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CLUE: Dictionary

ALCOHOLISM. Disease characterized by excessive or compulsive use of alcoholic drinks.

ANTIMONY. A heavy metal found in many medicines used to treat fevers. It causes vomiting, sweating, and purging of the bowels. Chronic exposure to antimony compounds can cause nausea, vomiting, "antimony spots" (scaly skin blemishes), and anemia, often progressing to circulatory collapse and death.

CALOMEL. Name for mercurous chloride, a poisonous mercury compound commonly used in the 1800s.

CORROSIVE SUBLIMATE. Old name for mercuric chloride, a very poisonous mercury compound used as a drastic medicine in the 1800s.

DELIRIUM TREMENS. Alcohol-withdrawal syndrome: an insanity lasting from 3-10 days resulting from alcohol abuse, then deprivation. It is characterized by "the shakes" (tremors of the hand and eye), soon after drinking stops. Hallucinations, delusions, and seizures are also common.

EVAPORATION. To pass off in vapor or in minute airborne particles.

JAMES'S POWDER. A popular fever reducer from 1760 into the 1800s, made of a compound containing antimony and calcium phosphate.

LEAD. Poisonous heavy metallic element. Exposure to lead compounds can cause anemia, mood swings, intense abdominal cramps, confusion and brain damage. Nerve paralysis usually begins with the hands. Before 1950, about 25% of all severe cases ended in death.

MERCURY. Poisonous heavy metallic element, liquid at room temperature; also called quicksilver. Elemental mercury can be inhaled as vapor; mercury compounds can be ingested or absorbed through the skin. Exposure symptoms include fatigue, confusion, tremors, brain damage and death. Mercury compounds were widely used in the 1800s to make medicines for purging the body's digestive system.

PLACEBO. An inert medication given to soothe or calm a patient, or as a control in experiments.

QUICKSILVER. Old name for the element mercury.

An Access Excellence Science Mystery sponsored by Genentech, Inc.
Copyright © 1997 Genentech, Inc.; all rights reserved.

 

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