Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/789

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THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

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 mediæval 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 organism can not support two diseases at the same time. Rheumatism can be temporarily relieved by producing an artificial inflammation; a headache 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 stimulating 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 history of epidemics proves that pyretic diseases are from eight to twelve times more destructive among dram-drinkers than among the temperate classes; rich or poor, young or old, abstainers are only centesimated by diseases that decimate drunkards. On no other point is the testimony of physicians of all schools, all times, and all countries, more consistent 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 system? 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 prostrate vitality rises against the foe, and labors with restless energy till the poison is expelled. Then comes the reaction, and, before the patient 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