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The Opium Habit by Horace B. Day

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to any one accustomed to dealing only with the prostration of ordinary
disease to see to what an extremity the opium-eater will bear to be
reduced--what an extent of muscular debility he will even thrive
under. If we look at him closely, we will see through all his pallor a
healthy texture of skin--in all his languor a _soundness_ of vital
operation which stands to his account for more valid strength, than if
he could lift all the weights of Dr. Winship. Unless the opium-disease
is complicated with some serious organic difficulty it is safe to
carry on the process of relaxation as long as it relieves pain until
the patient has just enough strength left to lift his eyelids. We
have kept him up with the constant, faithful administration of
beef-tea--half a tea-cupful, by slow sips, every hour or hour and a
half that he was awake during day or night, but never rousing him for
any purpose whatever if he showed any inclination to sleep. The nurse
who does that when an opium-eater is going through his struggle should
be discharged without warning. Sleep for ten minutes any time during
this month is worth to nutrition alone more than a week's feeding.

At the end of the month Mr. Edgerton can sleep with tolerable
soundness for half an hour--even an hour at a time, and the sum of all
his dozes amount to about four hours out of the twenty-four. He is
still nervous, though the painful tigerish restlessness is gone. The
pangs of his opium-neuralgia are also gone--or re-appear at long
intervals, and much mitigated, to stay but a few minutes. He is in
every respect on the upward grade. When his sleep becomes decidedly
better, so that most of his night, despite frequent wakings, is
consumed in it, he enters on an entirely different stage of his
treatment. We stop pulling him down. We begin toning him up.

To the description of this process I need devote but little room. It
consists in a gradual cooling of the temperature of his baths--a
substitution of the more bracing and invigorating for one after
another of the relaxing and soothing forms of treatment. The hot
full-bath is discontinued almost entirely, and we replace it by the
use of a couple of pailfuls of water at 65-75, doused over the
patient; or "the flow," in which the water spreads through a
fan-shaped faucet like a funnel with its sides smashed flat and falls
over his shoulders; or the salt sponge--all followed by vigorous towel
and hand-rubbing until the skin is in a healthy glow. The pack we
still employ, wringing the sheet out of water as near the natural
temperature as he can comfortably and at once react from. It is an
admirable means of equalizing the circulation of our patient and
soothing his remaining nervous irritability. We encourage his being
in the open air and sunshine as much as is compatible with the season
and the weather, and favor his taking exercise in every unexhausting
way possible. His appetite will by this time take care of his
nutrition with-out much nursing, but we must listen to its caprices
and provide it with every thing it thinks it would like. Our sedative
medicines may in all likelihood be safely discontinued, and very
little indeed of any kind be given him save tonics. In my experience,
and that of all others to whom I have recommended them, the very best
and most universally to be relied on at this stage are quinine, nux
vomica tincture, and pyro-phosphate of iron, together with last, but
most important of all, our invaluable stand-by, beef-tea. This may be
made more palatable to the fastidious palate which has become palled
by a steady month or two of it, by a few whole cloves and shreds of
onion, but most people relish its delicious meaty flavor quite as well
when it is simply made by chopping lean rump into pieces the size of
dice, covering them with cold water in the proportion of about three
pints to two pounds, letting the whole stand a couple of hours to soak
in a saucepan, then drawing it forward upon the range, where it will
gently simmer for ten minutes, and salting and pouring it out just as
it comes up to a brisk boil. If the meat be just slightly browned on
both sides (not broiled through, remember) before being chopped, the
flavor of the tea is to many tastes still more exquisite. Beef-tea
should be on the range, ready for patients in our house who need it,
at all hours of the day and night, and all the year round. The whole
cookery of our establishment must be of the very best. There is no
greater mistake than that existing in most sanitary institutions--
stinting in the larder and the kitchen. The best meats, the most
skillful, delicate cookery, the freshest of vegetables and fruit, the
ability to tempt the capricious palate by all sorts of savory little
made dishes--these should always characterize the table of a place
where food has to do so much as with us in replacing the fatal
supports of the narcotics and stimuli. It will be noticed that neither
here nor in my mention of tonics have I referred to alcoholic
stimulants. The omission has been intentional. My entire experience
has gone to prove that the use of alcohol in any form with
opium-eaters undergoing cure is worse than useless, almost invariably
redoubling their suffering from loss of opium, and frequently
rendering the craving for a return to their curse an incontrollable
agony. I therefore leave it entirely out, alike of my pharmacopoia and
my bill of fare.

A few final words about the attractions of the Island. Besides the
amusements earlier mentioned, I propose that our perfected scheme
shall contain every thing necessary to make the social life in-doors a
delightful refuge, to all far enough advanced to take pleasure in
society, from the dejection and introversion peculiarly characteristic
of opium's revenges. This comprehends a suite of parlors where ladies
and gentlemen can meet in the evening on just the same refined and
pleasant terms that belong to an elegant home elsewhere; furnished
with piano to dance to, play, or sing with; first-class pictures as
fast as our own funds, aided by donations and bequests, can procure
them for us--but bare wall or handsome paper or fresco rather than any
daub to fill a panel; fine engravings in portfolios; cosy open
fire-places; unblemished taste in furniture and carpets; in fine, an
air of the highest ideal of a private family's handsomest
assembling-room. I propose a billiard-room with a couple of tables--so
neatly kept that both ladies and gentlemen can meet there to enjoy the
game, a reading-room with the best papers and magazines and a good
library, both to be enjoyed by guests of either sex; a smoking and
card-room for the gentlemen. I propose to have our engine before
mentioned do the work of taking our invalids up and down stairs by a
lift, like those in use in some of our best hoteis, so that the
highest rooms may be practically as near the baths, the dining and
social apartments, and as eligible as any of the lower ones. And if
feasible, I suggest that some at least of the rooms be arranged in
small suites or pairs, so as to admit of a well daughter, son, sister,
parent, wife, or brother coming to stay with any invalid who needs
their loving presence and nursing.

I have thus given as clear an outline as I can of my idea what such an
institution as we have so often talked over ought to be, and described
a method of treatment which has been successful wherever I have had
the opportunity even to approach its realization. For its perfect
realization an institution especially devoted to the noble work is a
_sine qua non_. If the publication of this letter shall call to
our aid in its establishment, by awakening to a sense of its
necessity, any of our vigorous, public-spirited countrymen, I am sure
we may live to see it flourishing on a sound basis and doing an
incalculable amount of good which shall make mankind wonder how so
many generations ever lived without it since opium began to scourge
the world. I shall then, too, be even more indebted to you than I am
now for the courtesy which has afforded so large a space in your book

Your Friend,


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