Cocaine as a cure-all
The seed of caution in the application of so powerful an agent
Cocaine is becoming one of the popular remedies of the day. Its function of allaying the sensibility of the nerves of mucous membranes and other tissues renders it valuable in surgical operations and in the treatment of throat and lung affections. It also possesses curative properties, and can be used advantageously where there is local irritation to be removed and reflex nervous disturbances to be prevented.
In consequence of its remarkable qualities and of the prominence given to it in the medical treatment received by General Grant, it is now coming into general use. Hay fever is not by any means the only disease for which it is declared to be an effective remedy.
The chemists, who are compounding cocaine tabloids for the noses of catarrhal patients, are also putting up cocaine troches for the throats of sufferers from bronchial and pulmonary complaints. There is reason for believing that the market will speedily be flooded with cocaine lozenges, cough-drops, soothing-syrups, patent-plasters and every kind of cure-all. Advantage will be taken of the sudden reputation which the singularly effective curative agent and anesthetic has obtained. Cocaine will be recognized by patent-medicine manufacturers as a popular catchword, and the business of prescribing and compounding it will be speedily overdone.
That there is need of great caution in the promiscuous application of so powerful an agent as cocaine to every ill to which flesh is heir requires no argument. While it is not by any means a new drug, its characteristic property of deadening the sensibility of nerve has only been known for a comparatively short period. Sufficient time has not yet elapsed to enable the medical profession to judge of what may be called systematic or general effects of the use of cocaine.
It would be natural to suppose that an agent capable of producing such potent results when applied to surfaces where nerves terminate must affect the entire nervous system when it is freely and constantly used. There is no more interesting question in therapeutics at the present time than the reflex influences upon nervous center and physical organization of such agent as cocaine.
Grant’s physicians can supply valuable information to medical science by an authoritative statement of their experience in applying the drug in that remarkable case, the details of which were widely published and closely followed by physicians.
Until more is known of the general effects of cocaine, too free a use of it without medical supervision is to be deprecated.
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Source publication: New York Tribune
Publication date: September 1885