Health - How Remedies Should Be Given To Keep It
( Originally Published 1921 )
THE QUANTITATIVE ADMINISTRATION OF REMEDIES
PEOPLE expect too much from the physicians. There is no walk of life where people expect as much as they do of the medical profession. If a person who had an old house employed the best architects, the best painters, the best carpenters, and the most skilled men in every trade to work on that house, giving as much time as they wanted, when they got through he would not expect to have a new house. The house would give good service, and that would be all expected. The same is true of the human body. There is no such thing as perfect restoration of any of its parts. However, we can do as much with the human body as we can in any other similar undertaking. We can put people in order; we can make them comparatively free from suffering; we can fix them so that they can do a reasonable amount of work, but we can not do the impossible in the sense of making people over again.
Nature's universal process involves the principle that the individual plant or animal or person has a definite cycle of life to live, and in time he is replaced by a new individual who starts all over again. If we can make people comfortable and reasonably efficient, we are doing work which is just as good as is done in any other enterprise in life.
Another thing which must be understood is that health costs a certain amount, and can not be gotten any cheaper. We can not buy health without paying for it. When people try to get health by going to a shrine and drinking a particular kind of water, or when they try to get health by employing some irregular form of practise which carries with it unwarranted promise of relief, they are only deluding , themselves, and besides they are gambling when they ought to be doing straight business.
The price that people have to pay for health is the adjustment of their lives to the demands of their particular constitutions. It means diet, the limitation of labor, and such drugs as we know by experience do definite things to the body. When the kidneys will not work at a pressure of 130, we have to raise the pressure to 150. When the heart has a tendency to beat too quickly, we have to put a drug in between the commutator of the heart that generates the heart beat and the part of the heart that beats. By cutting out half of the beats, the pump of the heart is able to do its work.
It is by understanding the problem that we are dealing with and by the adaptation of well known and understood means that we get results. Every person, just like every building, every machine, and everything else, has his individuality, and the skill of physicians depends upon the adaptation of means to the individual person. There is no single road to the medical treatment of anybody, and we have to feel our way. When we find that a remedy agrees with a person, we stick to it, and when it does not agree, we cease to give it.
It is necessary to have an idea of how long things are going to last. When we know that people are definitely out of order and have to be taken care of, we don't give them violent treatment with the idea of making them well, but mild treatment to keep them in the best possible condition.
When a person is under treatment for a long time with the same remedy, attempts should constantly be made to get along with less, because when the system is thoroughly saturated with a remedy, it can keep up its action by slight additions of the drug to make up for the amount which is lost through elimination. So when we give remedies steadily month after month, the remedy gradually stores itself in the places where it belongs, and the niches and crannies get filled up with it, allowing only a little to escape from the system. 'We can tell only by experiment how much is escaping, so we experiment with our remedies, always tending toward a gradual reduction of them.
The important point is that people should understand just what we are doing. Remedies act in a curious way. They don't act as water does when thrown on a fire the water evaporating and being destroyed, and the fire being destroyed by the water. The best remedies act by their influence on the system. This kind of action is well recognized in chemistry, and it is recognized in the arts. Sometimes when you throw in a little cold water after making your coffee, the amount of water used to settle the coffee is entirely out of proportion to the quantity of coffee; in chemistry many reactions take place much better if there is something else present. Often if you add a little chloride of ammonia, its presence makes everything work better. Remedies act in that way. So that in chronic disorders you give the remedies to saturation, then diminish the dose probably cut it in half and keep it up in the smaller quantity. Then you observe the person, and you experiment from time to time by reduction of the remedy, until you discover that relief is no longer given. In that case you have to increase your remedy and raise it again to the point where it will do its work. If you do this cautiously and gradually, and catch the first re-turn of the symptom, a slight increase in the quantity of the remedy will put the person in good condition again; but if you are ignorant about the treatment and give the remedy up entirely, the person relapses and you have to start all over again and give massive doses to saturation.
So the best policy in giving remedies to people with chronic diseases is never to stop. No matter how much you are able to reduce the dose, always continue to administer a little. I think that it would probably be safe for a person who had taken a remedy in certain doses for two or three weeks, and done well, to make another reduction. But there is no rule about doses in medicine. A dose of medicine is the amount required to saturate the system so that you get the benefit of it. Experience gives us certain maximum and minimum doses for the sake of the people who take, it, but that doesn't affect the judgment in individual instances. I have a man under my care who takes 2 1/2 grains of nitroglycerin every day ; the ordinary dose which I give is one 225th of a grain. This illustrates the differences in people, when the average person is helped by one 225th of a grain and another needs so much more.