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opium, action and sleep

NARCOTICS (Gk. vapsar (Kos, nark ot ikos, benumbing, from vapsav, narkoun, to benumb, front vdpku, narke, torpor: connected with 011G. snerhan, to draw together, AS. snuff. Eng. snare). Remedies which, in moderate doses, lessen the action of the nervous system. Their full opera tion is sleep or coma. Opium is the type from which most descriptions of this class of medicines have been drawn; but although most narcotics more or less resemble opium in their action, al most every one presents some peculiarity in the way in which it affeets the system. These medi cines are primarily stimulating, especially when given in small or moderate doses; but this stage of their action is comparatively short, and when the dose is large the excitement is scarcely per ceptible. Their power of inducing sleep has pro cured for them the names of hypnotics and soporifics; while many of them are termed ano dynes, front their possessing the property of alleviating pain. Next to opium and the general a mest het les, hyoseya nuts, Indian hemp, and ehloral may be regarded as the most important narcotics. Of late years a of coal tar derivatives have been introduced. such as

sulphonal, trional. aectanilid, and phenacetine, whieh are taking the place, to some extent, of the older remedies.

It has been already mentioned that there are differences in the mode of operation of the differ ent members of this class. Alcohol, for example, in sufficient doses produces intoxication; bella donna, delirimn; opium emitraets the pupil of the eye: hyoseyamus dilates it. Each drug af fects the in its own peculiar way. and it is impossible to give a general description of their minor actions.

Narcotics are usually administered with the view either of inducing sleep or of alleviating pain or spasm. As, however, their action is much modified by a variety of circumstances—such as age, idiosyncrasy, and prolonged use—they should be administered with extreme caution, and, as a general rule, only under competent advice, The various quack medicines for children which are known as corm int/tires, soothing syrups. etc., con tain some form of opium, and are a) fertile cause of the great mint ality that occurs in early life, especially among the poorer classes.