved with "mild stimulants," and that every bottle of medical bitters is apt to get the vender a permanent customer. We have found that cider and mild ale lead to strong ale, to lager-beer, and finally to rum, and the truth at last dawns upon us that the only safe, consistent, and effective plan is Total Abstinence from all Poisons.
We have seen that the poison-habit is a upas-tree that reproduces its germs from the smallest seeds ; but where did the first seed come from ? How did the life-blighting delusion happen to take root in the human mind ? " Man is the only suicidal animal," says Dr. Haller, " and the first opium-eater was probably some life-weary wretch who tried to end his misery by a lethal dose, and found that his poison could be used as a temporary nepenthe." The physiologist Camper ascribes the introduction of alcoholic liquors to the experiments of un- principled physicians ; but the most plausible theory is the conjecture of Fabio Colonna, an Italian scientist of the seventeenth century. " Before people used wine," says he, " they probably drank sweet must, and preserved it, like oil, in jars or skins. But in a warm climate a saccharine fluid is apt to ferment, and some avaricious housekeeper may have drunk that spoiled stuff till she became fond of it, and thus learned to prefer wine to must." Not a compliment to human nature, but quite probable enough to be true. An animal would have preferred water to spoiled grape- juice, but even at a very early period of his de- velopment the Nature-despising homo sapiens may have learned to
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disregard the warnings of bis instinct. The economical housekeeper probably thought it a shame that bis (giving poor Eve the benefit of tbe doubt) servants should grumble about a slight difference in tbe taste of the must, and the servants had to submit, had to drink the " spoiled stuff " again and again, till habit more than neutralized their disgust, for they found that tbe sickness induced by the effects of the putrefaction-poison (alcobol) could be cured by a repetition of the dose. Tbey began to hanker after fermented must, and, by drinking it in larger quantities, induced a delirium which they described as anything but unpleasant ; and their master, after repeated experiments, probably arrived at the same conclusion, namely, that must could be improved by fermentation. The next year they gathered grapes for tbe delib- erate purpose of manufacturing an intoxicating drink, and the fatal precedent was established. Nature exacted the just penalties : the votaries of the poison-god were stricken with physical and mental nausea weariness, headaches, fits of spleen and hypochondria but still tbey found that all these symptoms could be temporarily relieved by a draught of fermented must ; and the neighbors were astonished to learn that the servants of Goodman Noah had discovered a panacea for all earthly afflictions. They, too, then tried the receipt with in- different success at first, but the experience of the habitues encouraged them to persist, till the manufacture of wine became an extensive business.
The first traffickers in stimulants (like our lager-beer philanthro- pists) had a personal interest in disseminating the habit, but, whatever may have been the birth-land of the alcohol-vice, its first growth was probably slow, compared with the rate of increase after its exportation across the frontier. The history of tobacco, tea, coffee (and opium, I fear), has repeatedly illustrated the influence of imitativeness in pro- moting the introduction of foreign vices. The rarity and novelty of outlandish articles generally disposes the vulgar to value them as luxu- ries, especially while a high price precludes their general use. Foreign merchants and a few wealthy natives set the fashion, and soon the lower classes vie in emulating their betters, the young in aping their elders. In England, James I tried his utmost to suppress the use of smoking- tobacco, but, after his young cavaliers had become addicted to the habit, no penalties could prevent the London apprentices from imitating them. "In large cities," says Dr. Schrodt, "one may see gamins under ten years grubbing in rubbish-heaps for cigar-stumps, soon after leaning against a board-fence, groaning and shuddering as they pay the re- peated penalty of Nature, but, all the same, resuming the experiment with the resignation of a martyr. The rich, the fashionable, do it ; those whom they envy smoke : smoking, they conclude, must be some- thing enviable."
Similar arguments, doubtless, aided the introduction of the alco- hol-habit, and, after the vice had once taken root, its epidemic develop-
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raent followed as a matter of course. Every poison-vice is progressive, and, soon after the introduction of a new stimulant, the majority of in- dividual consumers will find that the habit "grows upon them," as our language aptly expresses it. The direct effect of the poison, heredi- tary influences, etc., induce a growing depression of vital energy, which, in turn, leads to an increased demand for the means of stimu- lation. This want is met in a twofold way : 1. By a direct increase of the quantity or strength of any special stimulant ; 2. By the prog- ress from a milder to a more virulent poison of a diffei'ent kind.
