For most of my life, prescription drugs have creeped me out: there's something more than a little unsettling about the whole process, from getting permission from the gatekeeper to forking over seemingly-immense sums for what appear to be small doses. (The last antibiotic I was prescribed cost $24 per tablet at retail.) And while I understand the need for patent protection on the latest and putatively-greatest compounds, I flinch when I see what it's going to cost me. One NSAID I've taken on a sporadic base, before it went off patent, used to run me $1 a day. Now Target will fill a 30-day supply for $4.

Still, my uneasiness about the whole business has less to do with the expense than with the fact that I just don't like the idea of being beholden to Mysterious Chemical Substances, especially when they work directly on the brain. Following a mostly-unfortunate incident in the late 1980s in which I found myself trying to disengage from an antidepressant, I managed to avoid anything stronger than Tylenol for the next decade or so, until the mood darkened; merely taking something for it caused the mood to darken further. In the summer of 2002, I declared that I was, "by any reasonable definition, a junkie":

No, not that stuff. But just let me try to go one lousy night without an Ativan tablet, and watch the horror show. (Yes, I've tried, and no, it is not pretty.) And what's worse, Monday I'm going to the doctor to request, among other things, a switch to a higher dosage; what I take now is no longer enough to do the job.

Let the record show that the doctor advised otherwise.

In subsequent months, I added to the Daily Dose an antihypertensive, and a brand-name antihypertensive at that, which retailed for upwards of $100 a month, and, to address issues with my arthritic knee, a brand-spanking-new NSAID which was subsequently pulled off the market. My cholesterol wasn't too high 197, I think, was the worst it ever got but the balance between LDL and HDL evidently wasn't satisfactory, and a statin was added to the mix. When my blood sugar got out of whack, both a sensitizer and a secretagogue were enlisted in the fight. Most recently, sleep issues have demanded something else.

This is, I submit, a hell of a lot of chemicals, and a lot of expense besides: refilling every one of these prescriptions every thirty days costs me a hundred dollars or so. And while interactions among pairs of drugs are generally well-documented and routinely explained by the doctor, I am not reassured: seven drugs a day, I insist, will multiply the number of potential problems by 49. Oddly, the one I'm most likely to be able to shed is that horridly-addictive benzo: yes, I know what happens when I go cold turkey, and it's trivial compared to some of the things I've had to endure lately.

The Vent

  1 March

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 Copyright © 2009 by Charles G. Hill