Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Seems like there’s a pill for all that ails us

One hundred years ago, give or take a few days, the only medicines available in most households were booze and aspirin. The booze was used to induce sleep, relieve pain, treat coughs and colds and to sterilize wounds. Aspirin was used for everything else.

Today, we have thousands of drugs to treat or change every possible physical and psychological condition that comes down the pike, from high cholesterol through restless leg syndrome to dry mouth. With few exceptions, none of the drugs we use on a regular basis cure anything;  that is, they simply suppress the bothersome symptoms so we feel better, which may not be wise because, after all, when we have an unpleasant sensation our bodies are often trying to tell us something is wrong. Rather than isolate the cause, we choose to instantly – and perhaps only temporarily – relieve the pain with a tab of Tylenol, or reduce depression with a hit of amphetamine, or overcome ED with a dose of Viagra.

Put quite simply, there’s surely a drug somewhere that will make you feel good and perform well within a few minutes after it’s taken.

Needless to say, there are big bucks behind this flood of chemicals. The pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars concocting them. But, of course, if they stumble upon the “right” drug, they can make billions, so they promote and advertise various medicines for every damned thing imaginable. It won’t be long before half the U.S. population will be on some kind of blood pressure medication. And it’s reached the point that even 18-year-olds drop Viagra, just to make sure there’s no problem if they get lucky.

There’s been some public backlash against this drugged stupor, especially when it became apparent that some medicines had adverse consequences that laboratory tests failed to uncover. Like birth defects. Or sudden cardiac arrest. Such unfortunate results have produced substantial lawsuits, particularly class-action lawsuits. This being the case, drug companies have been forced to protect their butts by listing any, and all, possible negative effects whenever they advertise their produces.

Thus, this or that drug is recommended for this or that condition, but you should “discontinue use” if you develop heart palpitations, constipation, diarrhea, garbled speech, bloated face or tongue, light headedness, a dry cough, a skin rash or other allergies, trouble swallowing, high blood pressure, headaches, thoughts of suicide, blurred vision, sleeplessness, decreased hearing, painful urination, disorientation and/or unusual forgetfulness. You have to wonder if the effects of the drug may be worse than the original condition you’re trying to treat. Upon experiencing any of these symptoms, you’re told to “call your doctor immediately.” (I’m sure he’s just waiting beside the phone to take you call.)

Women are warned not to use a particular drug if they are nursing, pregnant or may become pregnant. I assume this means the medicine should only be used by prepubescent girls or post-menopausal women.

One TV commercial actually warns that the medicine in question can cause death, in which case the victim would certainly “discontinue use.”

We’re frequently warned not to operate heavy equipment while on a particular drug. In some cases, we shouldn’t drive. This could be a problem because you wouldn’t be able to drive to the emergency room if the effects of Viagra last a little too long.

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