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The Opium Habit by Horace B. Day

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inclination for artificial stimulus carried me through college without
my having contracted any habit of drinking or having grown to depend
at all upon stimulants.

But deteriorating causes had been at work, and though the volcano had
not burst forth as yet, the material had been silently gathering
through these four seemingly peaceful years. In the winter of my
sixteenth or seventeenth year, after suffering several days from
severe toothache, I was induced by my landlady, a pipe-smoker, to try
tobacco as a remedy. The result of this trial, which proved effectual,
was that partly from the old notion that tobacco was a teeth-
preservative, and partly, I suppose, because the taste was hereditary,
I fell at once into the habit of tobacco-chewing, which I continued
without intermission for eleven years. In this abominable practice I
exercised no moderation: indeed in any practice of this kind it has
seemed constitutional with me to go to excess, and unnatural to pursue
a middle course. None at all or too much was the alternative exacted
by my organization. By consequence, the perpetual, unmeasured waste of
saliva induced by using such immoderate quantities of this weed must
speedily have exhausted a constitution not endowed with unusual vital
energies. As it was I must have received deep injury. I often felt
faintness and languor, though I did not or would not admit what now I
have no doubt of--that this vegetable was in fault.

At nineteen, graduating at Cambridge, I took and kept for the three
following years an academy in a near neighboring town. Here I soon
began to suffer (what I now suppose) the ill effects of the false
education and false living (the tobacco-chewing, physical inertness,
mental partialness, and the rest) of long foregoing years. I began to
suffer greatly from gloom and depression of spirits. Short fits of
morbid gayety and long stretches of dullness and darkness made up the
present, while the future looked almost wholly black. I had indeed
been afflicted so long as I could remember with seasons of low
spirits, but _these_ glooms, for depth and long continuance,
transcended any thing I had ever experienced before. On festive
occasions, at which I was often present, I was accustomed to take a
glass or half-glass of wine with and like the rest; but other than
this, I used no stimulus and never had thought of keeping any at my
lodgings. In fact, so little was I _seasoned_ in this way that
half a glass of ordinary wine was enough to elevate my spirits many
degrees above their usual pitch. I know not why it never occurred to
me to use habitually what I found occasionally to be such a relief. A
few months after commencing school I attended with a party of friends
the celebration of the Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The orator
was exceedingly eloquent; the occasion one of great enthusiasm; and
what with my intense previous excitement of mind, what with my
unseasoned brain, and what with the universal example of the wise and
good about me, I took so much wine at the public dinner as to be
completely intoxicated, and was only able after three or four hours of
sleep to attend the Pilgrim Ball. My shame, remorse, and horror on
this occasion was so far salutary that without any special resolution
I was for a long time after, a total abstinent. In fact this monitory
influence lasted with more or less force for six or seven years. But
the gloom and depression before spoken of came to a crisis. About a
year after my leaving college I broke down with a severe attack of
dyspepsia. A weight pressing continually on my chest, palpitation of
the heart, sleeplessness by night, or dreams that robbed sleep of all
repose, debility, languor, and increased gloom--such are some of the
symptoms that hung oppressively upon me for more than a year.

Under these circumstances I took a physician's advice. By his orders
I swallowed I know not how many bottles of bitters. Whether from their
effect or from Nature's curative power in despite of them, my ailments
at last mostly disappeared; but to this very hour I have been more or
less subject to the same physical inertness and unexcitability, low
spirits, and many like symptoms. No unexperienced person can imagine
what a life it is to be thus physically but half alive. The temptation
is incessant to raise by artificial helps the physical tone, in order
thus to attain activity and energy of mind. My only wonder is that I
did not sooner resort to what would at least give temporary relief to
the depression and torpor from which I suffered so much and so long.

After keeping school three years, being the last of the three a member
of the Cambridge Divinity School, I passed two years at that school
and was licensed to preach. My life there was the same false,
unnatural one it had been in college--much study and no bodily
exercise, a few faculties active and the greater number exercised
scarce at all. All this while, with the exception of tobacco, I used
no stimulants except on rare occasions, and then always in moderation.

In August, 1829, I was licensed as a preacher by the Boston
Ministerial Association. In the December following I was ordained a
minister at Lynn, Mass. In May, 1830, I was married, and in the
succeeding autumn became a housekeeper. Immediately on becoming an
ordained clergyman I procured one or two demijohns of wine as a
preparative for hospitality to my clerical brethren and to visitants
generally. Such was the custom universally, and in various ways I was
given to understand that I too must adopt it. Keeping wine at home now
for the first time, I tasted it doubtless oftener than ever before,
though still not habitually or with any approach to excess.
Furthermore, a member of my family, in debilitated health and a
dyspeptic, was ordered by the family physician, one of the most
distinguished of the Boston Faculty, to take brandy and water with
dinner as a tonic. A demijohn of brandy therefore took its place in
the closet beside the demijohn of wine already there, and on the daily
dinner-table was set a decanter of this liquid fire. For myself I had
as already intimated never perfectly recovered from my ancient
dyspeptic attack, nor was my present way of life very favorable to
health. To replenish this waste, a good deal of bodily exercise was
needed, but of such exercise I took scarce any at all.

It was then no uncommon thing for a minister to sit down on Saturday
evenings with a pot of green tea as strong as lye, or of coffee black
as ink, and a box of cigars beside him--drinking at the one and
puffing at the other all or most of the night through--and under the
excitement of these nerve-rasping substances trace rapidly on paper
the words which next day were to thrill or melt his listeners. A
final cup of tea or coffee, extra strong, and a last cigar before
entering the pulpit, gave him that fervor and unction of manner so
indispensable to eloquence. His theme, perhaps, was intemperance; and
with nerves tingling from the action of liquids which no swine will
drink, and of the plant which no swine will eat, he would portray most
vividly the terrible ruin wrought by intoxicating drink. Do not
believe, however, that in all this he was dishonest or hypocritical;
he was merely self-ignorant--blind to the fact that in condemning the
alcoholic inebriate he was by every word condemning himself as
well. This ignorance, however, could not obviate the effects of such
hideous outrage on the physical laws. I have dwelt on these points
partly for their intrinsic truth and importance, and partly as hearing
upon and explaining my own case. In ill health, languid and restless
from the causes pertaining to my then condition, I found in brandy or
wine a temporary relief for that languor and sedative for that
restlessness. When necessitated to write, and the mind was dull
because the body was sluggish, instead of seeking the needed life in
tea and coffee and tobacco-smoking, I found it more readily in brandy
or wine. In short, I began somewhat to depend on these stimulants for
the excitement I required for my work. I hardly need say I dreamed of
neither wrong nor danger in so doing, and it was yet a good while
before a case of intoxication awoke me from this false security. Thus
three years passed, at the close of which I removed to Brookline for
the health of a friend apparently declining in consumption. Just
before leaving I cast away the tobacco which I had used largely for
ten or eleven years. The struggle was a hard one, and the faintness
and uneasy cravings which long tormented me operated, I think, as a
temptation to replace the lost stimulus by increased quantities of
alcoholic stimulus. Under these circumstances I went to Brookline in
the beginning of February, 1833, and for three or four months I shut
myself up as sole attendant and nurse of a sick friend, apparently
dying. I had no external employment compelling my attention; there
were no outward objects to call me off from my infirmities and uneasy
sensations. I was alone with all these--alone with sickness and
coining death--alone with a gloomy present and a clouded future--and
the bottle stood near, promising relief. It is not very strange that I
resorted oftener than before to its treacherous comfort, and became
more than ever accustomed to depend upon it. I believe, however, that
only once during these months was I positively overcome by it, and I
was very ready to cheat myself into the belief that other causes were
in fault besides, and as much as alcohol. The ensuing summer I spent
partly in Cambridge and partly in travelling with the invalid who
still survived; and with health considerably improved I continued
stimulus, though I think in rather less quantities than in the winter
preceding. Once, however, I was badly intoxicated with port wine, and
so ill as greatly to alarm my friends and induce them to call in a
physician, who administered a powerful emetic. Whether or not he
understood the nature of my ailment I never knew. My friends I think
did not, and I was very willing to cheat myself into the belief that
the wine thus affected me because I was ill from other causes.

At the close of August of this year I went to Brooklyn, New York, to
preach for a few Sundays to a handful of persons who had just united
to attempt forming a new religious society. I remained through the
winter following. A society was gathered; I was installed over it, and
there continued till the summer of 1837. These four years were to me
tremendous years. They seem to me, in looking back, like a long, sick,
feverish dream. Even now I can hardly but shudder at the remembrance
of glooms of midnight blackness and sufferings that mock all endeavors
at description: for it absolutely appears to me on the review that not
for one week of these four years was I a free, healthful, sober, man;
not one week but I was rent by a fierce conflict between "the law of
the members and the law of the mind." How it was I executed the
amount I did, of intellectual labor--how it was I accomplished the
results I did, Is to me an impenetrable mystery. I began to address in
a hired school-house a handful of persons, having most of them but a
slight mutual acquaintance, and in my farewell discourse I addressed a
fair-sized, closely-united congregation assembled in their own
conveniently-spacious church, with the organization and all the
customary belongings of the oldest worshiping societies. Not one
Sunday of that time was I disenabled by my fatal habits to perform the
customary offices; but I did not understand my condition in any thing
like its reality as now I look back upon it. My actual state was known
to but very few in its entireness--I may say to absolutely none of
those I daily companied with--and I did at the close of that period
receive an honorable dismissal at my own request, a request made for
reasons distinct from this; nor between myself and people, or any of
them, was there ever a word exchanged on this subject from first to
last. "Truth is strange, stranger than fiction."

I shall not attempt going through these years in detail. I went to
Brooklyn with the habit of depending on alcohol to a considerable
extent for physical tone and mental excitement, though not with the
_habit_ of losing my balance thereby.

It was some time after establishing myself in New York before I became
at all awake to my condition. At considerable intervals I had two or
three attacks of convulsionary fits. My physician gave them some
name--I hardly remember what--but he did not specify the cause. I now
understand them to have been intoxication fits. I suspected then that
alcohol had some connection with them, and I was so far aroused to
this and other evils of my way of life that I attempted total
abstinence. But besides a host of uneasy sensations, I at once
experienced such a lack of bodily strength and of mental life and
activity that to think or write, or apply myself to my tasks
generally, I found impossible.

After making several abortive attempts of this kind, I tried at last
the substitution of laudanum for alcohol. It was a most fatal move!
for the final result was a bondage of which previously I had not even
a conception. At first, however, I seemed as though lifted out of the
pit into Paradise. Instead of the feverish, tumultuous excitement of
alcohol, I experienced a calm, equable, thrilling enjoyment. My whole
being was exalted from its previous turmoil and perturbation and heat,
to dwell in a region of serenity and peace and quiet bliss. But alas
for the reverse side of the picture! The total prostration, the depth
of depression, the more than infantile feebleness following the
reaction of this excitement--the multitude of uneasy, uncomfortable,
often bewildering sensations pertaining to the habit, are such as can
not be conveyed to one inexperienced in the matter. But any one may
decide that the presence and incorporation with the system, in large
quantities, of a poison which is so deadly a foe to life and all
life's movements can not be without very marked and baneful
results. The fact is that there is not one out of the thousand various
functions of the body which is not deranged and turned away by this
cause, and the movements of the mind and heart are from sympathy
hardly less morbid. Whether such a state must not be one of sufferings
many, and often frightful, every one may judge.

But worse even than this followed. It was not very long before the
opium nearly lost its power to excite and enliven, though it still
kept an inexorable clutch on every fibre of my frame, and I was
compelled to take it daily to keep the very current of life flowing.

To make my condition worse still, while obliged to use opium daily to
prolong even this existence--gloomy and apathetic as it was--I found
that in order to think or work with any thing of vigor I absolutely
required, every now and then, some excitement which opium now would
not give. I tried, therefore, strong tea and coffee and
tobacco-smoking. But all these were not enough, and I found there was
nothing for me but to try alcohol again; so that the upshot of my
experiment of substituting opium for alcohol was, that I got opium,
alcohol, tea, coffee, and tobacco-smoking fastened upon me all at once
and all in excessive quantities; and the consequence of using alcohol
was that no caution I could employ would secure me from occasional
intoxication. Such was my physical derangement that I never could be
certain beforehand of the degree of effect which alcoholic stimulus
would exert upon me, and the same quantity which at one time would
produce only the excitement I sought, would under other physical
conditions completely overcome me.

