This drug has been extensively used by some Orientals for the purpose of producing intoxication, and, unfortunately this intoxication has had a poetical and romantic character given it by writers of brilliant imagination, who have observed or experienced it. The splendor of the visions it excites, the vivid and glowing fancies, the flowing and gushing delights, have been dwelt on in terms of the highest eloquence a poetic fancy could suggest, until indulgence in the vice has seemed a beautiful transcendence of ordinary human experience rather than the commission of a crime against physical and moral law. The whole has been so invested with the charm of romance, as to conceal the nature of the indulgence, and unfortunately, to commend it to the imagination and taste of the reckless young in our own land to an extent little dreamed of, till the drug has become an article of considerable importance in the retail drug trade, especially in the neighborhood of our colleges.*[The writer is informed of a druggist in the immediate vicinity of one of the largest Colleges, who says that were it not for the sale of Hasheesh to our students he might as well close his shop.] The young men there gathered for the purposes of education of their intellect and taste, have learned one of the uses of this singular drug, according to the law of similars, which they are said to practice to an alarming extent. It is much used by them to antidote the effects of debauch, and especially those resulting from alcoholic drinks, which it removes with wonderful rapidity and completeness. The symptoms recorded by some who have taken the drug, and observed by others would have led us to expect this a priori, and the testimony of multitudes who have experienced the relief, confirms the reasonableness of the expectation. The sense of exhaustion, feverish restlessness, headache, confusion of intellect, and attendant symptoms are all dissipated in a few minutes, and the young sinner feels as though nothing especial had happened; and too soon, if he can be rid the painful consequences so easy, that he would as soon get drunk as not, and he is quite likely to repeat the experiment to the loss of intellect, character, and even life.
This is represented, by those who have the opportunity of knowing, as largely prevailing in the different colleges in our country. If this be true, and it is believed to be so, it is time the warning was sounded in the ears of those who are more especially responsible for the conduct and safety of these young persons.
The resemblance of the effects of Cannabis indica to those of alcohol is not a little striking, and it would be strange if the law which we believe to be of universal application should fail to justify itself only here. It is true all the symptoms recorded of Cannabis do not find a counterpart in the intoxications of alcohol, but many of them do, and in this the relation is just that between other drugs and other diseases. No disease exhibits all the symptoms of any one drug, and yet the drug cures.
The following are some of the symptoms recorded as the effects of this remarkable drug, by the author of “The Hasheesh Eater.,” and many of them have been confirmed by the experiments of persons known to the writer.
Illusions of the senses. He hears voices, and the most sublime music. He sees visions of beauty and glory that can only be equalled in paradise. Landscapes of sublimes t beauty, with profusion of flowers of most brilliant color, in contrast to afford the greatest delight. Architecture of magnificent grandeur and beauty, and all giving a consciousness of happiness for the time without mixture.
Extreme exaggerations of the duration of time and extent space — a few seconds seem ages — the utterance of a word seems as long as a whole drama — and a few rods are a distance which can never be passed, it is so great. The room expands and those around the centre table near, recede to vast distances, and the ceiling is raised, and he is in a vast hall.
“When walking in the street he suddenly sees the muffled figure of a man start from the wall. His appearance is such as to excite the utmost horror. “Every lineament of his face was stamped with the records of a life black with damning crime. It glared on me with a ferocious wickedness and a stony despair. I seemed to grow blasphemous in looking at him, and in an agony of fear turned to run away.”
“I could trace the circulation of the blood along each inch of its progress. I knew when every valve opened and shut. The beating of my heart was so clearly audible that I wondered it was not heard by others.”
He laughs immoderately and involuntarily at the impression his leg was a tin case filled with stair rods, which he hears rattle as he walks. Then suddenly the other leg seems to extend its length till he is raised some hundreds of feet into the air, and on this he is compelled to hop as he is walking with his friend.
He has intense thirst, and yet he fears to drink, for he will be suffocated by the magnitude of the stream as it passes down his throat; and again it is not water but the most delicious Metheglin that he swallows, with super-human delight.
The soul seemed to be separated from the body, and to look down upon it, and view all the motions of the vital processes, and to be able to pass and repass through the solid walls of the room, and to view the landscape beyond.
He seems to be the subject of the strangest transformations, now he is a huge saw, and darts up and down while planks fly off on either side of him in utter completeness; and then he is a bottle of soda water, running too and fro; then a huge hippopotamus; then a giraffe.
