EVERY few days we read in the papers that a doctors medicine case has disappeared from his car or has been stolen, and that it contained drugs sufficient to kill a large number of people. Frequently it is explained that these deadly drugs were contained in attractive sugar-coated tablets and that there is a danger that children playing with them might suck them as if they were ordinary sweets.
Incidents of this kind have become so frequent that the Commissioner of the London Police found it necessary to send a warning to the General Medical Council. The thing has become a public scandal. The frantic appeals made to the people through the press and through the wireless have drawn attention to the startling fact that doctors go about their daily rounds with prodigious quantities of poisons which are handled with incredible light-heartedness and negligence.
The deadly poisons carried by doctors serve the purpose of relieving pain and giving sleep. It is the doctors proud privilege to relieve the suffering. Unfortunately chemical science has elaborated a large number of drugs, which may give sleep or allay pain, but which are terribly dangerous. An overdose of some of these drugs will cause death.
Naturally which are apt to kill if taken in substantial quantities are bound to injure patients if taken in medicinal quantities. a patient who has been relieved of pain or has been given sleep after having swallowed a pleasantly flavoured pellet or two will ask for further helpings and thus the habit of taking deadly drugs is established. Drug addiction means the enslavement of body and soul. An ever-increasing number of people are becoming victims to this terrible dependence on deadly drugs which soothe irritated nerves, give sleep, or eliminate pain.
It need scarcely be pointed out that the dangerous drugs alluded to merely relieve, but do not cure. It is very easy to relieve the atrocious pain caused by neuralgia, sciatica, colic, etc., by one of the numerous pain-killers. The most incompetent doctor can do it. It is not necessary to study medicine for that purpose. However, it needs a competent physician to cure a long-existing neuralgia, neuritis, sciatica, and so forth.
Treatment by pain killers in in the vast majority of cases a confession of incompetence on the part of the doctor and such treatment is dangerous, not only because it is apt to create a habit. One can relieve a raging toothache for a number of days by one of the numerous pain-killers, but great injury is done to the patient if the pain was caused by an abscess which ought to have been dealt with instantaneously and which is disregarded because the patients nerves have been scientifically benumbed and he feels no longer any pain. Pain is often our best friend.
It is very easy to benumb the nerves and cause the prompt disappearance of a violent pain the the abdomen, to the joy of the sufferer, of a violent pain in the abdomen, to the joy of the sufferer, who, however, may die because the pain was intended to call attention to the fact that there was some urgent trouble in the appendix, gall bladder, kidney, bowel or other organ, which required instantaneous intervention.
Occasionally some wretched Chinaman is discovered smoking or selling Opium and he is heavily punished with a fine or imprisonment. Some doctors have become dope-vendors, for they are entitled to sell against a feel by means of a prescription the very benumbing substances which no unauthorized person may possess, sell or consume.
Unfortunately many of these dangerous drugs which ruin body and soul may be obtained without difficulty against an open prescription without a limit to the quantity obtainable. Some time ago I went to a chemists shop to buy a toothbrush and I heard a customer ask for another supply of his sleeping medicine. When he was gone, the chemist explained to me that six months ago the mans wife was very ill.
He could not sleep on account of the worry, and he was rashly given a soothing drug. He was so pleased with the effect that, although there was not longer any compelling need, he had acquired the habit of taking a dose every night. “That poor fellow is killing himself,” said the chemist. He was not killing himself, he was gradually being killed by his doctor.
Among the worst offenders are the nerve specialist. Nerve diseases are as a rule quite easily curable by the most unobjectionable treatments, such as a wisely chosen diet, exercise, fresh air, and the indicated homoeopathic drugs in infinitely small doses which cannot possibly do nay harm.
It requires brains, hard work and determination on the part of the practitioner to cure nerve case by admonition, warning, gentle guidance, careful observation, the regulation of faulty habits and so forth. A physician who wishes to cure a bad nerve case must possess brain, will power and many other qualifications. The most incompetent can prescribe some desperately dangerous drug which will allay excitement, give sleep, or cover up or suppress symptoms, such as the fits of epileptics, etc.
More and more frequently we read of cases where death has resulted from an over-dose of one of those pleasing, but dangerous medicines. Of course the number of instances in which the patient has not been killed but has been physically and mentally ruined are very much greater. They do not furnish dramatic stories in the daily press. The consumption of these dangerous drugs is becoming greater and ever greater.
Among the most popular benumbing drugs are those of the Barbituric group. The best known are Veronal, Medinal, Dial, Luminal, Neonal, Nembutal, but there are dozens of others. The great drug houses provide the doctors with an enormous selection. As soon as one of the dangerous drugs becomes discredited in consequence of a death resulting from an over-dose, advertisements are published in the medical journals in which a new benumbing drug is described as absolutely safe, which, in turn, is discredited after some ghastly experiences with it.