During my last two years in Brooklyn I made several attempts to break
away from opium and other stimulus, and each time made considerable
progress. But the same circumstances yet existed that originally led
to the evil, and in fact others of the same class had been superadded,
while the whole operated with aggravated force, so that I found or
thought it impossible to achieve my freedom without disclosing my
state, and thus, as I supposed, setting the seal to my own temporal
ruin. Once and again, therefore, I went back to my dungeon.

It may here be remarked that the sedentary man has extraordinary
difficulties to contend with in such a case. His occupation being
lonely, and demanding no bodily exertion, he has little or nothing to
draw off, _perforce_, his attention from the innumerable aches
and tormenting sensations which beset him, sometimes for months
without cessation, in going through the extricating process. To sit
still and endure long-protracted torment demands a resolution compared
with which the courage that carries one into a battle-field is a
paltry thing.

But this bondage so galling, this position so false in all ways, and
so severely condemned alike by conscience and honor, determined me at
last to attempt my freedom at the cost even of life, if need be. I
broke up housekeeping, sent my family away, and commenced the
struggle. I had a bad cold at the time, besides a complication of
various cares and distresses which probably increased the severity of
the trial. Violent brain-fever came on, accompanied with universal
inflammation and a host of sensations for which I never could find any
name. It seemed as if my arteries and veins ran with boiling water
instead of blood, and as the current circulated through the brain I
felt as if it actually boiled up against and tossed the skull at the
top of my head, as you have seen the water in a tea-kettle rattling
the lid. My hearing was affected in a thousand strange ways: I heard a
swimming noise which went monotonously on for weeks without
cessation. The ocean, with all its varieties of sound, was forever in
my hearing. Sometimes I heard the long billowy swell of the sea after
a hard blow; again I could hear the sharp, fuming collision of waves
in a storm; and then for hours I would listen to the solemn,
continuous roar, intermitted with the booming, splashing wash of the
tempest-roused surge upon the beach. Almost incessantly, too, I heard
whisper ing, sharp and hissing, on every side--outside and inside of
my room--and the whisperers I imagined were all saying hard things of

Meantime my mind was under tremendous excitement, and all its
faculties, especially the imagination, were preternaturally active,
vivid, and rapid-working. Such was my mental excitement and bodily
irritation that for ten days and nights I slept hardly at all, nor
enjoyed one moment's release from pain. That I was thoroughly in
earnest in what I had undertaken will appear from the fact that all
this time I had in a drawer within reach a bottle of laudanum, which I
knew would in a few moments give me ease and sleep. Yet thus agonized
and half delirious, I notwithstanding left it untouched. I was mostly
confined to the house about four weeks. The inflammation gradually
subsiding left me as weak as a child--so morbidly sensitive that
tears flowed on the slightest occasion, and with my whole frame
pervaded by a dull, incessant ache. To these symptoms were added
coldness of the extremities, an obstinate determination of blood to
the head, which swelled the vessels of the face and brain almost to
bursting, susceptibility to fatigue on the least exertion, physical or
mental, and so great a confusion and wandering of thought that it was
only by a violent effort that my mind could be brought to act
continuously or with the least vigor.

As soon as I was able to go abroad I joined my family in the
neighborhood of Boston, in the hope of benefiting by change of
scene. Remaining here for several months without much improvement of
health, I felt called on for various reasons to resign my charge in
New York. Thus left with a family and very slender resources, I was
compelled, feeble as I was, to bestir myself for their and my own
support. No employment offered itself but that of my profession, and
unfit, therefore, as I felt myself, body and mind, for this, I saw no
alternative but to preach as occasion presented. It was a most cruel
necessity, for without some artificial aid I was unable even to stand
through the pulpit services. As a choice of evils I used wine and
brandy; for the terrors of opium were still too recent.

In the closing part of December, 1837, I went to the city of
Washington to preach for six or seven Sundays. The same necessity,
real or supposed, of stimulating, followed me through the six weeks of
my stay there. One day at the close of this period, feeling unusually
ill and languid, I sent a servant out for a bottle of brandy. I
remember pouring out and drinking a single glass of it, and this is
the last and whole of my recollection for two days. I awoke and was
told I had been exceedingly ill. I must have been very badly
intoxicated, though how or why I was so, I know not to this day. So
soon as I could hold up my head I went by invitation to Baltimore, and
stayed there some three weeks with a college friend. While there I
learned from various sources that I was at last palpably and generally
exposed and disgraced. I relinquished my profession at once both in
reality and name, deeming this the least I could do in the
circumstances. About the middle of March, 1838, with shattered,
miserable health, overwhelmed with regret and shame and remorse, and
the future palled with funereal black, I set out for the residence of
relatives in Vermont. Here I remained two and a quarter years,
studying law with my sister's husband, who was an attorney and
counsellor. For several months I used no stimulus except tobacco,
which in the desperate restlessness of the previous summer I had again
began to chew after four years' interruption. I of course was weak and
languid from this great abstraction of stimulus, coupled with the
effects of the severe illness I had undergone. This debility rendered
more severe the endurance of other evils of my condition. No wonder
that under such wear and tear my nervous system should have become
shattered. I was attacked with tic-douloureux. Though suffering
severely, old recollections gave me such dread of anodyne and tonic
medicines--which I thought it most likely would be administered--that
I delayed for some time seeking medical advice. Pain, however, at last
drove me to it, and from two physicians I received a prescription of
morphlne and quinine. I knew that morphine was a preparation of opium,
but supposing it a preparation leaving out the stimulating and
retaining only the sedative properties of the drug, I imagined it less
dangerous than crude opium. With this opinion--with excruciating pain
on one side and on the other relief in the physicians' prescription--
it is not very strange I chose relief. I used the morphine until
apparently the neuralgic affection was cured. On attempting then to
lay it aside I found the habit of stimulating again fastened upon
me. Once more I found myself neither more nor less than a bond slave
to opium to all intents and purposes. With my existing physical
debility, with a pressing host of perplexities and tribulations, and
with my appalling remembrances of the former struggle, I could not
summon resolution and perseverance enough to achieve a second
emancipation. So regulating the quantity as well as I could, I waited
in hope of some more auspicious season for the attempt.

In the latter part of June, 1840, I went to New York city to complete
my third year of legal study. I was at the time weak in body and
low-spirited, and my debility was increased by the extraordinary heat
of the weather. I was disappointed too in several arrangements on
which I had reckoned. The result of all this was a want of physical
and moral energy which precluded the attempt at emancipation from
opium which I had purposed to make on my arrival; and worse than this,
I found myself rapidly getting into the way of adding brandy to opium
to procure the desired amount of excitement, as had formerly been the
case. I came to the conclusion that I could not achieve my freedom
alone, but must have help. I had no home, and after casting about I
could devise no better scheme than to enter the Insane Hospital at
Bloomingdale. I accordingly went there and stayed thirteen weeks. I
found on arriving, that neither myself nor the friends I had advised
with had understood the conditions of a residence in that Institution;
for to their disappointment and mine I was locked into the lunatic
ward and at total abandonment of stimulus, in a state of intense
nervous excitement, I was for several days, especially during nights,
kept on the very verge of frenzy by the mutterings and gibberings, the
howlings and horrid execrations of the mad creatures, my
neighbors. Without occupation for mind or body--with all things
disturbing about me--with deeply depressing remembrances, and the
future showing black as midnight--I remained here three months, and
it is marvellous that these causes alone did not utterly destroy
me. But to fill up the measure, I was attacked with fever and ague,
which kept me burning and freezing, shaking and aching, for several
weeks, and reduced me to such a degree of feebleness that I kept my
bed most of the time. Thus I left the Institution more shattered
physically than when I entered--so shattered that it was full two
years before I regained my customary measure of bodily strength.

It being now the first of December, 1840, I entered a law office in
Wall Street, where I remained till the following July. For some
months I enjoyed a glimpse of sunshine and had the hope of being
established in business by my employer. But in the spring of 1841 his
business fell off so largely that he dismissed three clerks who were
there on my entering, and counselled me to seek some more promising
sphere. Thus I was again afloat, knowing not whither to turn, and so
discouraged as to care little what became of me. One thing only seemed
stable and permanent, and that was the temptation to seek a temporary
exhilaration in my depression, and a brief oblivion of my troubles, in

By another change, in the fore part of July, 1841, I entered Judge
Allen's office in Worcester, Mass., and continuing there until March,
1842, was formally admitted to the Bar and commissioned as Justice of
the Peace for Essex County. My life in Worcester was pretty regular,
though I was not perfectly abstinent, nor did I escape being once or
twice overcome. In March, 1842, I went to Lynn, Mass., as editor of
the _Essex County Washingtonian_. Here was the spot where,
technically speaking, I had first entered life, and it was teeming
with a thousand memories, now most painful and sad. Much as I had
known before of mental suffering, I can remember none more intense
than I experienced the first few months of my return to Lynn. At times
I felt as if any thing were preferable to what I endured, and that to
procure relief by any means whatever was perfectly justifiable, on the
ground of that necessity which is above all laws. I therefore used
morphine, first occasionally and at last habitually, and sometimes,
though rarely, brandy. Some six months after settling in Lynn, being
one day in Boston on, business, I was oppressed with deadly nausea,
for which after trying two or three glasses of plain soda-water as a
remedy, I tried a glass of brandy with the soda. I was made
intoxicated by the means and badly so. I was perplexed as to what I
ought to do under the circumstances, but by the advice of two
Washingtonians, one of them the general agent of my paper, I still
continued at my post of editor.

In the following winter I was up as one of three candidates for
Congress from Essex County. In addition to the usual butting a
candidate gets on such occasions--being the third, whose votes
prevented a choice of either the other two candidates--I was exposed
to a raking fire from the two great political parties. Out of old
truths twisted and exaggerated out of all identity, and new lies
coined for the occasion, a world of falsity as to my character and
habits was bandied about; and although a caucus sitting in examination
two long successive evenings pronounced the charges against me
slanderous and wicked, and published a hand-bill to that effect, yet
the proprietor of my paper, moved by a power behind the throne, chose
that my connection with the paper should terminate. For some time
previous, I had been getting interested in the Association doctrines
of Fourier. I now became one of the editors of a monthly magazine
devoted in part to the advocacy of these doctrines, which after
issuing three numbers was compelled to stop for want of support. I
then in September, 1843, went forth on a tour through Massachusetts to
lecture on the subject. I thus spent five months, visiting twenty
towns and delivering some ninety gratuitous lectures. During this time
I used morphine habitually, and occasionally, though rarely, took
brandy. I took enough, however, of the latter to partly intoxicate me
three or four times, and sufficiently often to prevent the reputation
of being intemperate from ever dying away.

Sick and tired out with an existence so false and wretched, I
determined again to achieve emancipation at whatever cost, and by the
help of Providence, and the kind co-operation of inestimable friends,
I succeeded. I suffered severely, but far less than might have been
supposed. Cold water, under God, was the great instrument of my
cure. Drinking copiously of it, and lying some hours per day swathed
in a sheet dipped in it, for about one month, I found the painful
symptoms mostly gone; and three or four months of rest completed the
restoration of my strength.

And thus, after years of pain and sufferings in every kind, and errors
many and great, I find myself, by God's blessing, free and healthy,
and with a youthful life and feeling of which the very memory was
almost extinct.

