Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/321

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necessitous system has no strength to spare for such purposes as an effort of the motive organs. But nine out of ten dyspeptics resort to the drug-store. They get a bottle of "tonic bitters." They try Dr. Quack's "Dyspepsia Elixir." They try a "blue pill"—in the hope of rousing Nature, as it were, to a sense of her proper duty.

Now, what such "tonics" can really do for them is this: they goad the system into the transient and abnormal activity incident to the necessity of expelling a virulent poison. With the accomplishment of that purpose the exertion ceases, and the ensuing exhaustion is worse than the first by just as much as the poison-fever has robbed the system of a larger or smaller share of its little remaining strength. The stimulant has wasted the organic energy which it seemed to revive. "But," says the invalid, "if a repetition of the dose can relieve the second reaction, would the result not be preferable to the languor of the unstimulated system? Wouldn't it be the best plan to let me support my strength by sticking to my patent tonic?"

Yes, it would be very convenient, especially in times of scarcity, if a starving horse could be supported by the daily application of a patent spur. It would save both oats and oaths. Even a fastidious nag could not help acknowledging the pungency of the goad. But it so happens that spur-fed horses are somewhat short-lived, though at first the diet certainly seems to act like a charm. For a day or two the drug stimulates the activity of the digestive organs as well as of the mental faculties, but the subsequent prostration is so intolerable that the patient soon chooses the alternative of another poison-fever. Before long the pleasant phase of the febrile process becomes shorter and the reaction more severe; the jaded system is less able to respond to the goad, and, in order to make up for the difference, the dose of the stimulant has to be steadily increased. The invalid becomes a bondsman to the drug-store, and hugs the chain that drags him down to the slavery of a confirmed poison-habit.

Circumstances may differ. A dyspeptic who intends to make his own quietus within a month or two, and in the mean while has a certain amount of work to finish, would be justified in stimulating his working capacities by all means, in order to improve to the utmost whatever chances of mundane activity may remain to him. But he who intends to stay has to make up his mind that recovery can not be hoped for till he has not only discontinued his drug, but expiated the burden of sin which the stimulant outrage has added to the original cause of the disease. Nature has to overcome the effects both of malnutrition and of malpractice. The drug has complicated the disease.

In childhood chronic dyspepsia is nearly always the effect of chronic medication. Indigestion is not an hereditary complaint. A dietetic sin per excessum, a quantitative surfeit with sweetmeats and pastry, may derange the digestive process for a few hours or so, but the trouble passes by with the holiday. Lock up the short-cakes, admin-