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March 9, 1918


JAMA. 1918;70(10):692-693. doi:10.1001/jama.1918.02600100030014

To those now studying or practicing medicine, prussic acid connotes a poison of high toxicity and extremely dangerous qualities. The physician will not think of this admittedly poisonous compound in terms of therapeutic possibilities unless, perchance, he is old enough to recall the use of hydrocyanic acid in the cough mixtures that were concocted a generation ago. Nevertheless, the pharmacologist is well aware that hydrocyanic acid in suitable doses is one of the strongest known stimulants for the respiration. The disuse of so potent an agent cannot be attributed to the lack of critical situations in which the facilitation of respiration is called for. We must, therefore, conclude that either the fear of the drug's extreme toxicity, or its evanescent action, or some other undesirable feature has served to eliminate prussic acid and its salts from the therapy of today.

Respiration is a function of such indispensable character that the