Within a few months from the time this autobiography closes, the
writer again relapsed into the use of opium, and was received as a
patient into the New York Hospital. While there he furnished the
editor of the _Medical Times_, then on duty at the Hospital, with
a brief history of his case, substantially agreeing with what has
already been given. A portion of the paper is occupied with a
comparison of the effects of opium and alcohol on the system, and is
valuable as being the experience of one who was eminently familiar
with both:

The difference between opium and alcohol in their effects on body and
mind, is (judging from my own experience) very great. Alcohol, pushed
to a certain extent, overthrows the balance of the faculties, and
brings out some one or more into undue prominence and activity; and
(sad indeed) these are most commonly our inferior and perhaps lowest
faculties. A man who, sober, is a demi-god, is, when drunk, below
even a beast. With opium (_me judice_) it is the reverse. Opium
takes a man's mind where it finds it, and lifts it _en masse_ on
to a far higher platform of existence, the faculties all retaining
their former relative positions--that is, taking the mind as it is, it
intensifies and exalts all its capacities of thought and
susceptibilities of emotion. Not even this, however, extravagant as it
may sound, conveys the whole truth. Opium weakens or utterly paralyzes
the lower propensities, while it invigorates and elevates the superior
faculties, both intellectual and affectional. The opium-eater is
without sexual appetite; anger, envy, malice, and the entire
hell-brood claiming kin to these, seem dead within him, or at least
asleep; while gentleness, kindness, benevolence, together with a sort
of sentimental religionism, constitute his habitual frame of mind. If
a man has a poetical gift, opium almost irresistibly stirs it into
utterance. If his vocation be to write, it matters not how profound,
how difficult, how knotty the theme to be handled, opium imparts a
before unknown power of dealing with such a theme; and after
completing his task a man reads his own composition with utter
amazement at its depth, its grasp, its beauty, and force of
expression, and wonders whence came the thoughts that stand on the
page before him. If called to speak in public, opium gives him a
copiousness of thought, a fluency of utterance, a fruitfulness of
illustration, and a penetrating, thrilling eloquence, which often
astounds and overmasters himself, not less than it kindles, melts, and
sways the audience he addresses. I might dilate largely on this topic,
but space and strength are alike lacking.

Taking up his personal story where his "Autobiography" leaves it, and
where, as he imagined, hydropathic treatment had effected a cure, the
writer explains how he became for the third time an opium-eater:

The time came at last when I must work, be the consequences what they
would, and work, too, with my brain, my only implement; and that time
found my brain impotent from a yet uninvigorated nervous system. If I
would work, I must stimulate; and morphine, bad as it was, was better
than alcohol. I took morphine once more, and lectured on literary
topics for some months with triumphant success. While so lecturing in
a country town, I was solicited to take a parish in the
neighborhood. I did so, and there continued two years and a quarter,
performing in that time as much literary labor as ever in three times
the interval in any prior period of my life. In short, I had three
happy, intellectually-vigorous, outpouring years, with bodily health
uniformly sound and complete with the exceptions hereafter to be
mentioned. And yet, through those years I never used less than a
quarter of an ounce of morphine per week, and sometimes more. I
attribute my retaining so much health, in spite of the morphine, to
the rigorous salubrity of my habits, bodily and mental, in other
respects. Once, and often twice a day, the year round, I laved the
whole person in cold water with soap; I slept with open window the
year through excepting stormy winter nights; I laid upon a hard bed,
guiltless of feathers; I used a simple diet; and finally, I cherished
all gentle and kindly, while rigidly excluding from my mind all bitter
and perturbing, feelings. But not to dilate further on mere narrative,
let me say that I have continued to use opium, for the most part
habitually, from my last assumption of it up to the period of my
admission into this Hospital. A year since, however, I dropped
morphine, and have since used the opium pill in its stead, sometimes
taking an ounce per week, but generally not overpassing a half ounce
per week. And here I may make the general remark, proved true from my
own experience, that for all the desirable effects opium is about the
same as an ounce or any larger quantity of said gum, and nearly the
same as a quarter-ounce of morphine or more--that is, half an ounce of
opium stimulates and braces me at least nearly if not entirely as much
as I can be stimulated and braced by this drug. All that is taken over
this tends rather to clog, to stupefy, to nauseate, than to stimulate.

Another point in my own experience is, that in a few weeks only, after
commencing or recommencing the use of opium, I always reached the full
amount which, as a habit, I ever used--that is, either a half-ounce of
opium or a quarter-ounce of morphine. I never went on increasing the
dose in order to get the required amount of stimulation, but at one or
the other of these two points I would remain for years successively. A
third remark I would make is, that it is only for the first few weeks
after commencing the use of opium that one feels palpably and
distinctly the thrilling of the nerves, the sensation of being
stimulated and raised above the previously existing physical tone, for
which the drug was first taken. All the effects produced after that by
the opium, are to keep the body at that level of sensation in which
one feels positively alive and capable to act, without being impeded
or weighed down by physical languor and impotence. Such languor and
impotence one feels from abstaining merely a few hours beyond the
wonted time of taking the dose. It is not pleasure, then, that drives
onward the confirmed opium-eater, but a necessity scarce less
resistible than that Fate to which the pagan mythology subjected gods
not less than men.

Let me now, before closing, attempt briefly to describe the effects of
opium upon the body and mind of the user, as also the principal
sensations accompanying the breaking of the habit.

The opium-eater is prevailingly disinclined to, and in some sort
incapacitated for, bodily exertion or locomotion. A considerable part
of the time he feels something like a sense, not very distinctly
defined, of bodily fatigue; and to sit continuously in a rocking or an
easy chair, or to recline on a sofa or bed, is his preference above
all modes of disposing of himself. To walk up a flight of stairs often
palpably tires the legs, and makes him pant almost as much as a well
person does after pretty rapid motion. His lungs manifestly are
somehow obstructed, and do not play with perfect freedom. His liver
too is torpid, or else but partially active; for if using laudanum or
the opium pill, he is constantly more or less costive, the faeces
being hard and painful to expel; and if using morphone, though he may
have a daily movement, yet the faeces are dry and harder than in
health. One other morbid physical symptom I remember to have
experienced for a considerable time while using a quarter of an ounce
of morphine per week, and this was an annoying palpitation of the
heart. I was once told, too, by a keen observer, who knew my habit,
that my color was apt to change frequently from red to pale.

These are substantially all the physical peculiarities I experienced
during my opium-using years. It is still true, however, that the years
of my using opium (or, in perfect strictness, morphine) were as
healthy as any, if not the very healthiest, of the years of my life.

But what of the effects of opium-eating on the mind? The one great
injury it works, is (I think) to the will, that force whereby a man
executes the work he was sent here to do, and breasts and overcomes
the obstacles and difficulties he is appointed to encounter, and bears
himself unflinchingly amid the tempests of calamity and sorrow which
pertain to the mortal lot. Hardihood, manliness, resolution,
enterprise, ambition, whatever the original degree of these qualities,
become grievously debilitated if not wholly extinct. Reverie, the
perusal of poetry and fiction, becomes the darling occupation, of the
opium-user, and he hates every call that summons him from it. Give him
an intellectual task to accomplish; place him in a position where a
mental, effort is to be made; and, most probably, he will acquit him
with unusual brilliancy and power, supposing his native ability to be
good. But he can not or will not seek and find for himself such work
and such position. He feels helpless, and incompetent to stir about
and hold himself upright amid the jostling, competitive throngs that
crowd the world's paths, and there seek life's prizes by performing
life's duties and executing its requisitions. Solitude, with his
books, his dreams and imaginings, and the excited sensibilities that
lead to no external action, constitute his chosen world and favorite
life. In one word, he is a species of maniac; since, I believe, his
views, his feelings, and his desires in relation to most things are
peculiar, eccentric, and unlike those of other men, or of himself in a
state of soundness. There is, however, as complete a "method in his
madness" as in the sanity of other men. He is in a different sphere
from other men, and in that sphere he is sane.

The first symptoms attendant on breaking off the habit, coming on some
hours after omitting the wonted dose, are a constant propensity to
yawn, gape, and stretch, together with somewhat of languor, and a
general uneasiness. Time passes, and there follows a sensation as if
the stomach was drawn together or compressed, as if with a slight
degree of cramp, coupled with a total extinction of appetite; the
mouth and throat become dry and irritated; there is an incessant
disposition to clear the throat by "hemming" and swallowing, and there
is a tickling in the nose which necessitates frequent sneezing,
sometimes a dozen or even twenty times in succession. As the hours go
on, shudders run through the frame, with alternate fever heats and icy
chills, hot sweats and cold clammy sweats, while a dull, incessant
ache pervades the bones, especially at the joints, alternated by an
occasional sharp, intolerable pang, like tic-douloureux. Then follow a
host of indescribable sensations, as of burning, tinglings, and
twitchings, seeming to run along just beneath the surface of the skin
over the whole body, and so strange are these sensations that one is
prompted to scream, and strike the wall, the bed, or himself, to vary
them. By this time the liver commences a most energetic action, and a
violent diarrhea sets in. The discharges are not watery or mucous,
but, save in thinness, not very unlike healthy stools for the most
part. Not long, however, after the commencement of the diarrhea, so
copious is the effusion of bile from the liver, that one will
sometimes pass, for a dozen stools in succession, what seems to be
merely a blackish bile, without a particle of faces mingled with
it. But this lasts not many days, and is followed by the thin, not
altogether unhealthy-looking discharges above mentioned, repeated
often an incredible number of times per day. Whether from the quality
of these discharges, or from whatever cause, the interior surface of
the bowels feels intolerably hot, as though excoriated, and it seems
as if boiling water or aqua fortis running through the intestines
would scarce torture one more than these stools. In fact, all the
internal surfaces of the body are in this same burning, raw-feeling
state. The brain, too, is in a highly excited, irritable condition;
the head sometimes aching and throbbing, as though it must burst into
fragments, and a humming, washing, simmering noise going on
incessantly for days together. Of course there can be no sleep, and
one will go on for ten days and nights consecutively without one
moment's loss of intensest consciousness, so far as he can judge!
Strange to say, notwithstanding this excessive irritation of the
entire system, one feels so feeble and strengthless that he can scarce
drag one foot after the other, and to walk a few rods, or up a flight
of stairs, is so terribly fatiguing that one must needs sit down and
pant. (Let it be noted, that these symptoms belong to the case where
one is simply deprived at once and wholly of opium without any medical
help, unless the use of cold water be considered such.) These symptoms
(unaided by medicine) last, with gradual abatements of virulence, from
twenty to thirty days, and then mostly die away. Not well and right,
however, does one feel, even then. Though for the most part free from
pain, he is yet physically weak, and all corporeal exertion is a
distressing effort. He must needs sleep, too, enormously, going to bed
often at sunset in a July day, and sleeping log-like until six or
seven next morning, and then sleeping with like soundness two or three
hours after dinner. How long it would be before the recovery of his
complete original strength and natural physical tone, personal
experience does not enable me to say. His condition, both in itself
and as relates to others, is meanwhile most strange and anomalous. He
looks, probably, better than ever in his life before. In sufficiently
full flesh, with ruddy cheeks and skin clear as a healthy child's, the
beholder would pronounce him in the height of health and vigor, and
would glow with indignation at seeing him loitering about day after
day, doing little save sleep, in a world where so much work needs to
be done. And yet he feels all but impotent for enterprise, or any
active physical efforts; for there is scarce enough nervous force in
him to move his frame to a lingering walk, and sometimes it seems as
if the nervous fibres were actually pulled out, and he must move, if
at all, by pure force of volition.

Most singular too, the while, is the state of his mind. His power of
thought is keen, bright, and fertile beyond example, and his
imagination swarms with pictures of beauty, while his sensitiveness to
impressions and emotions of every kind is so excessively keen that the
tears spring to his eyes on the slightest occasion. He is a child in
sensibility, while a youth in the vividness, and a man in the grasp,
the piercingness and the copiousness of his thoughts. He can not write
down his thoughts, for his arm and hand are unnerved; but in
conversation or before an audience he can utter himself as if filled
with the breath of inspiration itself.


The account which follows is abridged from advance proof-sheets of a
narrative, written for separate publication, by Dr. L. Barnes, of
Delaware, Ohio, by whose courtesy a portion of his article appears in
these pages.

In the afternoon of Saturday, January 25th, 1868, Rev. G. W. Brush,
of Delaware, a clergyman of estimable character and more than
respectable talents, was found to have committed suicide. Sixteen or
seventeen years previous to this fatal act, morphine had been
prescribed to Mr. Brush for occasional disorder in the bowels and for
a dormant cancer of the tongue. But something else which had not been
prescribed--an unrelenting necessity to go on as he had begun--was
also developed in his nature, which in time bore its matured and
inevitable fruit. Mr. Brush made his case known for the first time to
Dr. Barnes in November, 1866, when his habitual consumption of
morphine varied from twelve to fifteen grains daily, with an
occasional use of double this quantity.