The similarity of these symptoms to those presented in the most common forms of insanity scarcely needs mention. The exaggerations of the perceptions, the excited imagination, the pride of personal power and importance, the happy existence in dream-land, the illusions of the senses, common to both, are too much alike in each to escape the observation of any reader. Its importance as a remedy in this class of most afflictive maladies, cannot be over-estimated, if the above symptoms are reliable, as they seem to be, unless here, the law of cure, elsewhere so sure in its operations, shall be found to utterly fail.
The counterpart of the picture of the “hasheesh” delirium or insanity, lately presented, was promised in a future number of the Review. We are about to redeem that promise, and begin by making, on the authority of the writer from whom the most of the symptoms lately published were derived, the important statement that at two different times, when the body and mind are apparently in precisely analogous states, and when all circumstances, exterior and interior, do not differ tangibly in the smallest respect, the same dose of the same preparation of “hasheesh” will frequently pro-produce diametrically opposite effects. This is important as indicative of a wide range of practical application, this peculiarity characterizing most of our polychrests. He further says that “at one time I have taken thirty grains, which hardly gave a perceptible phenomenon, and at another when a dose had been half that quantity, I have suffered the agonies of a martyr, or rejoiced in a perfect phrensy. So variable are its results that I took each successive bolus with the consciousness that I was daring an uncertainty as tremendous as the equipoise between hell and heaven.” — Whether the same uncertainty in the effects of doses will be found to attach to the use of the drug in the dynamizations, as the above, the result of experience with massive doses, remains to be proved, and may at present well be doubted.
Another experience of this writer, confirmed by that of many others, is that “if during the ecstasy of 'hasheesh' delirium, another dose, however small, though it be no larger than half a pea, be employed to prolong the condition, such agony will inevitably ensue as will make the soul shudder at its own possibility of endurance without annihilation. By repeated experiments, which now occupy the most horrible place upon my catalogue of horrible remembrances, have I proved that among all the variable phenomena of 'hasheesh,' this alone stands unvarying. The use of it directly after any other stimulus will produce consequences as apalling.” Whether this peculiarity will be found in the practical use of the drug to modify, in any degree, the repetition of doses is now a question of interest we are not in a condition to answer. If it should prove to be a drug intolerant of repetitions it will not stand alone in this respect, in our Materia Medica, but will by this peculiarity be placed by the masters of that science with a class known to them to be already somewhat numerous. This writer also found that the most delightful ecstasy was converted into deepest horrors, and horrors, when present, were greatly aggravated by darkness.
He suddenly awoke, after midnight, and found himself in a realm of the most perfect clarity of view, yet terrible with an infinitude of demoniac shadows. Beside the bed, in the centre of the room, stood a bier, from whose corners drooped the folds of a heavy pall, and on it a fearful corpse, whose livid face was distorted with the pangs of assassination. Every muscle was tense, the finger nails pierced the dead man's palms by the force of his dying clinch. Two tapers at the head and two at the feet made the ghastliness of the bier more luminiously unearthly, and a smothered laugh of derision from some invisible watcher mocked the corpse, as if triumphant demons were exalting over their prey.
“Then the walls of the room began slowly to glide together, the ceiling coming down, the floor ascending, like the captive's cell which was doomed to be his tomb. Nearer and nearer I was borne towards the corpse. I shrunk back. I tried to cry out, but speech was paralyzed. The walls came closer and closer. Presently my hand lay on the dead man's forehead. I was stifled in the breathless niche, which was all the space still left to me. The stony eyes stared up into mine, and again the maddening peal of fiendish laughter rang close beside my ear. Now I was touched on all sides by the walls of the terrible press; then came a heavy crush, and I felt all sense blotted out in darkness.*[* Nightmare.]
“I awakened; the corpse was gone, but I had taken its place on the bier. The room had now grown into a gigantic hall, whose roof was framed of iron arches. Pavement, walls, cornice were all iron, and a thrill from them seemed to say this iron is a tearless fiend. I suffered from the vision of that iron as from the presence of a giant assassin.
“Then there emerged from the sulphurous twilight the most horrible form — a fiend also of iron, white, hot and dazzling with the glory of the nether penetralia. A face that was the incarnation of all malice and irony looked on me with a glare, withering from its intense heat, but more from the wickedness it symbolized. Beside him another demon rocked a cradle framed of bars of iron, and condescent with a heat fierce as the fiends.