Sir William Willcox, the leading English poison expert and adviser to the Home Office, sent a letter to the Editor of the Lancet which was published by that paper on February 17th, in which we read under the heading “The Battle of the Barbiturates”:.
“The repeated daily use of these drugs in therapeutic doses quite commonly causes symptoms, such as mental depression, drowsiness, visual hallucinations, vertigo, ataxic gait, indistinct speech, diplopia (double vision), squint, nystagmus (quivering of eyes), paralysis of limb, facial paralysis, etc. These symptoms have been observed by myself in a considerable number of cases and have become common knowledge.
Indeed, the repeated daily use of these drugs may cause a complex of symptoms identical with those occurring in cerebellar (brain) disease, postero-lateral sclerosis (hardening of the spinal cord), encephalitis-lethargica, bulbar-paralysis, meningitis, and other nervous affections. The clinical evidence in human beings of paralytic, toxic and disorder of function of the central nervous system is incontrovertible.
The record of fatalities only expresses of fraction of the number of cases of dangerous poisoning from Barbituric acid drugs, since a large proportion of these case are saved by prompt medical treatment. During 1933 I have personally seen and treated eighteen cases of dangerous poisoning from Barbituric acid derivatives. The subjects of this type of poisoning are often persons of culture and education and distinguished in their walks of life. Addiction to this group of drugs is well known to occur and I have met with large number of such cases.
My contention is that the repeated daily use of these drugs over long periods is dangerous and harmful in some cases, and may lead to alarming nervous symptoms and a risk of fatal poisoning from an accidental or purposeful over-dose. The risks are so very real that not only the public, but the medical profession need a warning as to the possible dangers of this group of drugs, since new derivatives are daily appearing on the market, accompanied by glowing statements as to their safety.
The frequency of occurrence during the last few weeks of deaths dye directly or indirectly to the use of the Barbituric acid group of drugs has been the subject of attention in the daily press and has aroused alarm in the public mind. No emphasis of the danger is necessary from me since the facts speak for themselves. I do not prescribe these drugs myself because I have been greatly impressed by danger of their possible abuse.
This letter is only on out of several which Sir William has addressed to the doctors through the medical journals. His statements, though incontrovertible, have been hotly contradicted by a number of nerve specialists, whose living appears to be threatened by any legislation restricting the sale of these, poisonous substances. With great regret it must be stated that many of the so-called nerve specialists, even the distinguished, are little better than dope vendors.
I do not mean to say that they are dope vendors in the same sense in which dealers in Opium, keepers of Opium dens, Cocaine peddlers, etc., are dope vendors. The latter belong to the criminal classes. It is not statutory crime to ruin or kill a patient by means of poisonous dopes prescribed medicinally. It is merely a sign of incompetence on the part of the prescriber.
Sir William Willcox has proposed legislation restricting the sale of these dangerous substances. Such restriction would be ruinous to those incompetent doctors and nerve specialist who live by prescribing benumbing drugs. Nerve specialists and general practitioners have pleaded that people who cannot sleep must be given Veronal. Doctors have cured sleeplessness before Veronal was known.
In the first place sleeplessness can often be cured by non-medicinal means. A sharp walk before going to bed followed by a hot footbath, combined with an early suitable meal will prove curative in numerous cases. If this does not suffice massage along the spine and massage of the feet may give sleep, and if these measured prove ineffective, there are homoeopathic remedies, which are unfortunately unknown to the nerve specialists, that will give sleep, allay excitement, etc.
I would recommend Sir William Willcox, Sir Maurice Craig, and other leading men of the orthodox profession to get in touch with some good homoeopaths and discover how they treat their nerve cases without Veronal. Luminal, Bromides, etc.
Some little time ago a very distinguished lady came to me. She was in despair. She had been taking Veronal by doctor;s orders every night for four or five years and it failed to act longer although she had increased the quantity. The homoeopathic prescriber does not treat the name of a disease, such as insomnia. A parrot can be taught “For insomnia give Veronal”. The homoeopath wishes to know what are the peculiar physical and mental symptoms of the patient and he bases on these his prescription.
Careful enquiry elicited the fact that the lady was extremely restless, highly strung, exceedingly sensitive to pain, had neuralgia, an unusually active mind, palpitations, and she had an intolerance for coffee, which she liked, but which upset her badly. All her symptoms pointed clearly and insistently of Coffea. She was sent a box of sugar pills medicated with an infinitely small quantity of roasted coffee in solution, and was told to take a dose before going t bed and , if necessary, upon waking up.
A week later she wrote that she had had best nights which she had had for years, that the new medicine was for more potent than Veronal, and therefore probably far more dangerous, and that she has stopped it. I told her in reply that she could safely take this very effective medicine every night in any quantity to the end of her days. She could not possibly take more than one grain of coffee even if she lived to a hundred. Incidentally that medicine benefited her general health and enabled her to drink beloved coffee.