At this time, in the language of Dr. Barnes, he appeared greatly
depressed, mourned over his life as a failure, and said he had been
tempted to end it. He had once made a serious effort to abandon the
habit, but the effect was so prostrating, and diarrhea, pouring like a
flood, had borne him so near the gates of death, that he was compelled
to resume the drug in order to save his life. But he was determined to
make another attempt, and wished my professional services against the
consequences which he well knew must follow.

He entered upon the trial, reducing rapidly the amount of his
morphine. I called on him in the course of two or three days,
according to appointment, and found him wan and haggard, weak and
almost wild with suffering. His hands, lips, and voice trembled. He
tottered on his legs; and, though sweating profusely, he hovered about
the fire to keep warm. Day followed day, while he still suffered and
endured. On one occasion, as I entered, he had been writing, and read
me his production. It was an account of the effects produced by
morphine, the giving way of nerves, softening of the muscles, the
depression, nightmare in the day-time, visions, horrid shapes; how the
victim is sometimes engulfed in a flood of waters, while faces in all
imaginary varieties of distortion, grin from the waves, and terrible
eyes gleam forth from their depths.

About this time, business which he thought could not be transacted in
his suffering condition unexpectedly demanded his attention, and the
attempt was abandoned.

The year 1867 passed with him amid depression, shame, and remorse. He
called on me perhaps a hundred times at my office, and seldom left
without referring in some way to what he considered his
degradation. He repeatedly inquired if I thought it of any use for him
to try going on any longer in his ministerial work. Once he came with
a brighter face than usual, saying he had concluded to try it one year
more, and if he could not succeed----. Then what? I inquired as he
paused. A dark cloud spreading over his brow was his only answer, and
he lapsed into despondency. This despondency appears to be the
legitimate effect of opium. This fact was strikingly manifest in the
case of Mr. Brush, for his natural disposition, from childhood up, had
been usually kind, cheerful, and good; nor had he any dyspeptic or
bilious tendencies to worry and sour him. Few men have ever been
physically so well organized, or socially and religiously so well
situated for the enjoyment of a prosperous and happy life.

He came to me, finally, on the first day of January, 1868, saying his
people had kindly granted him leave of absence for a few weeks, which
he would devote to the work of overcoming his enemy, if such a thing
were possible. He could not live in his bondage. His wretched life,
with its terrible end, was forever staring him in the face. He asked
me if I would receive him at my house, and take care of him during the
struggle, as I had once consented to do. I said I would if he would
consent to let the people know why he was there. He looked very sad
as he answered that it would not do. He must undertake the battle at
home. He then took from his pocket some papers of morphine, which he
had caused to be weighed in doses diminishing at the rate of half a
grain each, beginning with six grains for the first day, five and a
half for the next, and so on, down. This was a sudden falling off of
nearly two-thirds from his ordinary allowance. He gave me all but the
two largest powders, which he reserved for an absence of two days at
Columbus. He proposed going away for the purpose of coming home sick,
in which condition he well knew he should be at that time. I was to
call at his house on the evening of his return, to render such
assistance as his condition might demand.

I went at the time appointed and found him again shattered, trembling,
sweating, and hovering about the fire. He said he had slept none, was
suffering much, and that his knees especially were aching badly. He
called pleadingly for the amount of morphine prepared for that day, as
he had not taken it. It was given, and then he conversed freely for an
hour or so.

The next evening he proposed to reduce his morphine by two grains
instead of half a grain, but was in a hurry for the quantity he was to
have. In the course of over two days more he came down to about two
grains for the whole day. But one evening, when I found him
apparently much relieved from suffering, and he saw my look of wonder
and doubt, he confessed having broken over the rules by taking an
additional dose of about three grains on his own responsibility. He
said his diarrhea had returned, the medicine left to check it was
gone, he hated to send for me, and so had done it. He was full of
remorse, declaring that if I should now abandon him, he would not
blame me. I told him I should stick to him as long as he would let me;
that he was doing a great work, such as few men ever succeeded in--a
work for two worlds, this one and the next--and that he must not give
it up.

I continued to spend the evenings with him for about two weeks. The
morphine was reduced to something like one grain a day, his appetite
returned, and he began to sleep pretty well at night. His nerves
became steady, and his diarrhea was controlled without serious
difficulty. Energy and strength returned so rapidly that in about two
weeks he was ready to resume his work. He said to his wife that the
awful weight was all gone--all gone. He expressed his gratitude to me
in the most glowing terms. He was triumphant at the idea of having
conquered with so much less suffering than he expected. Alas! I knew
his danger, and saw with sorrow that his returning confidence was
removing him from under my control while yet the enemy remained in the

His last visit to me was on Friday, January 17th. He wanted diarrhea
medicine enough to last till the next Tuesday, when he would call
again and report. I felt uneasy about him, and went to hear him preach
on the intervening Sunday evening. I saw by his flushed and
embarrassed manner that he was falling back, and have since learned
that after service he confessed to his wife, who was watching his
condition with keen eyes, that he had taken about three grains to
strengthen him for the occasion. Poor man! He doubtless thought he
could stop there. Tuesday came, but he came not to my office.
Wednesday, and he came not. Then I was called away from home and did
not return until late Saturday night. The first news which greeted me
on arriving was, that he was no more. He had been buying morphine at
the drug-store during the week, and had reached nearly his former
quantity. He had wandered about, uncertain, forlorn, desolate. On
Friday he had tried to borrow a gun to shoot rats, had come across the
way to my office, which was found closed, and then tried again to
borrow the gun. He told his wife that dreadful load had come back.
Saturday his Quarterly Meeting commenced. He was to preach in the
afternoon. He was exceedingly kind and helpful to his family at
dinner-time, as he had been all day. The people were assembling at the
church, not far off. He went to the barn, suspended a rope from a beam
overhead, as he stood upon the manger. It was not quite long
enough. He lengthened it with his pocket-handkerchief, looped it
around his neck, put his hands in his pockets, and leaped off.

He was gone forever. He had failed in his last attempt to break away
from the benumbing power of opium, and in his desperation had sought
freedom in death. Let no man judge him, and least of all those who are
strangers to the fascinating and infernal strength of his enemy. You
may call it a grave mistake, a dreadful blunder, a doleful insanity,
but do not assume to put him beyond the reach of mercy, or to decide
that his lamentable end was not the iron door through which he may
have passed to the city of the golden streets.

A newspaper account of the death of Mr. Brush having fallen under the
notice of a morphine sufferer in Wisconsin, the latter addressed a
letter to Dr. Barnes, in which he gives his own remarkable experience
in the immediate and absolute abandonment of the habit.

The writer is represented as being about fifty years of age, temperate
in his general habits, and though not possessed of great vigor of
constitution, as having been through life a hard-working man. His use
of morphine began in the year 1861, under a medical prescription for
the relief of general debility; but without any knowledge on his part
of the character of the remedy he was using. After six months
habituation, the attempt to relinquish it proved a failure. For the
first two years, morphine appeared to benefit him. At the expiration
of this time his daily allowance had become three grains, which
quantity was rarely exceeded during the four subsequent years of his
bondage. After narrating the mental and physical suffering he
underwent in these years, he says:

April 17, 1867, found me a poor, wasted, miserable, six years'
morphine-eater; health all gone; unable to do any sort of business;
desiring nothing but death to close my sufferings. Then I made up my
mind to stop the use of morphine all at once. I had previously
attempted to break off by degrees, but I was beaten at that game every
time. It is utterly impossible to taper off by less and less, unless
some one is over the patient watching every motion. I say it
understandingly--the will of no man is strong enough to handle the
poison for himself. He will make a virtue out of necessity, and for
this time will over-take.

So I resolved to quit at once and forever. I arranged my business as
far as I could, under the idea that I should die in the attempt. The
first forty-eight hours I slept most of the time, waking somewhat
often, however, and then dropping asleep, while a sort of nervous
twitching would come and go. But the next day found me wide
awake. And--shall I tell you?--there was no more sleep for me until
sixty-five days had passed. No, not one single moment for sixty-five
days and nights. I was fully awake--never slept one moment! The second
day my suffering was intense. Every nerve seemed to be on a
rampage. Every faculty, mental and physical, appeared to be striving
to see how much suffering I could stand. The third day my bowels began
to empty, and a river of old fotid matter ran away. It seemed that I
was passing off in corruption. This continued for nearly four long,
suffering weeks. I never checked it, but let Nature take her course.

During the first four weeks of the fight there was extreme pain in
every part of my body. It seemed to me that I should burn up. This
worse than death sensation never left me a single hour for the first
thirty-five days. It seemed at times as though my bones would burst
open: a sort of nerve fire seemed to be shut up in them which must be
let out. I was able to walk out, and if necessary could walk a mile or

The fifty-sixth day of suffering without sleep found me at a Water
Cure. Warm baths, sometimes with battery, then packs, then sitz baths,
for ten more long, suffering days and nights--but sleep never came to
me and pain never left me. On the sixty-fifth day of the fight I felt
perfectly easy. All my pains were gone. I went to my room and slept
nearly four hours. For ten minutes after waking I never stirred a limb
or muscle, fearing it would bring back the pains. But a happier man
never woke from sleep. I saw that I was delivered from the
prison-house of death. I telegraphed to my family that sleep had
come. To niy dying-hour I shall ever remember that eventful day. But
it was only the glimmering of light. Gradually and slowly sleep came
to be my companion again. And even yet it has not fully come. Until
within the last twenty days when I awoke, every nerve, every emotion
was awake all at once.

It is now the tenth month since I quit morphine. Then my weight was
only one hundred and twenty-five pounds. Now it is one hundred and
ninety. I am the happiest man on the earth, I am redeemed from one of
the lowest hells in all worlds.

In a subsequent letter to Dr. Barnes the writer says: "My health still
improves. There is one peculiarity about my will-power; it is so
vacillating, not reliable and firm as before. Still I feel that it
will come back."

The following declaration, which Dr. Barnes embodies in his article,
is deserving the careful consideration both of physicians and
philanthropists. He says: "Calling to mind what has come to my
knowledge during a long and extensive medical practice, the conclusion
is, that I have known of more deaths from the use of opium, in some of
its forms, than from all the forms of alcoholic drinks."


The following record of a successful endeavor to overcome a morphine
habit of several years' growth is abbreviated, by permission of the
publishers, from _Lippincott's Magazine_ for April, 1868. The
absence of the writer in Europe precludes any more definite statement
than can be inferred from the narrative itself as to the length of
time during which the habit remained uninterrupted. This is a matter
of regret, as the _time-element_, in the view of the compiler,
enters so largely into the question of the probable recovery of an
opium sufferer. Morphine appears certainly to have been taken daily in
very large quantities for at least five years after the writer's habit
became established.

* * * * *

Since De Quincey gave to the world his famous "Confessions," people
have been content to regard opium-eating as a strangely fascinating or
as a strangely horrible vice. England, and, as I have recently
learned, in this country also. It should be well understood that no
man _continues_ an opium-eater from choice; he sooner or later
becomes the veriest slave; and it is the object of this paper,
originally intended for a friend's hand only, to deter intending
neophytes--to warn them from submitting themselves to a yoke which
will bow them to the earth. In the hope that it may subserve the good
proposed, I venture to give a short account of the experiences of one
who still feels in his tissues the yet slowly-smouldering fire of the
furnace through which he has passed. I first took opium, in the form
of laudanum, nearly ten years ago, for insomnia, or sleeplessness,
brought on by overwork at a European university. It seemed as if my
tissues lapped up the drug and revelled in the new and strange delight
which had opened up to them. All that winter I took doses of from ten
to thirty drops every Friday night, there being but few classes on
Saturday of any consequence, so that I had the full, uninterrupted
effect of the drug. Then I could set to work with unparalleled
energy. Thought upon thought flowed to me in never-ending waves. I had
a mad striving after intellectual distinction, and felt I would pay
any price for it. I generally felt, on the Sunday, my lids slightly
heavy, but with a sense pervading me of one who had been taking
champagne. I never, however, during this whole winter, took more than
one dose a week, varying from thirty to sixty drops. Toward the close
of the session I one day deferred the dose till Sunday evening. On the
Monday following, in the afternoon, I was in one of the class-rooms
listening to the lecturer on Belles-lettres and Rhetoric. One hundred
and more young men sat, on that Monday afternoon, listening to his
silvery voice as he read extracts from Falconer's "Shipwreck," while
the splendid conceptions of the poem, and the opium to boot, taken on
the Sunday evening before, were all doing their work on an imaginative
young man of nineteen. My blood seemed to make music in my vessels as
it seemed to come more highly oxygenized singing to my brain, and
tingled fresher and warmer into the capillaries of the entire surface,
leaping and bubbling like a mountain-brook after a shower. I knew not
at first what it could be, but I felt as if I could have bounded to
the desk and taken the place of the professor. For a while, I say, I
could not realize the cause. At last, as with a lightning flash, it
came. Yes! It was the opium.

