Sources: Papers On Health

The delusion that health can be restored by swallowing

drugs is so widespread that we think it well to quote the following

wise words from the Lancet:--

"An eminent physician not long deceased was once giving evidence in a

will case, and on being asked by counsel what fact he chiefly relied

upon as establishing the insanity of the testator, replied without a

moment's hesitation: 'Chiefly upon his unquestioning faith in the value

of my prescriptions.' It might perfectly well be contended that this

evidence failed to establish the point at issue, and that faith in the

prescriptions of a physician hardly deserved to be stigmatised in so

severe a manner. But admitting this, there is still little to be said

in favour of the sagacity, even if we admit the sanity, of the numerous

people who spend money and thought over the business of physicking

themselves, and who usually, if not indeed always, bring this business

to an unfortunate conclusion. The whole tendency of what may be called

popular pharmacy during the last few years has been in the direction of

introducing to the public a great variety of powerful medicines, put up

in convenient forms, and advertised in such a manner as to produce in

the unthinking, a belief that they may be safely and rightly

administered at all times and seasons, as remedies for some real or

supposed malady. All this, of course, has been greatly promoted by

column after column of advertisement in magazines and lay newspapers;

but we are compelled to admit that the medical profession cannot be

held free from some amount of blame in the matter or from some

responsibility for the way in which drugs have lately been popularised

and brought into common use as articles of domestic consumption.

Medical men have failed, we think, sufficiently to impress upon the

public and upon patients that the aim of reasonable people should be to

keep themselves in health rather than to be always straying, as it

were, upon the confines of disease and seeking assistance from drugs in

order to return to conditions from which they should never have

suffered themselves to depart. The various alkaline salts and

solutions, for example, the advertisements of which meet us at every

turn, and which are offered to the public as specifics, safely to be

taken, without anything so superfluous as the advice of medical men,

for all the various evils which are described by the advertisers as

gout or as heartburn, or as the consequences of 'uric acid,' do

unquestionably, in a certain proportion of cases, afford temporary

relief from some discomfort or inconvenience. They do this

notwithstanding persistence in the habit or in the indulgence, whatever

it may be, the over-eating, the want of exercise, the excessive

consumption of alcohol or of tobacco, which is really underlying the

whole trouble which the drugs are supposed to cure and which at the

very best they only temporarily relieve, while they permit the

continuance of conditions leading ultimately to degeneration of tissue

and to premature death. This is the moral which it is, we contend, the

duty of the profession to draw from the daily events of life. The

natural secretions of the human stomach are acid, and the acidity is

subservient to the digestive functions. It cannot be superseded by

artificial alkalinity without serious disturbance of nutrition; and the

aim of treatment, in the case of all digestive derangements, should be

to cure them by changing the conditions under which they arise, not to

palliate them for a time by the neutralisation of acid, which may,

indeed, give relief from present trouble, but which leaves unaltered

the conditions upon which the trouble really depends. Those who look

down the obituary lists of the newspapers will be struck by the fact

that large numbers of people, in prosperous circumstances, die as

sexagenarians from maladies to which various names are given but which

are, as a rule, evidences of degeneration and of premature senility,

while many who pass this period go on to enter upon an eighth or ninth

decade of life. The former class, we have no doubt, comprise those who

have lived without restraint of their appetites, and who have sought to

allay some of the consequences thence arising by self-medication, while

the latter class comprises those who have lived reasonably, and who, if

annoyed by imperfect digestion, have sought relief by ascertaining and

by abandoning the errors from which it sprang."

Among the most pernicious and dangerous of all the patent medicines on

the market are the so-called "Headache Powders," whose almost

instantaneous effects testify to the potency of the drugs they contain.

Such powerful agents carry their own condemnation, for they cannot in

the nature of things remove the cause of the pain; hence their action

is limited to narcotising the nerves. The disease continues, the damage

goes on, but the faithful sentinels are put to sleep. These headache

powders so increased the deaths from heart failure in New York City a

couple of years ago that it became necessary to warn the public against