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HOME > Science Fiction > The psychology of sleep > CHAPTER XV OPIATES
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 ne of the most common signs of something at fault either with the body or the mind is headache. Now headache, like wakefulness or nervousness, so often associated with headache, is an effect of some error, not a cause of it, and the wise sufferer will seek the cause even before he treats the effect.  
We call ourselves the most enlightened nation of the earth to-day, and it is true that a little knowledge has been more generally among our people than among other peoples of the world. But we should not forget that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” largely because a little knowledge frequently proves to be no real knowledge at all. For example, the “little knowledge” generally in regard to opiates.
Coal-tar was once a waste product, but toward the end of the last century a German chemist discovered that from it could be a drug, acetanilid, which would greatly lower temperature in fever. This discovery was hailed as a to humanity, and many other by-products of coal-tar were soon placed on the market, and regarded as of equal value with acetanilid. Physicians used them for a time without questioning, and the people took to them gladly. Wherever there was a headache, some one of the coal-tar products was used, and “headache powders” multiplied.
But a little further knowledge led physicians to question the of using acetanilid, phenacetin, antipyrin, or any of the coal-tar preparations in other than exceptional cases. Heart-failure and other dangerous results so frequently followed their use that the wisdom of using them at all became doubtful. As our knowledge increases, we are likely to find both the wisdom and necessity disappearing.
In the meantime, those who have heard that temporary relief from pain may be had by using these drugs will go on using them, often in patent medicines, ignorant of what these contain, and the number of deaths resulting from their use continues to increase. The only way to protect such people from the result of their little knowledge, which is really ignorance, is by making it illegal to sell these drugs, except by from a physician, who, in turn, should be held responsible for results.
This is, of course, an interference with the individual’s right to do as seemeth best to him, and to get his experience in his own way. Herbert Spencer says, “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of is to fill the world with fools.” But it is the same sort of interference that makes us hold a man by main force from throwing himself on the track before an approaching train, and not the sort that would forcibly put an overcoat on him when he did not care to wear it. One may be no more than the other, but it seems more excusable.
All sleeping doses are to be viewed with distrust; most of them contain o............
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