“And now a chant of blasphemy so fearful that no human thought has ever conceived of it, from the demons, till I grew intensely wicked by hearing it. The music accorded with the thought, and with its clangor mixed the maddening creak of the forever oscillating cradle until I felt driven to a ferocious despair. Suddenly the nearest fiend thrust a pitch-fork of white hot iron into my side and hurled me into the fiery cradle. I lay unconsumed, tossing from side to side by rocking of the fiery engine, and still the chant of blasphemy and the eyes of demoniac sarcasm smiled at me in mockery. 'Let us sing him,' said one of the fiends, 'the lullaby of hell.'
“Withered like a leaf in the breath of an oven after millions of years, I felt myself tossed on the iron floor. Presently I was in a colossal square, and surrounded by houses a hundred stories high. With bitter thirst I ran to a fountain carved in iron, every jet of which was sculptured in mockery of water, and yet as dry as the ashes of a furnace. I called for water, when every sash in all the hundred stories of that square flew up and a maniac stood at every window. They gnashed at me, glared, gibbered, howled, laughed, horribly hissed and cursed. Then I became insane at the sight, and leaping up and down mimicked them all.”
Stertorous breathing. Dilatation of the pupil. Drooping appearance of the eye-lids, followed at last by a comatose state, lasting for hours, out of which it was almost impossible fully to arouse the energies. Rigidity of the muscular system Inability to measure the compass and volume of the voice when speaking. In another the experimenter was thrown into “unbearable horror” by the falling upon him of a “shower of soot from heaven.”
Despair, and fear of being eternally lost. On hearing the name of God he cried “stop! that name is terrible to me; I cannot bear it. I am dying.” Now demoniac shapes clutched at him from the darkness, cloaked from head to foot in inky palls, glaring on him with fiery eyes from beneath their cowls. He seemed to be walking in a vast arena encircled by tremendous walls. The stars seemed to look on him with pitying human aspect and to bewail his condition.
All the events of his past life, even those long forgotten, and those the most trivial, were thrown in symbols from a rapidly revolving wheel, each of which was recognized as an act of his life, and each came in the order of sequence the act it indicated occupied in his history.
With another experimenter, on the wall of the room, at a great distance, a monstrous head was spiked up, which commenced a succession of grimaces, of the most startling, but ludicrous character. Its ferociously bearded under jaw extended indefinitely, and then the jaw shooting back, the mouth opened from ear to ear. The nose spun out into absurd enormity, and the eyes winked with the rapidity of lightening.
It affects persons of the highest nervous and sanguine temperament with the strongest effect; the bilious nearly as much; the lymphatic but slightly, with such symptoms as vertigo nausea, coma, or muscular rigidity.
In a subsequent experiment the author of the book referred to, after such experience of ecstasy as has already been described, when just emerging from a dense wood, he heard a “hissing whisper, kill thyself! kill thyself!” “I turned to see who spoke. No one was visible. The whisper was repeated with intenser earnestness; and now unseen tongues repeated it on all sides and in the air above me. 'The Most High commands thee to kill thyself.' I drew forth my knife, opened it and placed it at my throat, when I felt the blow of some invisible hand strike my arm; my hand flew back at the force of the shock, and the knife went spinning into the bushes. The whispers ceased.
“From zenith to horizon an awful angel of midnight blackness floated. His face looked unutterable terrors into me, and his dreadful hand half clenched, above my head as if waiting to take me by the hair. Across the firmanent a chariot came like lightening, with wheels like rainbow suns. At its approach the sable angel turned and rushed down into the horizon, that seemed to smoke as he slid through it and I was saved.”
The scene then became theatrical, and he an actor, who improvised his tragedy, and held his immense audience entranced. Suddenly a look of suspicion came over every face, “I sought relief by turning from the pit to the boxes. The same stony glance met me still. Oh! they know my secret! and at that instant one maddening chorus broke from the whole theatre,'hasheesh! Hasheesh! he has eaten hasheesh!' I crept from the stage in unutterable shame. I crouched in concealment. I looked at my garments, and beheld them foul and ragged as a beggar's. From head to foot I was the incarnation of squallidity. My asylum proved on the pavement of a great city's principal thoroughfare. Children pointed at me; loungers stood and searched me with inquisitive scorn. The multitude of man and beast all eyed me; the very stones of the street mocked me with a human raillery as I cowered against a side wall in my bemired rags.”
It may be objected to the above record that it was not the results of experiments such as produced our trusted Materia Medica, but rather of indulgence in a sinful love of excitement, with no reference to a scientific observation and record of all the phenomena resulting from the taking of the drug. This is no doubt true, but it does not therefore falsify the record. If it be incomplete, that which is given may nevertheless be true, and as has been said already, much of it, as to the general character of the facts, has been confirmed by the experiments of others.
