This section is from the book "The Human Body: An Elementary Text-Book Of Anatomy, Physiology, And Hygiene", by H. Newell Martin. Also available from Amazon: The Human Body.
The chloral habit is in this country at present more common than the opium habit, and, like it, more frequent among women than men.
Chloral was, on its discovery a few years ago, heralded as a wonderfully safe and certain promoter of sleep and alleviator of pain. Medical men have since learned that it is by no means so harmless a drug as they once believed; but the general public do not seem to have had their eyes opened to its danger. A great many preparations of it have been put on the market, and are sold in drug-stores to all-comers. The result is that many persons who would hesitate to take opium without medical advice use chloral, believing it harmless.
In what do the consequences of injection of morphia beneath the skin resemble and differ from those of opiates taken by the mouth ?
How are children peculiar as regards opiates ? Under what conditions only should they be administered to children ? What often results from giving opiates to infants?
Compare the frequency of the chloral and opium habits in the United States.
Chloral, taken habitually, is at least as mischievous as opium. It should be forbidden by law to retail it in any form except on the prescription of a physician.
The chloral habit is acquired with great ease, and is very hard to break. The first phenomena of chloral disease (chloralism) are these: The digestion is greatly impaired; the tongue is dry and furred; there is nausea; sometimes vomiting, and a constant feeling of oppression from wind on the stomach.
Next, nervous and circulatory disturbances occur. The temper becomes irritable, the Will weak; the hands and legs tremulous; the heart-beat irregular; the face easily flushed. Sleep becomes impossible without use of the drug: when obtained it is troubled, and the person awakes unrested.
In later stages the blood is seriously altered. Its coloring matter is dissolved, and soaks through the walls of the capillary vessels, causing purplish patches on the skin. Jaundice also frequently occurs.
If the chloral-taking be still continued, death results from impoverished blood, weakened heart, or paralysis of the nervous system. Not unfrequently chloral-takers unintentionally commit suicide by indulging in too large a dose.
Tobacco contains an active principle, nicotin, which in its pure form is a powerful poison, paralyzing the heart.
What have medical men lately learned about chloral? Why do so many people take chloral without medical advice? Describe the first symptoms of chloralism.
What are the symptoms in more advanced chloralism? What in the latest stages?
How does death from chloral occur ?
When tobacco is smoked some of the nicotin is burned, but there are developed certain acrid vapors which have an irritant action on the mouth and throat. The effects of smoking are thus in part general, due to absorbed nicotin ; and in part local, due to irritant matters in the smoke. They vary much with the constitution, habits, and age of the smoker. Tobacco is specially injurious to young per-sons whose physical development is not completed.