Parkhurst’s Deleted Sentences Regarding Belladonna in “To Employers.”

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Glenn Chesnut has provided ample documentation of that Dr. William Silkworth and Charles Towns differed when it came to the belladonna treatment (AAHL message 11053, December 15, 2015). Silkworth, to my knowledge, never described administering belladonna on-the-hour for up to fifty hours the way Towns instructed during the peak of his influence in the 1910’s. There is clear evidence that Silkworth would provide a sedative to the patient, but Silkworth didn’t then document what the sedative was. Glenn has warned that associating the original belladonna treatment with Silkworth isn’t fair to him.
The subject was again brought to my attention by the following. In the chapter entitled “The Family Afterwards” of the original Multilith Copy of Alcoholics Anonymous, these sentences were first edited, but eventually removed.
“Some physicians favor cutting off the liquor sharply, and prefer to use little or no sedative. This may be wise in some instances, but for most of us it is a barbaric torture. For severe cases, some doctors prefer a slower tapering-down process, followed by a health farm or sanitarium. Other doctors prefer a few days of de-toxication, removal of poisons from the system by cathartics, belladonna, and the like, followed by a week of mild exercise and rest. Having tried them all, I personally favor the latter, though the matter of physical treatment should, of course, be referred to your own doctor. “
These deleted sentences are an indication that some form of belladonna was still being administered at Towns Hospital in the late 1930’s with Dr. Silkworth being the Medical Director. In the deleted sentences above, Hank Parkhurst wrote that he preferred a belladonna-similar-treatment for the “de-toxication” of the patient, which also suggested his personal experience in the matter. Bill Wilson, of course, referred to himself receiving the “so-called belladonna treatment” at Towns himself , but never provided any personal recollections specific to the treatment. Dr. Bob even employed the “Towns [Hospital] treatment,’ but how he administered it doesn’t seem to be documented either. Thus, there can be a number of questions regarding how a 1910’s belladonna treatment following Charles Towns’ recipe might differ from a version administered during the 1930’s at Towns Hospital as directed by Dr. Silkworth.
The original Town’s Treatment employed substantially more ingredients than belladonna. Xanthoxylum, the dried bark or berries of a prickly ash tree, and hyoscyamus niger, commonly known as henbane, were considered key ingredients in the belladonna mixture by Charles Towns. Did Bill Wilson or Hank Parkhurst receive from Silkworth just belladonna or a blend with one of many ingredients being belladonna?
The original belladonna recipe is described in AA The Way It Began (later titled The Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous) written by Bill Pittman. However, there is every reason to doubt that Silkworth followed these directions as Towns specified, for it contradicts what Silkworth wrote himself (again see AAHL message 11053). Bill Pittman’s documentation of the original treatment is valuable history, but a hypothesis that Wilson or Parkhurst received such a treatment under Silkworth’s direction seems highly unlikely. A fifty hour “puke and purge” or “diarrhea, delirium, and damnation” procedure has never been discovered to have been documented by Silkworth, Wilson or Parkhurst. Towns’ original “cure” seems bizarre today, but so do many medical procedures of those times. Someone probably would never have wanted to experience the cure more than once, that is, if they remembered much about it. Both Wilson and Parkhurst seemed to treat the experience rather casually.
However, the deleted sentences from the Multilith Copy seem to indicate that belladonna was still being administered at Towns Hospital at least up to the time when the book Alcoholics Anonymous was first published.

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