And at that moment, then and there was signed the bond which was
destined to go far to wither all my fairest hopes; to undermine, while
seeming to build up, my highest aspirations; to bring disunion between
me and those near and dear to me; to frustrate all my plans, and,
while "keeping the word of promise to the ear," ever breaking it to my
hope. As I trace these very characters, I am suffering from the remote
consequences, in a moral point of view, of having set my hand and seal
to that bond.

For two years longer that I remained at college I continued to take
laudanum three times a week, and I could, at the end of this period,
take two drachms (120 drops) at each dose. All this time my appetite,
though not actually destroyed, as it now is, was capricious in the
extreme, though I did not lose flesh, at least not markedly so. On the
other hand, my capability for mental exertion all through this period
was something incredible; and let me say here that one of the most
fascinating effects of the drug in the case of an intellectual and
educated man is the sense it imparts of what might be termed
intellectual daring: add to this the endowments of a strong frame,
high animal spirits, and on such an one, opium is the ladder that
seems to lead to the gates of heaven. But alas for him when at its
topmost rung! After obtaining my degree I gradually eased off the use
of the drug for about three months with but little trouble. I was
waiting for an appointment in India. At the end of the period named I
sailed for my destination, and had almost forgotten the taste of
opium; but I found that I was only respited, not redeemed. Two months
after I had entered upon my duties, and found myself quietly among my
books, the bond was renewed. After two months, in which I passed from
laudanum to crude opium, I finally settled on the alkaloid
_morphia_, as being the most powerful of all the preparations of
opium. I began with half a grain twice a day, and for the six months
ending the last day of September of the just expired year, my daily
quantum was sixty grains--half taken the instant I awoke, the other
half at six o'clock in the evening; and I could no more have avoided
putting into my body this daily supply than I could have walked over a
burning ploughshare without scorching my feet.

For the first year, five grains, or even two and a half, would suffice
for a couple of days; that is to say, there was no craving of the
system for it during its deprivation for this space. At the end of
this period there would be a sense of depression amounting to little
beyond uneasiness. But soon four hours' deprivation of the drug gave
rise to a physical and mental prostration that no pen can adequately
depict, no language convey: a horror unspeakable, a woe unutterable
takes possession of the entire being; a clammy perspiration bedews the
surface, the eye is stony and hard, the noise pointed, as in the
hippocratic face preceding dissolution, the hands uncertain, the mind
restless, the heart as ashes, the "bones marrowless."

To the opium-consumer, when deprived of this stimulant, there is
nothing that life can bestow, not a blessing that man can receive,
which would not come to him unheeded, undesired, and be a curse to
him. There is but one all-absorbing want, one engrossing desire--his
whole being has but one tongue--that tongue syllables but one
word--_morphia_. And oh! the vain, vain attempt to break this
bondage, the labor worse than useless--a minnow struggling to break
the toils that bind a Triton!

I pass over all the horrible physical accompaniments that accumulate
after some hours' deprivation of the drug when it has long been
indulged in, it being borne in mind that it occurs sooner or later
according to the constitution it contends against. Suffice it to say
that the tongue feels like a copper bolt, and one seems to carry one's
alimentary canal in the brain; that is to say, one is perpetually
reminded that there is such a canal from the constant sense of pain
and uneasiness, whereas the perfection of functional performance is
obtained when the mind is unconscious of its operation.

The slightest mental or physical exertion is a matter of absolute
impossibility. The winding of a watch I have regarded as a task of
magnitude when not under the opium influence, and I was no more
capable of controlling, under this condition, the cravings of the
system for its pabulum, by any exertion of the will, than I, or any
one else, could control the dilatation and contraction of the pupils
of the eye under the varying conditions of light and darkness. A time
arrives when the will is killed absolutely and literally, and at this
period you might, with as much reason, tell a man to will not to die
under a mortal disease as to resist the call that his whole being
makes, in spite of him, for the pabulum on which it has so long been
depending for carrying on its work.

When you can with reason ask a man to aerate his lungs with his head
submerged in water--when you can expect him to control the movements
of his limb while you apply an electric current to its motor
nerve--then, but not till then, speak to a confirmed opium-eater of
"exerting his will;" reproach him with want of "determination," and
complacently say to him, "Cast it from you and bear the torture for a
time." Tell him, too, at the same time, to "do without atmospheric
air, to regulate the reflex action of his nervous system and control
the pulsations of his heart." Tell the Ethiopian to change his skin,
but do not mock the misery and increase the agony of a man who has
taken opium for years by talking to him of "will." Let it be
understood that after a certain time (varying, of course, according to
the capability of physical resistance, mode of life, etc., of the
individual) the craving for opium is beyond the domain of the will. So
intolerant is the system under a protracted deprivation, that I know
of two suicides resulting therefrom. They were cases of Chinese who
were under confinement. They were baffled on one occasion in carrying
out a previously-successful device for obtaining the drug. The awful
mystery of death which they rashly solved had no terrors for them
equal to a life without opium, and the morning found them hanging in
their cells, glad to get "anywhere, anywhere out of the world."

I have seen another tear his hair, dig his nails into his flesh, and,
with a ghastly look of despair and a face from which all hope had
fled, and which looked like a bit of shrivelled yellow parchment,
implore for it as if for more than life.

But to return to myself. I attained a daily dose of forty grains, and
on more than one occasion I have consumed sixty. It became my bane and
antidote; with it I was an _unnatural_--without it, less than
man. Food, for months previous to the time of my attaining to such a
dose as sixty grains, became literally loathsome; its sight would
sicken me; my muscles, hitherto firm and well defined, began to
diminish in bulk and to lose their contour; my face looked like a
hatchet covered with yellow ochre: and this is the best and truest
comparison I can institute. It was sharp, foreshortened and
indescribably yellow. I had then been taking _morphia_ for nearly
two years, but only reached and sustained the maximum doses for the
six months already indicated.

Finally, even the sixty grains brought no perceptible increase to the
vitality of which the body seemed deprived during its abstinence. It
stimulated me to not one-tenth of the degree to which a quarter of a
grain had done at the commencement. Still, I had to keep storing it up
in me, trying to extract vivacity, energy, life itself, from that
which was killing me; and grudgingly it gave it. I tried hard to free
myself, tried again and again; but I never could at any time sustain
the struggle for more than four days at the utmost. At the end of that
time I had to yield to my tormentor--yield, broken, baffled, and
dismayed--yield to go through the whole struggle over again; forced to
poison myself--forced with my own hand to shut the door against hope.

With an almost superhuman effort I roused myself to the determination
of doing something, of making one last effort, and, if I failed, to
look my fate in the face. What, thought I, was to be the end of all
the hopes I once cherished, and which were cherished of and for me by
others? of what avail all the learning I had stored up, all the
aspirations I nourished?--all being buried in a grave dug by my own
hand, and laid aside like funeral trappings, out of sight and memory.

I will not detail my struggles nor speak of the hope which I had to
sustain me, and which shone upon me whenever the face of my Maker
seemed turned away. Let it suffice that I fought a desperate
fight. Again and again I recoiled, baffled and disheartened; but one
aim led me on, and I have come out of the _melee_ bruised and
broken it may be, but conquering. One month I waged the fight, and I
have now been nearly two without looking at the drug. Before, four
hours was the longest interval I could endure. Now I am free and the
demon is behind me. I must not fail to add that the advantage of a
naturally sound and preternaturally vigorous constitution, and (except
in the use of opium) one carefully guarded against any of the causes
which impart a vicious state of system and so render it incapable of
recuperative effort, was my main-stay, and acted the part of a
bower-anchor in restoring my general system. This, and a long
sea-voyage, aided efforts which would have been otherwise
fruitless. On the other hand, let us not too rashly cast a stone at
the opium-eater and think of him as a being unworthy of sympathy. If
he is not to be envied--as, God knows, he is not--let him not be too
much contemned.

I do not now refer to the miserable and grovelling Chinese, who are
fed on it almost from the cradle, but to the ordinary cases of
educated and intellectual men in this country and in Europe; and I
assert that, could there be a realization of all the aspirations, all
the longings after the pure, the good and noble that fill the mind and
pervade the heart of a cultivated and refined man who takes to this
drug, he would be indeed the paragon of animals. And I go further and
say that, given a man of cultivated mind, high moral sentiment, and a
keen sense of intellectual enjoyment, blended with strong imaginative
powers, and just in proportion as he is so endowed will the
difficulty be greater in weaning himself from it. I mean, of course,
before the will is killed. When that takes place he is of necessity as
powerless as any other victim, and his craving for it is as automatic
as in the case of any other opium slave. What he becomes then, I have
attempted to describe, and in doing so have suppressed much in
consideration of the feelings of those who read.

This it is to be an opium-eater; and the boldest may well quail at the
picture, drawn not by the hand of fancy, but by one who has supped of
its horrors to the full, and who has found that the staff on which he
leaned has proven a spear which has well-nigh pierced him to the
heart. Let no man believe he will escape: the bond matures at last.


The compiler has hesitated as to the propriety of calling attention to
the opium-habits of these eminent men, both because little instruction
is afforded by the meagre information that is accessible to him
respecting their use of opium, and because he apprehends their example
may be pleaded in extenuation of the habit. Yet they were confirmed
opium-eaters, and remained such to the day of their death; and a
reference to their cases may not be without its lesson to that large
class of men eminent in public or professional life, who already are,
or are in danger of becoming, victims of the opium tyranny, as well as
to that larger class who find in undiscriminating denunciations of bad
habits, a cheap method of exhibiting a cheap philanthropy.


With the single exception of Richard Baxter, no clergyman of eminence
on record appears to have suffered so acutely or for so long a period
from nervous disorders as this eloquent divine. So little,
unfortunately, is known of the nature of his disorder, that it would
be unjust to express any opinion as to the urgency of the temptation
which drove him to the enormous consumption of opium in which he
indulged. His biography by Olinthus Gregory sufficiently indicates the
severity as well as the early manifestation of his painful
disorder. "At about six years of age he was placed at a day-school
about four miles from his father's residence. At first he walked to
school in the morning and home again in the evening. But the severe
pain in his back, from which he suffered so much through life, had
even then begun to distress him; so that he was often obliged to lie
down upon the road; and sometimes his brother and his other
school-fellows carried him in turn.

"Sir James Macintosh described Mr. Hall, when in his twentieth year,
as attracting notice by a most ingenuous and intelligent countenance,
by the liveliness of his manners, and by such indications of mental
activity as could not be misinterpreted. His appearance was that of
health, yet not of robust health, and he suffered from paroxysms of
pain, during which he would roll about on the carpet in the utmost
agony; but no sooner had the pain subsided than he would resume his
part in conversation with as much cheerfulness and vivacity as before
he had been thus interrupted.

