It is, no doubt, a great thing always to get to the point in any case at which the disease really has what may be called "the root of it." When we think of getting at such a point we find two very important meanings that the words are capable of bearing. The instance of a celebrated physician who was seated at a patient's bedside with his usual strong walking stick in his hand. There was a brandy bottle on the table. The patient explained that the doctor "never struck at the root of his illness." The doctor lifted his stick and smashed the brandy bottle, remarking that his patient would never have to say that again. It represents a great many things which might be struck at in the same way. For instance, the Teapot, which is itself a really good thing, might be smashed. A strong decoction of tea three or four times a day will bring on disease in the nervous system of a very serious character, and so long as the comforting habit is carried on nothing in the world will cure the sufferer. Then there is Tobacco, which is far more powerful and insidious than either Alcohol or Tea in its action upon the nerves; if it is continuously used it will produce the most distressing disease, and keep it up in spite of everything that can be done even to mitigate the symptoms. When you consider the extremely small quantity of Tobacco which is required to affect the whole system in one who has not got inured to its influence you will see the truth of this statement that it is far more powerful than alcohol and tea, and also more insidious. The forms of disease that are produced by Tobacco, such as Paralysis of the Limbs, along with a terrible irritation of the nerves that are not paralyzed, speak clearly of the power of this narcotic. If one would "strike at the root" of his malady he would break his pipe, if he uses one, or he may abandon all hope of really good health in the world. Then there is Opium. This is used to an incredible extent among the masses of our people, and has a large share in producing the disease and degeneracy that prevail. In the form of Laudanum it is sold by our druggists among the working people to a marvelous extent. And it is the root in many cases of disease. While it is continued it is perfect folly to expect a cure of those diseases which it continually produces. It gives most delicious relief in many cases, and that for a shorter or longer time; but when that time expires the relief is changed into an aggravation of the malady. It becomes one of the most hopeless of tasks to cure one who cannot be got beyond the reach of this most ruinous drug. Now we have other and worse forms of poison used by those whose duty it is to cure disease, but who, in the use they make of these, only protract instead of curing.
There is Chloral for instance, a most powerful narcotic, and one which gives relief from restlessness and pain in some cases in a wonderful way. But like Opium, it too creates forms of disease that are of the most terrible character. If it is being frequently used in any case it is useless to think of cure while that use is continued.
Even an ordinary reader, who has got the least idea of the relation of substances here employed in the development of the deadly drug will expect in some measure to find that its passing into ordinary commerce is a serious matter. We feel constrained to call attention to the real principle on which all such drugs are used. The principle is that of purchasing a brief season of unconsciousness at the expense of such injury to the nervous system as insures future distress, and lays the foundation for lifelong misery. The state which follows the use of a few grains of "Hydrate of Chloral" is not properly sleep, it is unconsciousness - that is when the result is what appears to be sleep - but it is not the same thing as natural sleep. So it is with Bromide of Potassium. That is given to produce sleep, and it requires only a short time of regular use to produce such lassitude and loss of power over the muscles as constitutes a truly dreadful form of disease. It is utterly hopeless to think of remedy from any other treatment if this use of potassium is carried on. Then there is "Digitalis," so constantly given in irritations of the heart. In "The Elements of Materia Medica," by Drs. Bently and Redwood, a book of authority, we find that the power of the heart is enfeebled by Digitalis, so that a sudden change of posture has often proved fatal. But this poison goes on "soothing" a patient so constantly that though all the time it is taking away life it is looked upon as a blessing. A patient for instance, has been for many months using "Digitalis." Somehow, though always "soothed" and his pulse rendered regular when he gets the drug, he does not recover health. He rather gets worse upon the whole. He is persuaded to abandon it, but all else fails to soothe him so as to carry him over the weaning time. He falls back upon Digitalis, and dies in a few days. Could you make that patient throw away his first dose of this powerful poison and never seek another, you would prolong his days by years, and might cure him of all illness he feels. But if you cannot get the root of his worst malady removed, nothing you can do will save his life.
"Aconite" is another deadly drug often prescribed in certain cases of disease. If it is used with anything like frequency, it will produce death in spite of all the remedial appliances that any human being can use, but even at long intervals it will render nerve cure impossible. No ignorant talk of ten thousand doctors will hinder the deadly action of this powerful poison if it is only given. A very little study of the poison will satisfy any true thinker of this. Begin with the account of "Aconite" as given in any good work on Materia Medica, and you will have a fair start. You will find there that "Aconite" is "A Benumber." It is recommended in Pain as a fit remedy because it removes the pain by "Benumbing." You must here mark very specially that the "Benumbing" is not that of the pain only, it is that of all sense in the parts benumbed. The drug relieves pain only by destroying so far the sensibility of the nerves affected. It destroys the Motor Capacity as well as the Sensitory. It in fact destroys, so far as it goes, the Vital capacity of that nerve system which supplies the Motor and Sensitory nerves. If the dose is sufficiently strong the heart ceases action altogether. The smallest dose just as far has an effect of the same nature according to its smallness - that is, it is so far poisonous to the nerves - that is again, it so far Kills the person to whom it is given.