It may be again objected that the language in which the record is given is extravagant, and that all is too highly colored to be depended on as the basis of practical proceedings with the sick. That it lacks the cool color which should characterize scientific observation. It may be said in answer to this, that the language in this respect accords with the subject — Delirium, insanity. The experiences with the drug are little but these. If the language had been less highly colored it would have been less a faithful picture of the realized effects of the drug.
In the previous number we remarked on the similarity of the symptoms there given to certain forms of insanity and delirium. Those here given are no less like to other forms; especially to violent mania, with frightful illusions of the senses, with disposition to suicide, with great suspicion, shame or fear. All the insane symptoms in this phase of the effects of the drug, it will be noticed, are characterized by violence. If these phenomena were met in any case, in a milder form, it may be a sufficient reason why this will not prove the curative of such a case.
Many of the symptoms in both pictures are very like those met in many cases of alcoholic intoxication — as the quiet dreamy delirium — the pride, exaggerations of self-importance and power, mobility of fixed objects, grotesque illusions of sight, illusions of hearing, and others.
But to no abnormal condition is there a greater resemblance than to the distressing manifestations of delirium tremens. This is so remarkable that it is believed if the pictures of affections of mind and sense here presented had been given as symptoms of a case or cases of this painful malady, they would probably have passed without challenge or suspicion as genuine. This remarkable resemblance was that which chiefly determined their publication at this time, and also the attempt to call the attention of the readers of the Review to the Cannabis as a curative of this frequently obstinate and too often fatal disease. It was not till some progress in their study, and transcription of the symptoms of Cannabis had been made, that the extent of its application as a curative in mental maladies in their more general manifestations was perceived. If the symptoms here presented are genuine, its importance in this class of cases is not likely to be overestimated. There may be the more confidence in their truthfulness, from the fact stated, that many of these symptoms have been confirmed by other experimenters; and more from this, that the drug has been found to be curative of cases with similar symptoms, which may properly be regarded as the highest possible confirmation of a proving. This has been experienced in many cases of drunkenness and its consequences, reported to the writer, and also in cases of delirium tremens, all of which were cured in a manner as prompt and complete as rather to astonish, though he has been accustomed to witness homoeopathic cures for twenty years. To illustrate this the two following cases of delirium tremens must suffice, and with them this paper, extended beyond proposed limits, is presented to the reader, with the request that he make the drug a subject of observation, and communicate to the Review any additional knowledge he may have of its use or symptoms.
W — , about 30 years of age, an habitual hard drinker, who had repeated attacks of delirium tremens. In May, 1862, had been drinking freely for about a week, when he became sleepless and had trembling to a degree that he could not carry a glass more than two-thirds full of water to his mouth without spilling; headache; wild look of the eyes; with great terror, especially if left alone (see hasheesh); constant fear of some great evil, and raising up in bed and looking about the room for the object of his terror; talked in hurried whispers; eyes injected. He got five grains of hasheesh one half at half-past seven o'clock, p.m., the other at half-past eleven. The next morning at ten, he was rational, sitting up and dressed. Trembling and all the other symptoms had disappeared, and what was not a little singular, he had lost the great thirst for alcoholic drinks which through the attack had been incessantly urgent. He had no return of the symptoms. — , an Englishman, about 40 years of age, a very hard drinker, had been drinking excessively for a month, and for a week had not been sober. When first seen he had not slept for three nights, was violently excited, requiring the strength of several persons to keep him on the bed; eyes red, wild and staring; face red; saw the room filled with faces, which were offensive; screamed; trembled violently; respiration loud, without mucus, but with blowing of the lips. — He got a dose of two-and-a-half grains of hasheesh at seven, p.m., when he soon fell asleep. He waked at eleven in violent excitement, when he got another similar dose, soon slept again, and quietly, till ten o'clock next morning, when he waked rational, free from all symptoms, except slight headache, and feeling as if he had been on a debauch. — These soon disappeared without any other remedy.
In the course of the evening before he became quiet, he was much annoyed by a cat which he said he heard in another room, pretense that the cat was not there, and that she had been removed, when she had not, did not satisfy him, but on her being expelled he became quiet. He said he heard the cat. A friend who took hasheesh is confident he heard the respirations of a horse in a stable fifty yards distant from the house in which he was. This excessive acuteness of hearing is a common symptom of hasheesh.
|The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 03 No. 03-04, 1862, pages 123-128, pages 174-182
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