"At that period, though he was strong and active, he often suffered
extremely from the pain to which I have before adverted, and which was
his sad companion through life. On entering his room to commence our
reading, I could at once tell whether or not his night had been
refreshing; for if it had, I found him at the table, the books to be
studied ready, and a vacant chair set for me. If his night had been
restless, and the pain still continued, I found him lying on the sofa,
or more frequently upon three chairs, on which he could obtain an
easier position. At such seasons, scarcely ever did a complaint issue
from his lips; but inviting me to take the sofa, our reading
commenced. They, however, who knew Mr. Hall can conjecture how often,
if he became interested, he would raise himself from the chairs, utter
a few animated expressions, and then resume the favorite reclining
posture. Sometimes, when he was suffering more than usual, he proposed
a walk in the fields, where, with the appropriate book as our
companion, we could pursue the subject. If _he_ was the
preceptor, as was commonly the case in these peripatetic lectures, he
soon lost the sense of pain, and it was difficult to say whether the
body or the mind were brought most upon the stretch in keeping up with

"During the early months of the year 1803, the pain in Mr. Hall's back
increased both in intenseness and continuity, depriving him almost
always of refreshing sleep, and depressing his spirits to an unusual

"Often has he been known to sit close at his reading, or yet more
intently engaged in abstract thought, for more than twelve hours in
the day; so that when his friends have called upon him, in the hope of
drawing him from his solitude, they have found him in such a state of
nervous excitement as led them to unite their efforts in persuading
him to take some mild narcotic and retire to rest. The painful result
may be anticipated. This noble mind lost its equilibrium.

"Throughout the whole of Mr. Hall's residence at Leicester, he
suffered much from his constitutional complaint; and neither his habit
of smoking nor that of taking laudanum seemed effectually to alleviate
his sufferings. It was truly surprising that this constant, severe
pain, and the means adopted to mitigate it, did not in any measure
diminish his mental energy.

"In 1812 he took from fifty to one hundred drops every night. Before
1826 the quantity had increased to one thousand drops.

"Mr. Hall commonly retired to rest a little before eleven o'clock; but
after his first sleep, which lasted about two hours, he quitted his
bed to obtain an easier position on the floor or upon three chairs,
and would then employ himself in reading the book on which he had been
engaged during the day. Sometimes, indeed often, the laudanum, large
as the doses had become, did not sufficiently neutralize his pain to
remove the necessity for again quitting his bed. For more than twenty
years he had not been able to pass a whole night in bed. When this is
borne in mind it is truly surprising that he wrote and published so
much; nay, that he did not sink into dotage before he was fifty years
of age.

"Early on the Sunday morning (Mr. Addington says) being requested to
see him, I found him in a condition of extreme suffering and
distress. The pain in his back had been uncommonly severe during the
whole night, and compelled him to multiply at very short intervals the
doses of his anodyne, until he had taken no less than 125 grains of
solid opium, equal to more than 3000 drops, or nearly four ounces of
laudanum!! This was the only instance in which I had ever seen him at
all overcome by the soporific quality of the medicine; and it was even
then hard to determine whether the effect was owing so much to the
quantity administered as to the unusual circumstance of its not having
proved, even for a short time, an effectual antagonist to the pain it
was expected to relieve.

"The opium having failed to assuage his pain, he was compelled to
remain in the horizontal posture; but while in this situation a
violent attack in his chest took place, which in its turn rendered an
upright position of the body no less indispensable. The struggle that
ensued between these opposing and alike urgent demands became most
appalling, and it was difficult to imagine that he could survive it,
especially as from the extreme prostration of vital energy, the remedy
by which the latter of these affections had often been mitigated--
viz., bleeding--could not be resorted to. Powerful stimulants, such as
brandy, opium, ether, and ammonia, were the only resources, and in
about an hour from my arrival we had the satisfaction of finding him
greatly relieved."

The following references to the opium habits of Hall are found in
"Gilfillan's Literary Portraits."

"Owing to a pain in his spine, he was obliged to swallow daily great
quantities of ether and laudanum, not to speak of his favorite potion,
tea. This had the effect of keeping him strung up always to the
highest pitch; and, while never intoxicated, he was everlastingly
excited. Had he been a feeble man in body and mind the regimen would
have totally unnerved him. As it was, it added greatly to the natural
brilliance of his conversational powers, although sometimes it appears
to have irritated his temper, and to have provoked ebullitions of
passion, and hasty, unguarded statements.

"A gentleman in Bradford described to us a day he once spent there
with Hall. It was a day of much enjoyment and excitement. At the close
of it Hall felt exceedingly exhausted, and on retiring to rest asked
the landlady for a wine-glass half full of brandy. 'Now,' he says, 'I
am about to take as much laudanum as would kill all this company; for
if I don't, I won't sleep one moment.' He filled the glass with strong
laudanum, went to bed, and enjoyed a refreshing rest."


The eccentricities of no man in America who has been at all
conspicuous in public life approach the eccentricities of the late
John Randolph of Roanoke. Diseased from his birth, with a temperament
of the most excitable kind, he seems during the greater part of his
days to have lived only just without the bounds of confirmed
insanity. His constitutional infirmities were peculiarly the
infirmities that find relief in opium; and it has generally been
understood that his addiction to the habit was of many years'
continuance and lasted to his death. I have been assured by a Virginia
gentleman that when, in one of his last days, he directed his servant
to write upon a card for his inspection the word "REMORSE," Randolph
was understood to have in mind his excessive use of opium. His
biographer, Mr. Hugh Garland, however, has given apparently as little
prominence to his habit in this respect as was consistent with any
mention of it whatever. The letters which follow contain nearly all
the information that we can gather from this source. Under date of
February, 1817, Randolph says:

"The worst night that I have had since my indisposition commenced. It
was, I believe, a case of _croup_ combined with the affection of
the liver and the lungs. Nor was it unlike tetanus, since the muscles
of the neck and back were rigid, and the jaw locked. I never expected,
when the clock struck two, to hear the bell again. Fortunately, as I
found myself going, I dispatched a servant (about one) to the
apothecary for an ounce of laudanum. Some of this, poured down my
throat, through my teeth, restored me to something like life. I was
quite delirious, but had method in my madness; for they tell me I
ordered Juba to load my gun and to shoot the first 'doctor' that
should enter the room; adding, 'they are only mustard-seed, and will
serve just to sting him.' Last night I was again very sick; but the
anodyne relieved me. I am now persuaded that I might have saved
myself a great deal of suffering by the moderate use of opium."

Under date of March of the same year he writes to a friend: "No
mitigation of my worst symptoms took place until the third day of my
journey, when I threw physic to the dogs, and instead of opium, etc.,
I drank, in defiance of my physician's prescription, copiously of cold
spring water, and ate plentifully of ice. Since that change of regimen
my strength has increased astonishingly, and I have even gained some
flesh, or rather skin."

In a letter to Dr. Brockenbrough, dated May 30, 1828:

"I write again to tell you that extremity of suffering has driven me
to the use of what I have had a horror all my life--I mean opium--and
I have derived more relief from it than I could have anticipated. I
took it to mitigate severe pain, and to check the diarrhea. It has
done both; but to my surprise it has had an equally good effect upon
my cough, which now does not disturb me in the night, and the diarrhea
seldom until toward day-break, and then not over two or three times
before breakfast, instead of two or three-and-thirty times.

His biographer, speaking of the state of his health in the autumn of
1831, says, "Mr. Randolph made no secret of his use of opium at this
time: 'I live by if not upon opium,' said he to a friend. He had been
driven to it as an alleviation of a pain to which few mortals were
doomed. He could not now dispense with its use. 'I am fast sinking,'
said he, 'into an opium-eating sot, but, please God! I will shake off
the incubus yet before I die; for whatever difference of opinion may
exist on the subject of suicide, there can be none as to _rushing
into the presence of our Creator_ in a state of drunkenness,
whether produced by opium or brandy.' To the deleterious influence of
that poisonous drug may be traced many of the aberrations of mind and
of conduct so much regretted by his friends during the ensuing winter
and spring. But he was by no means under its constant influence."


So little is known, beyond what appears in the following brief
notices, of the opium habits of this distinguished philanthropist,
that their citation here would be of little service to opium-eaters,
except as they tend to show that the regular use of the drug in small
quantities may sometimes be continued for many years without apparent
injury to the health, while the same difficulty in abandoning it is
experienced as attends its disuse by those whose moderation has been
less marked.

The son of Wilberforce, in the "Life" of his distinguished father,
says: "His returning health was in a great measure the effect of a
proper use of opium, a remedy to which even Dr. Pitcairne's judgment
could scarcely make him have recourse; yet it was to this medicine
that he now owed his life, as well as the comparative vigor of his
later years. So sparing was he always in its use, that as a stimulant
he never knew its power, and as a remedy for his specific weakness he
had not to increase its quantity during the last twenty years he
lived. 'If I take,' he would often say,'but a single glass of wine, I
can feel its effect, but I never know when I have taken my dose of
opium by my feelings.' Its intermission was too soon perceived by the
recurrence of disorder."

In a letter from Dr. Gilman, already quoted in the "Reminiscences of
Coleridge," he says, speaking of the difficulty of leaving off opium,
"I had heard of the failure of Mr. Wilberforce's case under an eminent
physician of Bath," etc.


The case of Wilberforce, however, is thrown into the shade by that of
a gentleman now living in New York, whose use of opium has been much
more protracted than that of the British philanthropist, and who
affirms that opium, instead of weakening his powers of mind or body in
any respect, has, on the contrary, been of eminent service to both.
The compiler would have been glad, in the general interests of
humanity, to omit any reference to this case; but it is a legitimate
part of the story he has undertaken to tell; and however this isolated
exception to the ordinary results of the opium habit may be perverted
as a snare and delusion to others, it can not honestly remain
untold. In the compiler's interview with this gentleman, now in the
one hundred and third year of his age, he was impressed with the
evidences of a physical and mental vigor, and a high moral tone, which
is rarely found in men upon whom rests the weight of even eighty
years. Whatever may be thought of the convictions of the compiler, as
to the enormity of the injury inflicted upon society from the habitual
and increasing use of opium, he can not reconcile it to his sense of
fairness to omit distinct reference to this most anomalous case. The
gentleman in question was born in England in the year 1766, and
received his first commission in the army in 1786. Serving his country
in almost every military station in the world where the martial drum
of England is heard--in India, at the Cape, in the Canadas, on guard
over Napoleon at St. Helena--he illustrates, as almost a solitary
exception, the fact that a use of opium for half a century, varying in
quantity from forty grains daily to many times this amount, does not
_inevitably_ impair bodily health, mental vigor, or the higher
qualities of the moral nature. The use of opium was commenced by this
gentleman in the year 1816, as a relief for a severe attack of
rheumatism, and has been continued to the present time, with the
exception of a very brief period when an eminent physician of Berlin,
at the suggestion of the late Chevalier Bunsen, the Prussian
Embassador to Great Britain, endeavored to break up the habit. In this
effort he was unsuccessful, and the case remains as a striking
illustration of the weakness of that physiological reasoning which
would deduce certain phenomena as the invariable consequences of a
violation of the fundamental laws of health. Until the chemistry of
the living body is better understood, medical science seems obliged to
accept many anomalies which it can not explain. About all that can be
said of such exceptional cases is this: In the great conflagrations
which at times devastate large cities, some huge mass of solid masonry
is occasionally seen in the midst of the wide-spread ruin, looking
down upon prostrate columns, broken capitals, shattered walls, and the
cinders and ashes of a general desolation. The solitary tower
unquestionably stands; but its chief utility lies in this,--that it
serves as a striking monument of the appalling and wide-spread
destruction to which it is the sole and conspicuous exception.


Most of the preceding pages were already prepared for the press, when
the attention of the compiler was attracted by a very remarkable
article in _Harper's Magazine_ for August, 1867, entitled, "What
Shall They Do to be Saved?" The graphic vividness of the story, as
well as the profound insight and wide experience with which it was
written, led me to solicit from the unknown author the addition of it
to the pages of my own book. It proved to be from the pen of Fitz Hugh
Ludlow, already recognized by the public as a writer of eminence, both
in science and letters. The permission being freely accorded, I was
still further moved to ask that he would give me a statement of the
method pursued by him in dealing with the class to which it refers.
The letter following his article was his response to my request. It
will be seen to contain an outline of his views upon the subject to
which he has devoted some years of study and practice, and is
especially valuable as embodying the germ of a plan by which,
according to his growing conviction, the opium-eater can alone be
saved. As the conclusions of a writer who seems to the compiler to be
singularly intelligent and definite in his knowledge of this most
interesting and difficult field of disease and treatment, it needs no
further recommendation to the attention of the reader. Since the
publication of his August article, a multitude of letters received
from all portions of the country, asking his advice and assistance in
such cases as this book describes, has left a profound conviction upon
his mind of the most crying need of the establishment of an
institution where opium-eaters can be treated specially. In this view
of the urgent necessities of the case, the compiler most heartily and
earnestly concurs.

