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PREFACE PDF Print E-mail
Written by Louis Lewin   
Tuesday, 09 February 2010 00:00


Of the innumerable chemical substances other than foodstuffs which the world contains, none have a more intimate connection with human life than those whose history and effects are described in this work.

I have called it Phantastica, but this name which I have chosen does not cover all that I should wish it to convey. Nearly all the drugs dealt with have a direct action on the brain, an action which is in all its forms mysterious and incomprehensible.

If human consciousness is the most wonderful thing on earth, the attempt to fathom the depths of the psychophysiological action of narcotic and stimulating drugs makes this wonder seem greater still, for with their help man is enabled to transfer emotions of everyday life, as well as his will and intellect, to unknown regions; he is enabled to attain degrees of emotional intensity and duration which are otherwise unknown to the brain. Such effects are brought about by chemical substances. The most powerful of these are products of the vegetable kingdom, into whose silent growth and creative abundance man has not yet fully penetrated. By the exercise of their powers on the brain, they release marvelous stores of latent energy. They relieve the mentally tortured, assuage the racking pains of the sick, inspire with hope those doomed to death, endow the overworked with new vitality and vigour such as no strength of will could attain, and replace for an hour the exhaustion and languor of the overworked by mental comfort and content.

Miracles like these are performed throughout the world by these strange substances wherever men are in possession of any one of them. The savage in the jungle beneath a sheltering roof of leaves and the native of the storm-swept island secures through these drugs a greater intensity of life. The solitary dweller in a distant mountain cavern can with their aid relieve the dull monotony of his cramped existence. Various are the motives which induce civilized men to seek a transient sensation of pleasure. The potent influence of these substances leads us on the one hand into the darkest depths of human passion, ending in mental instability, physical misery, and degeneration, and on the other to hours of ecstasy and happiness or a tranquil and meditative state of mind.

Not only are these drugs of general interest to mankind as a whole, but they possess a high degree of scientific interest for the medical man, especially the psychologist and alienist, as well as for the jurist and ethnologist.

Varying degrees of mental susceptibility and vision, bordering upon mental disease, may result from an intemperate use of some of these substances. Hence arises for psycho-analytical science the possibility of analyzing more accurately certain mental phenomena which also occur in cases of insanity. A large field of activity and research is offered to psychology which hitherto was open only to a few scientific pioneers. The jurist needs an acquaintance with scientific facts bearing on the extent of the responsibility and soundness of judgment of those who, under the permanent influence of narcotic drugs come into collision with the civil or criminal law. To the ethnologist numerous problems, promising much new enlightenment, not to the least those relating to the study of comparative theology present themselves with regard to the extension and cause of the use of these drugs. The contents of this book will provide a starting-point from which original research in the above-mentioned departments of science may be pursued. I have avoided literary by-paths in order to follow more closely the direct line of pharmacological inquiry, but have nevertheless furnished the reader with a sufficiency of material and historical facts.
"There is hardly a more difficult chapter in the whole of pharmacology than an exhaustive and thoroughly exact analysis of the effects of drugs." These words, the view of a pharmacologist, are perfectly true. Since I published, in 1886, the first pharmacological and chemical report on one of these drugs, kava, which was made use of on a large scale, I have incessantly worked at these problems, and much of my work has been made public in subsequent volumes. The present book, the first of its kind, is meant not only to set forth the results of my pharmacological theories, which are supported by my own practical experience as well as by materials supplied by those who have come to me in search of help, but also to instruct and enlighten those who are endeavouring to see clearly amid the surging conflict of public opinion regarding drugs and the drug habit.

The first edition of this book having passed into many hands and received great praise, a second now appears, written with the same end in view but containing a greater volume of material.

The reader's attention is directed once more to the great problem set forth in these pages, a problem which cannot and will not be solved on the first attempt. Time is needed to produce that cure which is so desirable and necessary, for the enormous obstacles that bar the path of progress have deep roots in human passions; but every step directed to freeing men from such evils will prove a benefit to our race.

Louis Lewin

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Last Updated on Sunday, 20 February 2011 22:01

Our valuable member Louis Lewin has been with us since Saturday, 01 January 2011.

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