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detox1The Chicago Tribune, December 23, 1858. According to Twelve Step lore, alcoholism was universally seen as a moral failing until Bill W. and Dr. Silkworth redefined it as a medical issue in the 1930s. In fact, the Revolutionary war hero and Founding Father Dr. Benjamin Rush had the medical model of alcoholism pretty much down over two centuries ago, and plenty of clinicians wrestled with the problem in the intervening years. As attending physician at Chicago’s “Bridewell,” Dr. Paoli here was squarely on the front lines of treatment. Some of his ideas have aged better than others.
detox2This makes it sound as though fusel oil is an additive, which it isn’t: It’s a form of alcohol distinct from ethanol but naturally produced during the fermentation process. In the distillation of vodka, most of the fusel oil is removed, but lots of it is preserved in the creation of darker liquors like whisky, bourbon, etc., which owe much of their flavor to its presence. Fusel oil is also really, really bad for you–worse than ethanol by a wide margin. I don’t know anything about this “oil of cagmars,” but Prussic acid is cyanide, so the good doctor is saying it’s pretty evil stuff.
detox3Opium and other narcotics are no longer seen as medically indicated for the treatment of alcoholism, to my knowledge, and chloroform is way out of style across the board. I don’t know why or how ipecacuanha would have medical uses unrelated to the famous emetic effects of its extract, ipecac. A shower and some “beef tea” (bouillon) seem uncontroversial though.

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