Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/788

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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 laboratory 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 quantitative 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 Supplementary poison would have been the right word; foreign poison-habits have supplemented rather than superseded our old stimulant-vices.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 therefore 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 accomplices. 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 should 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 reproduced."

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