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Disease from Opium



Opium produces symptoms of induced disease under two modes of its use. It is sometimes inhaled as opium smoke. It is sometimes taken in the solid form, or in the form of tincture.

Opium smoking is a habit very extensively practised in East ern countries, and is believed to be on the increase, as a practice, in this country. Opinion seems to be somewhat divided in regard to its harmfulness, but from what I have myself directly observed I can have no doubt that it is productive of most serious mischief, functional and organic. The habit, when once it is commenced, is most persistent, and brings its devotee, in the end, to a pitiable condition of mental and bodily inactivity. The symptoms in duced are those of stupor, sleep, and restless dreaming. After a time the digestion is deranged, the circulation is irregular, the nervous system torpid, the nutrition indifferent, and the secretions inactive. In extreme cases there is, in the end, premature and general reduction of vital power.

Opium eating or drinking leads to a series of phenomena of disease which are fairly uniform and long persistent. The acute phenomena are those of strange and wandering dreams, occurring during prolonged sleep, and followed, after waking, by dulness, pain and weight in the head, and mental depression. In the con firmed opium-eater this mental depression continues, in an in creasing ratio, until resort is once more had to the cause of it. In fact a new life seems to be ingrafted on a new food the desire for which lapses into what may be called an insatiable instinctive faculty. Under the action of opium the digestive organs soon fail in their functions, the appetite is impaired, the secretion of bile is diminished, the bowels are constipated, and there is a per sistent sense of feebleness and of emptiness in the abdominal region. In consequence of the bad digestion and assimilation the body wastes, the skin shrinks, the circulation becomes feeble, the eye dull, the pulse quick and irritable, and the tongue dry, red, and sometimes furrowed. In the end the centres of the nervous system lose their activities, and paralysis of some portion of the body is the result. The lower limbs fail first, then the muscles of the back, so that the body, lame and bent like the body of an old man, falls into the decrepitude of senile degeneration. Death from wasting, owing to failure of digestive power, closes the scene.

A modern form of induced disease from opium is by using it in solution as morphia for injection under the skin, subcutaneous injection of morphia. The narcotic solution is taken up in a small syringe and injected through a fine needle into the cellular tissue. The practice commonly commences for the relief of pain, particu larly the pain of neuralgia, a minimum medicinal dose of the drug being originally used. The dose is gradually increased when the practice is persisted in, and in some examples a great number of grains of morphia are injected during the day. I have seen the skin so punctured from this operation that it was somewhat diffi cult for the sufferer to find a new place in which to insert the needle. At first nausea and even vomiting occur soon after the injection, and when these symptoms subside they are succeeded by defective digestion, irritability or slowness of the circulation, reduced secretion, torpor of the nervous system, insatiate craving for the drug, muscular prostration attended with hysterical excite ment, and general inertia, inanition and failure of power. In the end there is usually a gradual paralysis commencing in the lower limbs and extending throughout the muscular system, together with wasting degeneration of muscular tissue and death.

system, body, practice, circulation, injection and muscular