The neighborhood drug store – all white coats and medicine bottles. Sticky potions that stimulate the gag reflex and bitter pills that get struck on the way down. Prescriptions and illnesses and medical insurance gobbledygook. Dull, dull, dull. But beneath that polished professional veneer things are not as they seem. Seriously, you gotta love an industry with a remedy that treats your Parkinson’s Disease AND gives you an uncontrollable urge to head to Las Vegas and gamble away the mortgage check! So step right up, folks and don’t be shy! Behind this curtain is the strange and unexplainable, the weird and whacky, the curious, creepy world of pharmacy!
Humans are strange creatures. They spread fish eggs on toast, bury eggs and then dig them up for dinner four months later, pick fleshy nodules from under trees for the spaghetti sauce. But scraping the leavings from Sardinian sewers to use on bacterial infections is the very definition of “strange”. Yep, that’s where cephalosporin comes from – the pipes under Nonno Renzo’s house! Really, you have to wonder at the minds who thought to use horse urine to ease menopause symptoms or Gila monster venom to treat diabetes. One explanation of the pharmacist’s symbol “Rx” is that it was derived from the Latin word for recipe, meaning, “Take, thou.” But if anyone offers me a nice plate of rooster’s combs for my lumbago, well, maybe I’ll try a heating pad instead…..
Lots of remedies not only have strange and weird origins, they also do strange and weird things to you once you take them. You might, for instance, have your doctor’s prescription for Raptiva filled, hoping to be relieved of your psoriasis symptoms. One small problem: Raptiva can cause “new or worsening psoriasis!” Taking Boniva to strengthen your bones? It can weaken your femur and cause it to break. If a broken bone depresses you, take some Celexa. Once you start taking it you may feel like committing suicide – problem over! You know, you don’t have to have a prescription to have weird drug symptoms – you could just have a lot of heartburn and drink a lot of that pink stuff and wind up with a black, hairy tongue. No need to look it up, the visual on this one suffices. Speaking of hair, Propecia treats hair loss in men. Lots of men may want their hair back because they think that a full head of hair is sexy, except Propecia, sadly, shrinks their….man berries. So if there’s hair in the sink don’t think Elmer Fudd – think Shemar Moore!
Zoloft, Ambien, Mirapex, Raptiva, Actonel, Avodart, Celebrex, Boniva! That’s a lot of drugs – where do they all end up, anyway? They make ‘em, we take ‘em, our bodies excrete what we don’t use and waste water treatment plants try to filter them all out. But all those pharmaceuticals, from antibiotics and anti-convulsants to mood stabilizers and sex hormones, are showing up in our drinking water. Certainly the concentrations of these drugs are tiny – far below the levels of a medical dose, but studies have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife. Now I like two-headed frogs as much as the next person but your Levitra, Digoxin and Xanax in my iced tea? Gee, maybe I’m not thirsty after all!
There are enough strange facts and weird stories about pharmaceutical drugs to make you swear off them forever. Take Viagra. It’s popular, very popular. But did you know that Hitler took a primitive type of the drug? He got injections of testosterone and a cocktail made from the semen and prostate glands of young bulls to give him enough mojo for Eva Braun. Ewww…. Then there’s Metformin, a diabetes drug. It smells like dead fish so people don’t take it for long. Hmm – wonder what the fish in the water supply think of it when it floats by…. You know that polar bear charity you’ve been thinking of donating to? Stop procrastinating. Polar bear poop may be the secret to killing the MRSA superbug. (I wonder if the sewer-scraping guy and the polar bear poop-collecting guy are one in the same.) Here’s a weird drug – Improvac. It’s used in 53 countries to chemically castrate pigs going to market. Brits would rather not eat pork shot through with the stuff but it does rid the meat of that nasty “boar taint” caused by the release of hormones. “Boar taint”. Yikes. Maybe I should have had the fish last night. Hey – you’ve heard of Ambien, right? It’s a sedative for folks that have trouble sleeping. It’s also a hypnotic (LOVE that term – picture a guy clucking like a chicken as the entertainment at your next party). Though intended to treat insomnia, Ambien can cause an unbalance of chemicals in the brain and CAUSE insomnia! Isn’t that fun? But get this – one night in January of 2003 a woman took some Ambien and fell asleep. Then she wandered out into the freezing Denver air in her nightshirt. She got into her car, caused an accident, urinated in an intersection and got into a free-for-all with a policeman. But wait! Another woman popped an Ambien and fell asleep. Then she got up and went into the den where she stared in horror at the Christmas tree for half an hour because it was growing through the roof and letting the snow in. When her husband came into the room she took one look at his melting face and collapsed – wow! What a party drug! As a matter of fact, didn’t some mistress of Tiger Woods say they liked down a pill or two and have “crazy Ambien sex”? OK, OK – no need to push, people. There’s plenty for everyone!
Speaking of drugs that make you want to gamble compulsively, a trip to Las Vegas might be a welcome break from all this prescription drug insanity. But leave those smoking-cessation drugs behind. No non-smoking casinos for you! “Some patients have reported changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions when attempting to quit smoking while taking CHANTIX“, so relax! Light up! You’re in
Sin City to have some fun. You don’t want to end up all, “My last cigarette! Thanks, Chantix!” with a .45 to your head, right? Oh. That is, of course, unless you really do bet the mortgage on #22 black.