* * * * *

I have just returned from forty-eight hours' friendly and professional
attendance at a bedside where I would fain place every young person in
this country for a single hour before the Responsibilities of Life
have become the sentinels and Habit the jailer of his Will.

My patient was a gentleman of forty, who for several years of his
youth occasionally used opium, and for the last eight has habitually
taken it. During these eight years he has made at least three efforts
to leave it off, in each instance diminishing his dose gradually for a
month before its entire abandonment, and in the most successful one
holding the enemy at bay for but a single summer. In two cases he had
no respite of agony from the moment he dropped till he resumed it. In
the third case, a short period of comparative repose succeeded the
first fiery battle, but in the midst of felicitations on his victory
he was attacked by the most agonizing hemicranial headaches (resulting
from what I now fear to have been already permanent disorganization of
the stomach), and went back to his nepenthe in a state of almost
suicidal despair, only after the torture had continued for weeks
without a moment's mitigation.

He had first learned its seductions, as happens with the vast majority
of Anglo-Saxon opium-eaters, through a medical prescription. An attack
of inflamed cornea was treated with caustic applications, and the pain
assuaged by internal doses of M'Munn's Elixir. When my friend came out
of his dark room and bandages at the end of a month he had consumed
twenty ounces of this preparation, whose probable distinction from the
tincture known as laudanum I point out below in the note. [Footnote:
Mr. Frank A. Schlitz has kindly made for me a special analysis of
M'Munn's Elixir, which seems to prove that the process of its
preparation amounts to more than the _denarcotization_ of opium,
which is spoken of on the wrapper of each vial. As nearly as can be
ascertained, M'Munn's Elixir is simply an aqueous infusion of
opium--procured by the ordinary maceration--and preserved from
decomposing by the subsequent addition of a small portion of
alcohol. _Narcotin_ being absolutely insoluble in water is
eliminated as the circular says. This fact alone would not account for
the difference between its action and that of laudanum. This is
explained by the fact that all the other alkaloids possess diverse
rates of solubility in water, and exist in M'Munn's Elixir in very
different relative proportions from those which they bear to each
other in the alcoholic tincture called laudanum.] Here it may not be
superfluous to say that the former preparation has all the essential
properties of the latter, save certain of the constipatory and
stupefying tendencies which, by a private process known to the assigns
of the inventor, have been so masked or removed that it possesses in
many cases an availableness which the practitioner can not despise,
though compelled by the secrecy of its formula to rank it among quack
medicines. The amount of it which my friend had taken during his
month's eclipse represents an ounce of dry gum opium--in rough
measurement a piece as large as a French billiard ball. I thus
particularize because he had never previously been addicted to the
drug; had inherited a sound constitution, and differed from any other
fresh subject only in the intensity of his nervous temperament. I wish
to emphasize the fact that the system of a mere neophyte, with nothing
to neutralize the effects of the drug save the absorbency, so to
speak, of the pain for which it was given, could so rapidly adapt
itself to them as to demand an increase of the dose in such an
alarming ratio. There are certain men to whom opium is as fire to
tow, and my friend was one of these. On the first of October he
sensibly perceived the trifling dose of fifty drops; on the first of
November he was taking, without increased sensation, an ounce vial of
"M'Munn" daily.

From that time--totally ignorant of the terrible trap which lay
grinning under the bait he dabbled with--he continued to take opium at
short intervals for several years. When by the physician's orders he
abandoned "M'Munn," on the subsidence of the eye-difficulty, his
symptoms were uneasy rather than distressing, and disappeared after a
few days' oppression at the pit of the stomach and a few nights'
troubled dreaming. But he had not forgotten the sweet dissolving views
at midnight, the great executive achievements at noonday, the heavenly
sense of a self-reliance which dare go anywhere, say any thing,
attempt any thing in the world. He had not forgotten the nonchalance
under slight, the serenity in pain, the apathy to sorrow, which for
one month set him calm as Boodh in the temple-splendors of his
darkened room. He had not forgotten that the only perfect
_peace_ he had ever experienced was there, and he remembered that
peace as something which seemed to blend all the assuaged passion and
confirmed dignity of old age with that energy of high emprise which
thrills the nerves of manhood. He had tasted as many sources of
earthly pleasure as any man I ever knew; but the ecstasies of form and
color, wine, Eros, music, perfume, all the luxuries of surrounding
which wealth could purchase or high-breeding appreciate, were as
nothing to him in comparison with the memory of that time on which his
family threw away their sympathy when they called it his "month of

Accordingly, without much more instinct of concealment than if it were
an occasional tendency to some slight convivial excess, he had resort
to M'Munn, in ounce doses, whenever the world went wrong with him. If
he had a headache or a toothache; if the weather depressed him; if he
had a certain "stint" of work to do without the sense of native vigor
to accomplish it; if he was perplexed and wished to clear his head of
passion; if anxieties kept him awake; if irregularities disturbed his
digestion--he had always one refuge certain. No fateful contingency
could pursue him inside M'Munn's enchanted circle. He was a young and
wealthy bachelor, living the life of a refined _bon vivant;_ an
insatiable traveller, surrounded by flatterers, and without a single
friend who loved him enough to warn him of his danger excepting those
who, like himself, were too ignorant to know it. After three years of
dalliance he became an habitual user of opium, and had been one for
eight years when I was first called to him.

By the time that the daily habit fastened itself he had learned of
other opiate preparations than M'Munn's, and finding a certain
insufficiency characterize that tincture as he increased the size of
the dose, had recourse to laudanum, which contains the full native
vigor of the drug unmodified. This nauseated him. He had the same
experience with gum opium, opium pills, and opium powder; so that he
was driven to that form of exhibition which sooner or later naturally
strikes almost every opium-eater as the most portable, energetic, and
instantaneous--morphia or one of its salts. My friend usually kept the
simple alkaloid in a paper, and dissolved it as he needed it in clear
water, sometimes substituting an equivalent of "_Magendie's
Solution_," which contains sixteen grains of the salt diffused
through an ounce of water by the addition of a few drops of sulphuric
acid. When I first saw him he had reached a daily dose of twelve
grains of sulphate of morphia, and on occasions of high excitement had
increased his dose without exaggerating the sensible effect to nearly
twenty. The twelve which formed his habitual _per diem_ were
divided into two equal doses, one taken immediately after rising, the
other just about sundown.

As yet he had not begun to feel the worst physical effects which
sooner or later visit the opium-eater. His digestion seemed unimpaired
so long as he took his morphia regularly; he was sallow and somewhat
haggard, but thus far no distressing biliary symptoms had manifested
themselves; his sleep was always dreamy, and he woke at short
intervals during the night, but invariably slept again at once, and
had so adjusted himself to the habit as to show no signs of suffering
from wakefulness; his hand was steady; his muscular system easily
exhausted, but by no means what one would call feeble. As he himself
told me, he had come to the conclusion to emancipate himself because
opium eating was a horrible mental bondage. The physical power of the
drug over him he not only realized when attempting its abondonment.
Its spiritual thraldom was his hourly misery. He was connected by
blood and marriage with several of the best families in the
land. Money had not been stinted in his education, and his
capabilities were as great as his advantages. He was one of the
bravest, fairest, most generous natures I ever came in contact with;
was versatile as a Yankee Crichton; had ridden his own horse in a
trotting match and beaten Bill Woodruff; had carried his own little
30-ton schooner from the Chesapeake to the Golden Gate through the
Straits of Magellan; had swum with the Navigators' Islanders, shot
buffalo, hunted chamois, and lunched on mangosteens at Penang. Through
all his wanderings the loftiest sense of what was heroic in human
nature and divine in its purified form, the monitions of a most tender
conscience, and the echoes of that Puritan education which above all
other schemes of training makes human responsibility terrible, had
gone with him like his tissue. He saw the good and great things within
reach of a fulfilled manhood, and of a sudden waked up to feel that
they could on earth never be his. He was naturally very truthful, and,
although the invariable tendency of opium-eaters is to extirpate this
quality, could not flatter himself. Other minds around him responded
to a sudden call as his own did not. Every day the need of energy took
him more by surprise.

The image-graving and project-building characteristic of opium, which
comes on with a sense of genial radiation from the epigastrium about a
quarter of an hour after the dose, had not yet so entirely disappeared
from its effect on him, as it always does at a later stage of the
indulgence. But instead of being an instigation to the delightful
reveries which ensued on his earlier doses, this peculiarity was now
an executioner's knout in the hands of Remorse. He was daily and
nightly haunted by plans and pictures whose feverish unreal beauty he
remembered having seen through a hundred times. Those Fata Morgana
plans, should he again waste on them the effort of construction? The
result had been a chaos of aimless, ineffectual days. Those pictures,
why were they brought again to mock him? Were they not horrible
impossibilities? Were they not, through the paralysis of his executive
faculties, mere startling likenesses of Disappointment? In his opium
dreams he had seen his own ships on the sea; commerce bustling in his
warehouse; money overflowing in his bank; babies crowing on his knee;
a wife nestling at his breast; a basso voice of tremendous natural
power and depth scientifically cultivated to its utmost power of
pleasing artists or friends; a country estate on the Hudson, or at
Newport, with emerald lawns sloping down to the amber river or the
leek-green sea; the political and social influence of a great
landholder. How pleasurably he had once perceived all these possible
joys and powers! How undeludedly he now saw their impossible

So, coming to me, he told me that his object in trying to leave off
opium was to escape from these horrible ghosts of a life's unfulfilled
promise. Only when he tried to abandon opium did he realize the
physical hold the drug had on him. Its spiritual thraldom was his
hourly misery.

For three months I tried to treat him in his own house, here in the
city. A practitioner of any experience need not be told with what
success. I could reduce him to a dose of half a grain of sulphate of
morphia a day, keep him there one week, and making a morning call at
the expiration of that time discover that some nocturnal nervous
paroxysm had necessitated either a return to five grains or a use of
brandy (which, though no drinker, he tried to substitute) sufficient
to demand a much larger dose of opium in its reaction. He had lost
most of his near connections, and not for one hour could any hired
attendant have withstood his appeal, or that marvellous ingenuity by
which, without appeal, the opium-eater obtains the drug which, to him,
is like oxygen to the normal man.

This ingenuity manifests itself in subterfuges of a complicated
construction and artistic plausibility which might have puzzled
Richelieu; but it is really nothing to wonder at when we recollect the
law of nature by which any extreme agony, so long as it continues
remediable, sharpens and concentrates all a man's faculties upon the
one single object of procuring the remedy. If my house is on fire, I
run to the hydrant by a mere automatic operation of my nerves. If my
leg is caught in the bight of a paying-out hawser, my whole brain
focuses at once on that single thought, "_an axe."_ If I am
enduring the agony which opium alone can cause and cure, every faculty
of my mind is called to the aid of the tortured body which wants
it. When a man has used opium for a long time the condition of brain
supervening on his deprivation of the drug for a period of twenty-four
hours is such as very frequently to render him suicidal. Cottle tells
us how Coleridge one day took a walk along Bristol wharves, and sent
his attendent down the pier to inquire the name of a vessel, while he
slipped into a druggist's on the quay and bought a quart of laudanum;
but in no fibre of his nature could Cottle conceive the awful sense of
a force despotizing it over his will, a degradation descending on his
manhood, which Coleridge felt as he concentrated on that one single
cry of his animal nature and the laudanum which it spoke for, all the
faculties of construction and insight which had created the "Ancient
Mariner" and the "Aids to Reflection."

