Medication is a wonderful thing, for those people who really need it. Sometimes I wonder, though, how much of our society operates on an imaginary cloud of med-enduced well-being.
If someone is sad, if they've failed at school or work, if their relationships aren't satisfactory, there's a commercial for some prescription drug that will solve it.
Some, of course, really need to be treated for a clinical problem. In other cases, I suppose, one is simply depressed because, well, life can get depressing. And in those cases, while drugs may mask the feelings for at least a while, they do nothing to deal with the causes that create the feelings to begin with. You have to wonder how people managed to function before they invented Zoloft and all of the rest.
I grew up somewhere between "Reefer Madness" and "Just Say No," and so it was beaten deep into my psyche that drugs were a sign of weakness, for people who can't deal with life on their own. In the case of illegal narcotics, I still feel there is a lot of truth to that.
Legal marijuana? If the stuff has legitimate medicinal use to people who are suffering, yeah, by all means create a stable, consistent product from it to ease people's pain.
That's not what we're doing. We're using "recreational drugs" to rake in money for state governments. When did taking drugs become "recreation?" Running is recreation, biking is recreation. Drugs are escapism. I agree, marijuana probably causes less harm than drinking, maybe even less than cigarettes. But if you don't have a physical issue needing treatment, why do you need it so bad?
Do we really want to be on the roads surrounded by drivers who are high at any level, be it on weed, beer buzz or cocktail of prescription pills?
I've never had much use for pills; I don't think I even have aspirin. Recently I had a bit of a physical health issue - nothing serious, but when people took one look at me and said "ewwww" out loud... I figured I better make a move to medicate.
First stop, Walgreens. To get a bottle of pills. But wait. For my symptoms, turns out there are about an acre and a half of bottles - all with a score of different warnings and side effects. Great - just what you need when you feel pukey, trying to read a bunch of gobbldy-gook in one-point type. So I pick out the box that happens to be my favorite color. If one bottle of pills is good, two must be fantastic, so I pick another that rhymes with my favorite song and wobble my way out the door.
Now, compared to people with real health issues, these over the counter pink sissy pills must seem like Skittles.
Still, the instructions say not to drive because they cause extreme drowsiness.
Ha! I'm a big, tough ombre, virtually invincible, at least in my own mind. I don't need instructions! No way some little tiny pill is gonna WHAM zzzzZZZZzzzz.
I wake up face down on the floor about a day or so later. The linoleum pattern is now imprinted on my forehead.
I'm told I need another pill to take care of the problems the first pill is causing. And now that I feel worse from the medication than I ever did from the illness, so I need a nice strong painkiller.
After about a week in this process, a tiny light bulb fizzled on in my clouded brain. I realized - how are you even going to know if you are still sick or not? You don't know if the symptoms you are feeling are the illness or the meds.
People with a whole medicince cabinet full of stuff - do they even know what they are on any more, or in extreme cases, who they used to be before all the medicating?
I recall reading an article some time ago that Chris Norris wrote for some magazine about his own experience trying to come off antidepressants after 10 years of abusing them. He hadn't clinically needed them, but they were the go-to, magic bullet drug of the time.
Psychotropics came to not even be for depressed people any more - they were lifestyle agents, he said, for unlocking potential, tuning the self, juicing the brain to be a bit more creative at work, just as athletes turn to steroids to improve their bodies.
Withdrawal was not pretty for Chris. Lets say it didn't involve many showers. He recommends the fetal position.
One passage I found truly telling was when Chris was sent to a psychopharmacologist to get hooked up to a prescription for a newer drug. "On an otherwise unremarkable spring day, I sat opposite a man with a Pfizer mug on his desk, an Eli Lilly pen in his pocket, and the entire arsenal of mood management at his disposal."
The man asked Chris, "How do you want to feel?"
Huh? Chris choked out some lie about improved concentration, when what he really wanted, as that favorite label warning goes, was that lovely "a false sense of well-being..."
How DO we want to feel, given a choice?
Safe? Stable? Unbeatable? Free of loneliness or weariness? Loved? (Or in my case, to be Spiderman?)
Escaping problems isn't easy these days. Every other ad pushes some drug or other. This will grow hair, this will make you better in bed. Who can blame anyone for turning to self-medication when it promises what we really want - happiness, all the time. It is estimated that one in every 10 Americans are now on powerful mood-altering drugs. Is there a price to pay in medicated emotional detachment - as the Eagles once sang, "giving up your highs and lows, ain't it funny how the feelin goes... away..."
Nothing I've learned makes me any less leery of pills. I respect what they can do for those who really need them, but if I can get by without them, I'd rather.
Yet I expect that the number of people on heroin or cocaine jags must pale in comparison with those dependent on or abusing prescription meds. If that is you, God bless you, I hope there are better days ahead.
When the medicine becomes the sickness, our society is in deep trouble.