It may be questioned whether all drugs are more or less cumulative, but it is certain that all strong ones are. It is well known to medical men that many drugs are expelled with great difficulty and only slowly, so that, if they are taken regularly, they tend to accumulate in the body. The heavy metals, like bismuth and mercury, are excreted with great difficulty and there is a tendency of the body to deposit them in the bones. Poisons that are not expelled must be taken out of the general circulation and deposited where they will do least harm. If a substance is harmful, as all drugs are, why take it into the body? Why think that because it does not produce instantaneous death, we may take it with impunity? Why not refrain from burdening the body with it? Why not give the body the best opportunity to maintain high-level health? If we are content to suffer, if we want to watch ourselves go down year after year, then we will give no attention to the way in which we feed and care for ourselves; but if health is worth having, it is worth the simple effort that is required to refrain from habitually abusing the body by habits that are foreign to the elemental needs of life. Why do we blindly adhere to a system inherited from the Dark Ages?
Drug treatment is only symptomatic. If anti-coagulation drugs can prevent blood clotting and tranquilizers can reduce blood pressure, they constitute only symptomatic treatment. They remove no causes and as soon as their administration is discontinued, the patient's condition lapses back into the prior state. He finds that he must either continue the treatment indefinitely or else suffer the continuance of high blood pressure and the danger of recurrent clotting. In the long run, which is the worse evil: the dangers associated with blood clotting and high blood pressure or those associated with drug taking? It is true, in this instance, as in all others, that the temporary "relief" of symptoms that is gained from taking drugs must be paid for with a greater impairment of health. The international flow of drugs is merely a big business from which huge profits are derived, but no health grows out of it.
There is a popular medical notion that the more dangerous the condition of the patient, the more powerful the medication required. We can conceive of no more monstrous idea than that the more critical the case, the more poisonous the drugs that should be used to cure it. As a general rule, the more virulent the poison, the better the remedy. This medical notion accounts for the wonderful virtues ascribed to deadly poisons.
Drugs present us with another evil, that of addiction. There are many drugs to which drug takers become addicted and from which they have the greatest difficulty in extricating themselves. When a man has become so addicted to tobacco, alcohol or other drug, that he can no longer control himself, his only means of self-help consists in keeping far away from the drug, and even this he finds difficult to do. If he once boasted that he could take it or leave it, the boast has become empty. His great and fatal mistake was that, when he could do so, he did not let it alone. He forged the chains of habit by repeatedly taking the drug. Our people are addicted to narcotics, tranquilizers, pep-up pills, sleeping potions, and other drugs too numerous to mention. Their addictions to tobacco and alcohol are old ones, but our people would benefit more from closing the druggeries than from closing the groggeries.
Writing in an editorial in the Journal, October 1861, dealing with liquor in the Army, Trall said: "As we predicted, the alcoholic rebel has already proved a more destructive enemy to the Federal Army than have the Confederate rebels. A correspondent of the Tribune informs us that the forces under Beauregarde and Johnson at Manasses were not allowed to touch intoxicating liquors and that their officers set the example of strict temperance by wholly abstaining from the use of it themselves. How discreditably for us this contrasted with the fact of free liquor-drinking in the armies of the Union! Who knows, who will ever know to what extent the disaster and rout of the Federal armies at Bull Run was attributable to the super-enemy that steals away the brains, waxes the eyes, distorts the mental perceptions and overthrows reasoning powers? Officers have been accused of being grossly intoxicated and unable, in consequence, to attend to their regiments and duties. The newspapers have teemed with, complaints of the drinking habits of the soldiers and the rowdyism, insubordination and casualties consequent thereon. Commanders have been obliged to resort to extreme measures to prevent the utter demoralization of the men under their control and it has been a common topic of remark, by the reporters in and around Washington, that the rum-sellers were driving a brisk trade with the soldiers. When the Seventy-Ninth Regiment rebelled, liquor, if not the cause, was the chief difficulty and curse attending the revolt. Many of those who mutinied were in a state of partial or complete intoxication."
The movies have always pictured alcohol as "liquid courage," but the facts of history indicate that alcohol is liquid confusion and, if anything, liquid cowardice. Certainly, a soldier who is drunk is a poor marksman and a poor marcher. In his confused state of mind, he is also poor at carrying out orders. Hygienists are not interested in producing good soldiers, but they are deeply interested in producing and maintaining the health of the young men of the nation and in maintaining clarity of thought in them. When we consider, first, that the medical profession teaches that alcohol is a beneficial substance and, second, that the multitude are governed in their thinking and acting by the opinions of the learned, we cannot be condemed for saying that the "sordid spirit of the liquor traffic is less of an obstacle in the way of temperance reform than are the false theories and consequent erroneous practices of the medical profession." When the temperance people and physicians learn that alcohol and its conferrers are intrinsically bad, and not only relatively so, humanity will have taken a great step forward. Must men forever be brayed in a mortar with a pestle and learn nothing?