Likewise I suppose there are very few people who could patiently
regard the fact that one of the very purest and bravest souls I ever
knew had become so demoralized by the perseverance of disease and
suffering as to deal like a lawyer with his best friends, and shuffle
to the very edge of falsehood, when his nature clamored for opium. I
was particular to tell him whenever I detected any evasion (an
occasion on which his shame and remorse were terrible to witness) that
_I,_ personally, had none the less respect for him. I knew he was
dominated, and in no sense more responsible for breaking his
resolution than he would have been had he vowed to hold his finger in
the gas-blaze until it burned off. In this latter case the mere
translation of chemical decomposition into pain, and round the
automatic nerve-arc into involuntary motion, would have drawn his
finger out of the blaze, as it did in the cases of Mutius Scaevola and
Cranmer, if they ever attempted the feat credited them by tradition.
In his case the abandonment of opium brought on an agony which took
his actions entirely out of voluntary control, eclipsing the higher
ideals and heroisms of his imagination at once, and reducing him to
that automatic condition in which the nervous system issues and
enforces only those edicts which are counselled by pure animal
self-preservation. Whatever may have been the patient's responsibility
in _beginning_ the use of narcotics or stimulants (and I usually
find, in the case of opium-eaters, that its degree has been very small
indeed, therapeutic use often fixing the habit forever before a
patient has convalesced far enough even to know what he is taking)
habituation invariably tends to reduce the man to the _automatic_
plane, in which the will returns wholly to the tutelage of sensation
and emotion, as it was in infancy; while all the Intellectual, save
_Memory,_ and the most noble and imperishable among the Moral
faculties may survive this disorganization for years, standing erect
above the remainder of a personality defrauded of its completion to
show what a great and beautiful house might have been built on such
strong and shapely pillars. Inebriates have been repeatedly known to
risk imminent death if they could not reach their liquor in any other
way. The grasp with which liquor holds a man when it turns on him,
even after he has abused it for a lifetime, compared with the
ascendency possessed by opium over the unfortunate habituated to it
for but a single year, is as the clutch of an angry woman to the
embrace of Victor Hugo's _Pieuvre._ A patient whom, after
habitual use of opium for ten years, I met when he had spent eight
years more in reducing his daily dose to half a grain of morphia, with
a view to its eventual complete abandonment, once spoke to me in these

"God seems to help a man in getting out of every difficulty but
opium. There you have to _claw_ your way out over red-hot coals
on your hands and knees, and drag yourself by main strength through
the burning dungeon-bars."

This statement does not exaggerate the feeling of many another
opium-eater whom I have known.

Now, _such_ a man is a proper subject, not for _reproof_,
but for _medical treatment_. The problem of his case need
embarrass nobody. It is as purely physical as one of small-pox. When
this truth is as widely understood among the laity as it is known by
physicians, some progress may be made in staying the frightful ravages
of opium among the present generation. Now, indeed, it is a difficult
thing to prevent relatives from exacerbating the disorder and the pain
of a patient, who, from their uninformed stand-point, seems as sane
and responsible as themselves, by reproaches at which they would
shudder, as at any other cruelty, could they be brought to realize
that their friend is suffering under a disease of the very machinery
of volition; and no more to be judged harshly for his acts than a
wound for suppurating or the bowels for continuing the peristaltic

Finding--as in common with all physicians I have found so many times
before--that no control of the case could be obtained while the
patient stayed at home, and deeply renewing my often-experienced
regret that the science and Christian charity of this country have
perfected no scheme by which either inebriates or opium-eaters may be
properly treated in a special institution of their own, I was at
length reluctantly compelled to send my friend to an ordinary
water-cure at some distance from town.

The cause of my reluctance was not the prospect of a too liberal use
of water, for by arrangement with the heads of the establishment I was
able to control that as I chose; moreover, an employment of the
hot-bath in what would ordinarily be excess is absolutely necessary as
a sedative throughout the first week of the struggle. I have had
several patients whom during this period I plunged into water at 110
Fahrenheit as often as fifteen times in a single day--each bath
lasting as long as the patient experienced relief. In some cases this
Elysium coming after the rack has been the only period for a month in
which the sufferer had any thing resembling a doze. My reluctance
arose from the necessity of sending a patient in such an advanced
stage of the opium disease so far away from me that I must rely on
reports written by people without my eyes, for keeping personally
_au courant_ with the case; that I must consult and prescribe by
letter, subject to the execution of my plans by men, who, though
excellent and careful, were ignorant of my theories of treatment, and
had never made this particular disease a specialty. I accordingly sent
Mr. A. away to the water-cure, all friendless and alone to fight the
final battle of his life against tougher odds than he had ever before
encountered. At no time in my life have I realized with greater
bitterness the helplessness of a practitioner who has no institution
of his own to take such cases to than when I shook his poor, dry,
sallow hand and bade him good-bye at the station.

As I said in the beginning, I am just home from seeing the
result. Mr. A. has fared as special cases always do in places where
there is no special provision for them. To speak plainly, he had been
badly neglected; and that, undoubtedly, without the slightest
intention on the part of the heads of the house to do other than their
duty. Six weeks ago I heard from the first physician that my friend
was entirely free from opium, and, though still suffering, was
steadily on the mend. I had no further news from him till I was called
to his bedside by a note which said he feared he was dying, pencilled
in a hand as tremulously illegible as the confession of Guy Fawkes. I
was with him by the earliest train I could take, after arranging with
a neighbor for my practice, and found him in a condition which led him
to say, as I myself said at the commencement of this article; "Would
to God that every young person could stand for a single hour by this
bedside before Life's Responsibilities have become the sentinels and
Habit the jailer of the Will!"

I had not been intelligently informed respecting the progress of his
case. He had been better at no time when I was told he was so, though
his freedom from opium had been of even longer duration than I was
advised. _For ninety days he had been without opium in any
form_. The scope of so un-technical an article leaves no room to
detail what had been done for him as alleviation. His prostration had
been so great that he could not correspond with me himself until the
moment of his absolute extremity; and only after repeated entreaties
to telegraph to myself and his family had been refused on the ground
that his condition was not critical, he managed to get off the poor
scrawl which brought me to his side.

For the ninety days he had been going without opium he had known
nothing like proper sleep. I desire to be understood with mathematical
literalness. There had been periods when he had been _semi-conscious;_
when the outline of things in his room grew vaguer and for five
minutes he had a dull sensation of not knowing where he was. This
temporary numbness was the only state which in all that time simulated
sleep. From the hour he first refused his craving, and went to the
battle-field of bed, he had endured such agony as I believe no man but
the opium-eater has ever known. I am led to believe that the records
of fatal lesion, mechanical childbirth, cancerous affection, the stake
itself, contain no greater torture than a confirmed opium-eater
experiences in getting free. Popularly this suffering is supposed to
be purely intellectual--but nothing can be wider of the truth.

Its intellectual part is bad enough, but the physical symptoms are
appalling beyond representation. The look on the face of the opium
sufferer is indeed one of such keen mental anguish that outsiders may
well be excused for supposing that is all. I shall never forget till
my dying-day that awful Chinese face which actually made me rein my
horse at the door of the opium _hong_ where it appeared, after a
night's debauch, at six o'clock one morning when I was riding in the
outskirts of a Pacific city. It spoke of such a nameless horror in its
owner's soul that I made the sign for a pipe and proposed, in
"_pigeon English_" to furnish the necessary coin. The Chinaman
sank down on the steps of the _hong_, like a man hearing medicine
proposed to him when he was gangrened from head to foot, and made a
gesture, palms downward, toward the ground, as one who said, "It has
done its last for me--I am paying the matured bills of penalty." The
man had exhausted all that opium could give him; and now, flattery
past, the strong one kept his goods in peace. When the most powerful
alleviative known to medical science has bestowed the last Judas kiss
which is necessary to emasculate its victim, and, sure of the prey,
substitutes stabbing for blandishment, what alleviative, stronger than
the strongest, shall soothe such doom? I may give chloroform. I always
do in the _denouement_ of bad cases--ether--nitrous oxyd. In
employing the first two agents I secure rest, but I induce death nine
cases out of ten. Nothing is better known to medical men than the
intolerance of the system to chloroform or ether after opium. Nitrous
oxyd I am still experimenting with, but its simple undiffused form is
too powerful an agent to use with a patient who for many days must be
hourly treated for persevering pain. So the opium-eater is left as
entirely without anasthetic as the usual practice leaves him without
therapeutic means. Both here and abroad opium-eaters have discovered
the fact that, in an inveterate case, where opium fails to act on the
brain through the exhausted tissues of the stomach, bichlorid of
mercury in combination with the dose behaves like a _mordant_ in
the presence of a dye, and, so to speak, _precipitates_ opium
upon the calloused surfaces of the mucous and nervous layers. This
expedient soon exhausts itself in a death from colliquative diarrhea,
produced partly by the final decompositions of tissue which the
poisonously antiseptic property of opium has all along improperly
stored away; partly by the definite corrosions of the new addition to
the dose. But in no case is there any relief to a desperate case of
opium-eating save death.

Remembering that Chinaman's face, I can not wonder at the popular
notion regarding the abandonment of opium. Men say it is a mental
pain; because spiritual woe is the expression of the sufferer's
countenance. And so it is, but this woe is underlain by the keenest
brute suffering. Let me sketch the opium-eater's experience on the
rugged road upward.

Let us suppose him a resolute man, who means to be free, and with that
intent has reduced to a hundred drops the daily dose which for several
years had amounted to an ounce of laudanum. I am not supposing an
extreme case. An ounce of laudanum is a small _per diem_ for any man
who has taken his regular rations of the drug for a twelvemonth. In
the majority of cases I have found an old _habitue's_ daily portion to
exceed three, or the equivalent of that dose in crude opium or
morphia; making seventy-two grains of the gum or twelve of its most
essential alkaloid. In one most interesting case I found a man who
having begun on the first of January with one half a grain of sulphate
of morphia for disease, at the end of March was, to all appearance, as
hopeless an opium-eater as ever lived, taking thirty-two grains of the
salt per day in the form of _Magendie's Solution_. This, however, was
an unusual case. According to my experience the average opium-eater
reaches twelve grains of morphia in ten years, and may live after that
to treble the amount: the worst case I ever knew attaining a dose of
ninety grains, or one and a half of the drachm vials ordinarily
sold. I am happy, in passing, to add that for more than two years both
the extreme cases just mentioned have been entirely cured.

If the opium-eater has been in the habit of dividing his daily dose he
begins to feel some uneasiness within an hour after his first
deprivation, but it amounts to nothing more than an indefinite
restlessness. In any case his first well-marked opium torments occur
early after he has been without the drug for twenty-four hours.

At the expiration of that time he begins to feel a peculiar
_corded_ and _tympanic_ tightness about the epigastrium. A
feverish condition of the brain, which sometimes amounts to absolute
_phantasia_, now ensues, marked off into periods of increasing
excitement by a heavy sleep, which, after each interval, grows fuller
of tremendous dreams, and breaks up with a more intensely irritable
waking. I have held a man's hand while he lay dreaming about the
thirty-sixth hour of his struggle. His eyes were closed for less than
a minute by the watch, but he awoke in a horrible agony of fear from
what seemed to have been a year-long siege of some colossal and
demoniac Vicksburg.

After the opium-eater has been for forty-eight hours without his
solace this heavy sleep entirely disappears. While it stays it never
lasts over half an hour at a time, and is so broken by the crash of
stupendous visions as not to amount to proper slumber. During its
period of continuance the opium-eater woos its approaches with an
agony which shows his instinct of the coming weeks of sleeplessness.
It never _rests_ him in any valid sense. It is a congestive
decomposition rather than any normal reconstruction of the brain. He
wakes out of it each time with a heart more palpitating; in a
perspiration more profuse; with a greater uncertainty of sense and
will; with a more confused memory; in an intenser agony of body and
horror of hopelessness. Every nerve in the entire frame now suddenly
awakes with such a spasm of revivification that no parallel agony to
that of the opium-eater at this stage can be adduced, unless it be
that of the drowned person resuscitated by artificial means. Nor does
this parallel fully represent the suffering, for the man resuscitated
from drowning re-oxydizes all _his_ surplus carbon in a few minutes of
intense torture, while the anguish which burns away that carbon and
other matter, properly effete, stored away in the tissues by opium,
must last for hours, days, and weeks. Who is sufficient for this long,
_long_ pull?

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