JAMA Revisited December 6, 1919 used for medicinal purposes it should be under medical supervision and the medical profession should be held as strictly accountable for any misuse of the drug as it is now held responsible for the misuse of the drugs covered by the No longer should artists—at least American artists—represent Harrison Narcotic Law. Bacchus astride a wine barrel; the little god should be de- The manufacturers of “patent medicines” of the alcohol picted astraddle a “patent medicine” bottle. While no statis- type all deny that the alcohol is present for its drug action; it tics are at hand—largely because those who could collect such is used as a “solvent” or as a “preservative” or “to prevent freez- statistics are not going to publish them—on the increase in ing” or for some other reason. They argue that certain drugs the consumption of the numerous highly alcoholized “patent can be extracted only by means of alcohol. This is true. It is medicines” since the advent of national prohibition, there is equally true that after these substances have been so ex- no question that the sales of these products have been might- tracted, the alcohol can be evaporated and the drug prin- ily augmented. As every physician and pharmacist knows, ciples that are left can be put up in the form of tablets or cap- there are on the American market a number of widely adver- sules. In many instances glycerin can be used as a solvent where tised and extensively sold “patent medicines” whose most a liquid medicine is desired. potent ingredient is alcohol. All such preparations, of course, One of the chief arguments put forth by the manufactur- contain, in addition to the alcohol, certain drugs on which ers of alcoholic “patent medicines” is of the ad hominem the manufacturers base their therapeutic claims. These type. They declare that physicians prescribe tinctures, fluid- drugs, in nearly every instance, are either harmless or, if extracts, etc., which contain alcohol in varying amounts. potent, are present in such small quantities as to have a negli- Very true. Physicians also prescribe such dangerous drugs as gible physiologic effect. cocain, morphin, strychnin and arsenic, when in their judg- The problem of controlling the sale of these alcoholic ment such drugs are indicated. This is no reason, however, why medicines can be satisfactorily solved in only one way and dangerous drugs should be sold indiscriminately to every that way is to prohibit the use of alcohol in preparations of Tom, Dick or Harry who has a pain or who, by reading nos- the “home remedy” type, that is, in those products which trum advertisements, has been made to think he has a pain. are sold indiscriminately to the public for the self-treatment The nub of the whole thing is that none of these alcohol- of disease. Such action has already been taken with ref- ized “patent medicines” would have any vogue were the al- erence to a drug like cocain, for instance, and in a modified cohol removed; neither would such removal affect the thera- form with reference to opium and its derivatives. Alcohol peutic value—real or supposititious—claimed for such products. is a powerful drug. It is likely to be misused; so likely, in fact, that the United States has decided it is too danger- ous to be used for beverage purposes. If alcohol is to be JAMA. 1919;73(23):1772. Editor’s Note: JAMA Revisited is transcribed verbatim from articles published Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor. previously, unless otherwise noted. 2140 JAMA December 3, 2019 Volume 322, Number 21 (Reprinted) jama.com © 2019 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.
JAMA – American Medical Association
Published: Dec 3, 2019
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