In Prussia, Scotland, Denmark (as well as in some of our Eastern States), actual drunkenness (i. e., intoxication followed by riotous con- duct) has apparently decreased, while the revenue register shows an un- doubted increase in the per capita consumption of alcoholic liquors. This does not prove that our topers are growing less vicious, but that they are growing more practical ; intermittent rioters have become "steady hard-drinkers." In the Calmuck steppes, whose barrenness has forced the inhabitants to preserve the primitive habits of their an- cestors, a little grain is cultivated here and there in the river-valleys, and during the winter migration the herders carry bags full of rye from camp to camp, and bake bread whenever they are short of meat or milk. But at the return of the harvest-season they have both meat and bread, and utilize the surplus of last year's grain by brewing it into a sort of beer, and indulging in a grand carousal i. e., they get beastly drunk, but only once a year. The Bacchanalia and Symposia of the ancient Greeks were monthly revels in honor of some favorite deity ; and even during the middle ages many of the poor Scotch lairds brewed ale only when they expected a guest. To get " as drunk as a lord " was the highest ambition of poor Hodge, but an ambition which he could not often gratify, though he sometimes stinted himself in bread in order to drink his fill
"At ember-eves and holy ales."
By-and-by, however, wages improved, and ales became more fre- quent and more decidedly unholy, though perhaps less obstreperous, since continual practice enables our topers to " carry their liquor " as discreetly as the Baron of Bradwardine. The most respectable hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, allows its male employes a daily pour Loire of six quarts of wine ; Dr. Buchanan, of Manchester, speaks of English mechanics of the " better class " w T ho take a glass of gin w T ith every meal ; and I am sure of understating the truth if I say that in the larger cities of Germany and North America every popular beer-shop has among its customers dozens of "regulars" who drink the year round a daily minimum of two gallons of lager-beer. The poison- mania which attacked our ancestors in the form of an intermittent passion has grown into an insatiable hunger ; the tempting serpent has become a strangling hydra.
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And the heads of that hydra have multiplied. The ancient Greeks knew only one stimulant wine ; the Northmen beer, the American Indians tobacco. We have adopted all three, besides tea from China, opium from India, coffee from Arabia, and fire-water from the labora- tory of the German chemists. To this list the modern French have added chloral and absinthe. Yet this multiformity of the poison-habit is nothing but a normal symptom of its growth ; whenever the quan- titative increase of a stimulant-dose has reached its physical limits, the exhausted system craves a new tonic ; the beer-drinker rallies his nerves with strong coffee, tobacco, or hot spices (pepper-sauce, "herring-salad," etc.), the brandy-drinker with chloral or opium, the opium-eater with arsenic. " It is alcohol that has led me to opium," says Charles Nisard ; " at first I used laudanum only as an antidote."
Antidote means counter-poison. Supplementary poison would have been the right word ; foreign poison-habits have supplemented rather than superseded our old stimulant-vices. The brewers' argument, that the use of lager-beer would prevent the introduction of opium, is there- fore a bottomless sophism : no stimulant-vice has ever prevented the dissemination of other and stronger poisons. The alcohol-habit has sometimes been supplanted by a passion for opium, chloral, or arsenic, but it can not be exorcised with a weaker stimulant. Beelzebub does not yield to a hobgoblin. Yet nothing is more common in temperance- hospitals than to comfort a converted drunkard with strong black coffee or stimulating drugs, in the hope that the milder tonic might operate as a sort of antidote and neutralize the after-effects of the stronger poison. That idea is an unfortunate delusion. The succedaneum may bring a temporary relief, but it can not assuage the thirst for the stronger tonic, and only serves to perpetuate the stimulant-diathesis it prepares the way for the return of Beelzebub with a legion of ac- complices. On the total-abstinence plan the struggle with the fiend is sharper, but decisive. If, by the help of a strong physical (or moral) constitution, the drunkard can suppress his appetite for a year, he may manage to keep it afterward in a dormant condition ; but only with extreme precaution, for a mere spark is apt to rekindle the flame.
" It shovdd ever be borne in mind," says Dr. Sewall, " that such is the sensibility of the stomach of the reformed drunkard, that a repetition of the use of alcohol, in the slightest degree and in any form, under any circumstances, revives the appetite ; the blood-vessels of the stomach again become dilated, and the morbid sensibility of the organ is re- produced."
