13 April 1850

Curious Drugs for Producing Hallucination.

From time immemorial the singular effects produced upon the mind, by drinking wine, &c., has been known to the inhabitants of every nation. It is however but a short time since a knowledge of inhaling certain gases into the lungs produced effects nearly akin to that of drinking alcoholic drinks. It is but a few years since ether was discovered and intelligently applied to produce entire insensibility of the nerves; and it is only two years since Chloroform was brought to light, as the best substance to be used for this purpose. — This singular substance is now employed in our Hospitals for the most humane purposes. A knowledge of a letheon, like Chloroform, has been claimed for the Chinese Doctors, as far back as the third century, but when was there a discovery brought forward that was not claimed by some pedantic antiquarian, for the Chinese, Hindoos, or the Egyptians. That the Chinese Doctors used opium to produce insensibility, we do not doubt, and that they have been long acquainted with some singular things, unknown to us, no one will deny, but not gases; and this is especially true of a singular drug called Hashish, which, when eaten or smoked, produces the most singular mental phantasmagoria. The Hindoos, however, seem to be better acquainted with it than the Chinese, but it is only within a few years since a knowledge of its peculiar effects was made known to Europeans. This drug is a preparation of Indian Hemp. A recent article in the Paris Medical Times gives an account of an experiment made by a physician with some of it upon a number of individuals. He went to a familiar Cafe, selected his subjects and gave a single grain to each. Some bolted it, others smoked it; one individual merely smeared about a quarter of a grain over his cigarette paper. About one grain was dissolved in a glass of Curacoa, and this was alotted to the master of the house. His two young and handsome daughters were forbidden to taste of the drug; but the physician had here evidently forgotten his Scriptural history. About three-quarters of an hour passed quitely [sic] over, and the curious were rapidly lapsing into incredulity, when a short laugh, followed by an awful and mos [sic] piercing shriek, issued from an inner apartment. The youngest daughter, following traditional example, had tasted of the forbidden object, and was suddenly struck with delirium and hysterical movements of a very alarming appearance. Concousness [sic] was only one half obliterated, and the mind seemed to make supernatural efforts to escape from the chain about to be thrown around it. The shrieks were rapid, most violent, and is [sic] a peculiar kind. The girl felt conscious that she was raving, and earnestly entreated all around her not to conclude that she was mad; each appeal being terminated by a heart-rending scream. Some internal sensation also compelled her to cry, every now and then, that she was dying. With great difficulty she was conveyed to bed, where the delirium continued for four hours. As if a signal were sent by this mischance, the young men in the cafe went off about the same moment. The effects were not, however, so violent. They were extremely varied. The individual who had smoked some hemp (half a grain) in his cigarette was suddenly attacked by violent fits of laughter, which compelled him to roll on the floor, during which he exclaimed that something was raising him up to heaven. These fits resembling hysteria, did not last more than ten minutes. Another individual, instead of being agitated, fell suddenly into a deep sleep, bolt upright against the wall, with the chin sunk on his chest, and features in the most perfect calm. Were it not for the deep, slow inspirations, one would have thought him defunct, for the face was deadly pale. So profound was the sleep, that it continued for three hours, despite the shouts and screams of the excited bacchanals who danced around him, for in the majority the hemp merely produced intoxication. In all, the excitement was soon followed by an invincible tendency to sleep; the benches were strewn with the slain, and delightful dreams, producing strange laughter, repaid the adventurous tasters for their curiosity.

The love of excitement is so strong in man that he seeks it by some means or other, hence in those countries where wine is forbidden, opium and tobacco are used as substitutes. At the foot of the Himmaleh mountains, a hemp grows wild, from which a liquor is made which produces intoxication of the most dreadful kind, exciting every passion in a high degree. A man under its influence looks like a madman, and exhibits his excitement by dancing, singing, shouting, and tossing his arms. The Hindoos, some of them, are very fond of it; particularly peltry-bearers. They say it makes them forget all their pains and fatigue. The name of this hemp, and the preparation from it also, is “Bhnm.” The drug “hashish” is made from this hemp, and it has been reared in France for experimental purposes. The peculiar effect of the “hashish” is the inversion of the order of time — a minute becomes an hour, and scenes like those described in the Arabian Nights Entertainments flit before the mind, with all the wonderful phenomena of genii, fairies, pallaces [sic] of gold and silver — the real scenes of “Alladdin and his Wonderful Lamp.” A frequent use of the drug is dangerous to sanity and health, as is the use of all unnatural stimulants. In commenting upon any subject, authors and editors should always have a moral in view — to warn where there is danger, to encourage where there is hope. It is a fact that almost every person often craves for some mental stimulant, and, alas! too many are weak enough to indulge in gratifying an appetite which feeds on that which destroys it. He who conquers his passions and appetites, and brings them into the subjection of whatsoever is pure and lovely, exhibits a greatness of mind. Regular habits, plain food, cheerful and healthful exercise, the performing of charity and the reading of good authors, will impart a cheerfulness of mind and a healthfulness of frame, which no one knoweth but those who follow after these things.