10 April 2010

ODs A-Go-Go

Funny story, or possibly tale of the macabre, depending on your point of view:

In the 1905 hospital records I'm reading, there are all of a sudden a rash of poisonings with (from? by? I'm not sure which is the proper preposition) a variety of substances, including but not limited to: lead, phosporus, alcohol, opium, and cocaine.  Don't worry, that's not the funny part.  There was also a "ptomaine poisoning," which is obviously not the same sort of poisoning but made me think about how my parents used to refer to any shady restaurant as a "ptomaine palace" and how I really should find more excuses to use that term, because alliteration is funny.  Which is all beside the point.

I clearly had to include some of this poisoning outbreak in my research, as it is an unexpected trend in admissions, and also because earnest, bougie Edwardian doctors interacting with druggies is sure to produce hilarious results (but not sexy results, more's the pity), even though the doctors were probably all on laudanum themselves.  And you know what?  Hypothesis: proven.  From the cocaine poisoning case: "he kept constantly grabbing at all pieces of paper his eyes fell on.  He only wanted them to put them in the fire."  Heeeeeee.  It's the sniffy tone of it that kills me.  You have to wonder how many pieces of paper were snatched, and how important they were, before the doctor thought, "I say, he only wants them to put them in the fire!"  He is out of his everloving mind on cocaine (and whiskey, brandy, and beer, reportedly).  Clearly, he doesn't want the paper for any useful purpose, such as jotting a quick missive to the local newspaper regarding the state of the roads, or origami.  The ancient Japanese art of paper-folding being a second use to which the paper might be put, I mean, not a second subject upon which one might write to the newspaper.  But I'm not here to judge.  After all, the next day, "He said he wanted away as he had business to attend to."

Interesting side note: dude had injected the cocaine, as he had done for the past seven years.  Only 45 years after the modern syringe and the drug itself were invented.  But maybe he was just a Sherlock Holmes fan.  Or had just purchased a handy kit from Parke-Davis for the purpose.  Or appreciated Pope Leo XIII's endorsement of cocaine-laced wine.  All this after some nutjob tried it out as a ophthalmic anaesthetic by instilling it into his own eye, which he then pricked with pins.  A general thumbs-up from the medical community greeted the knowledge that a drug had been discovered that would allow one to painlessly poke one's own eyes with sharp objects.  How could over-the-counter use not follow closely behind?

(Image via Wikipedia)


everythingisjustwonderful said...

I just love past decades' drug use. There is a pharmaceutical museum in a town near here and the log books are just great. It lists the drug (often cocaine), the person, and the reason the drugs were prescribed (often a toothache and in one case an 'unusually persistent headache').

Auntie Maim said...

Ha! I like the "unusually persistant headache." I get those sometimes when I don't get enough caffeine. Clearly, cocaine is the answer!