A young priest from one of the West India Islands once consulted Dr. Rush for an affection of the lungs, and was advised to try the use of garlics. " I am satisfied that your prescription is doing me good," said he at the next interview, " but I wish you would let me steep it in some good old Geneva." " No, indeed, sir ! " said the doctor, with
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emphasis ; "no man shall look me in the face, on the day of judgment, and tell the Almighty that Dr. Hush made him a drunkard ! "
I do not intend to deny that the use of mild alcoholic tonics, as a substitute for the frightful remedies of the mediaeval Sangrados, is a decided improvement, but, still, it is only a lesser evil, a first step of a progressive reform. Alcohol lingers in our hospitals as slavery lingers in the West Indies, as the witchcraft delusion lingers in Southern Europe. Has alcohol any remedial value whatever ? Let us consider the matter from a purely empirical stand-point. Does alcohol protect from malarial fevers ? It is a well-known fact that the human organ- ism can not support two diseases at the same time. Rheumatism can be temporarily relieved by producing an artificial inflammation ; a head- ache yields to a severe toothache. For the same reason the alcohol- fever affords a temporary protection from other febrile symptoms i. e., a man might fortify his system against chills and ague by keeping himself constantly under the stimidating influence of alcohol. But sooner or later stimulation is followed by depression, and during that reaction the other fever gets a chance, and rarely misses it. The his- tory of epidemics proves that pyretic diseases are from eight to twelve times more destructive among dram-drinkers than among the temper- . ate classes ; rich or poor, young or old, abstainers are only centesimated by diseases that decimate drunkards. On no other point is the testi- mony of physicians of all schools, all times, and all countries, more con- sistent and unanimous.
Is alcohol a peptic stimulant ? No more than Glauber's-salt or castor-oil. The system hastens to rid itself of the noxious substance, the bowels are thrown into a state of morbid activity only to relapse into a morbid inactivity. The effect of every laxative is followed by a stringent reaction, and the habitual use of peptic stimulants leads to a chronic constipation which yields only to purgatives of the most virulent kind.
Does alcohol impart strength ? Does it benefit the exhausted sys- tem ? If a worn-out horse drops on the highway, we can rouse it by sticking a knife into its ribs, but, after staggering ahead for a couple of minutes, it will drop again, and the second deliquium will be worse than the first by just as much as the brutal stimulus has still further exhausted the little remaining strength. In the same way precisely alcohol rallies the exhausted energies of the human body. The pros- trate vitality rises against the foe, and labors with restless energy till the poison is expelled. Then comes the reaction, and, before the pa- tient can recover, his organism has to do double work. Nature has to overcome both the original cause of the disease and the effect of the stimulant.
Alcohol has no remedial value. But that would be a trifle, if it were not for the positive mischief which the wretched poison is liable, and very liable, to cause. Four repetitions of the stimulant-dose may
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�� � inoculate a child with the germs of the alcohol-diathesis and initiate a habit which years of anguish and despair will fail to cure. By a single glass of medicated brandy thousands of convalescing topers have lost their hard-earned chance of recovery; poor, struggling wretches, swimming for their lives, and, at last approaching a saving shore, have been pushed back into the surging whirlpool, and perished almost in sight of the harbor! The only chance of curing the poison-habit consists in the hope of guarding its victims against all stimulants; and I would as soon snatch bread from a starving man as that last hope from a drunkard.
Abstinence is easier, as well as safer, than temperance. "In freeing themselves from the bonds of an unworthy attachment," says Madame de Sévigné, "men have one great advantage—they can travel." If young Lochinvar's suit had been hopeless, the furtive interview with his lost love might have soothed his sorrow for a moment, but for his ultimate peace of mind it would have been better to stay in the west. The anchorites of old knew well why they preferred the wilderness to the humblest village: they found it easier to avoid all temptations. Vices, as well as virtues, are co-operative.
In the cure of the alcohol-habit, the total renunciation of all stimulants is, therefore, the first and most essential measure. A change of diet, a change of climate, of employment, and general habits, will help to shorten the distressing reaction that must precede the re-establishment of perfect health. The force of example may partly supply a deficiency in moral principles, ambition may strengthen their influence. But the effect of any secondary stimulant is more than enough to counteract such tendencies. With the following precautions the total-abstinence plan will prove to have the further advantage of progressive effectiveness; for, after the removal of the irritating cause has in some degree allayed the morbid sensitiveness of the digestive organs, the abnormal appetite will gradually disappear, like the secondary symptoms of the disease, and thus lessen the influence of the subjective temptation.
- The treatise on "The Alcohol-Habit" will be concluded in our next issue.