Specifics, are medicinal drugs, or compounds, the virtue and effect of which are supposed to be peculiarly adapted to certain disorders : or they are said to be calculated to expel some hurtful humours ; or, lastly, they have been observed to remove the cause of a determinate disease, in consequence of their speedy action, though inexplicable to mankind. Thus, the Peruvian bark is reputed to be a specific in intermittent fevers or agues ; opium, for mitigating pain; magnesia, for absorbing acidity in the stomach', and relieving the heart-burn ; as well as the various antidotes.
Although impositions of a dangerous tendency are practised with specifics, especially those adver-tised daily prints, yet it can-not be denied, that such remedies, in certain cases, may be useful ; while, in others, they will be un-availing, and often attended with mischievous effects. We have in another place remarked, that in those diseases which uniformly arise from the same cause, as in agues, the small-pox, measles, etc. the utility, or rather admissibility, of specifics, may he rationally, tho' hypothetically, inferred. But, even in such instances, how is it in the power of the those who acquainted with the laws of human organization, to determine either the propriety, or dose, of a powerful medicine, requisite in a particular case ? It appears, therefore, to be equally hazardous, as to entrust a man's whole life and fortune to the capricious wheel of the lottery. Nay, the more or less beneficial operation of drugs, frequently depends on a trifling incidental cause, or circumstance, which often eludes the attention of the most vigilant practitioner; and yet untutored persons are apt to believe, that there is no easier trade than that of dispensing medicines; - though physicians, when occa-sionally attacked with disease, rarely venture to prescribe for themselves. So far, indeed, the vulgar apparently possess advantages superior to those claimed by the profession. On the other hand, the enlightened part of the community know the value of medical assistance, in the hour of danger ; and barely commiserate the blind believers in quack-medicines, without contributing the least towards eradicating such pernicious weeds. - We shall conclude with observing, that, as the drinking of wine, or other intoxicating liquor, does not affect every person in a similar, or uniform manner, so is the operation of medicines necessarily attended with different effects, on various constitutions ; and even on the same patient, at different times. - See also Nostrum, and Quack-Medicine