Partner and I attended an event the other night at which a very nice (and rather attractive) young psychiatrist did a presentation on Alzheimer’s disease: diagnosis, treatment, medications.   He then invited questions. 



There was a noisy giggly group of older women there, who’d been cackling through most of his presentation.  One of them raised her hand.  “I got the fear of the elevator,” she said in Italian-accented English.  “Other people get on, I get on too, sometimes.  But alone – no!”



This quite evidently had nothing to do with Alzheimer’s disease, but there are always people who solicit free medical advice from doctors, and Doctor Cutiepie was obviously used to this.  He nodded sympathetically.  “It’s a phobia,” he said.  “Anxiety is the number-one psychiatric disorder in the United States, and phobias are one of the commonest forms of anxiety.  I had a patient who didn’t leave her house for seventeen years: agoraphobia, very common.  And I prescribed Prozac, and –“



That was enough for Elevator Lady.  “A drug!” she spat.



Doctor C. nodded.  “A drug.  But effective, in this case.”



Much muttering from Elevator Lady’s table.  You could tell that Doctor Cutiepie had gone down a few pegs in their book.  He was advocating drugs!



Later that same evening, Partner and I had a conversation with a nice couple across the table from us.  The husband suffered from sleeplessness.  “But!” he said triumphantly.  “My doctor said: Do you take anything for it?  And I said: No.  And he said: Good for you!”



He and his wife grinned across at us.  “Well,” I said, “we both have insomnia issues, and we both take Ambien.  It does the trick for both of us.”



“Really?” the husband said, a little tremulously.  “What’s that called again?”



(I ask you, kids: has anyone really never heard of Ambien?)  “Ambien,” I repeated.



“It’s pretty safe,” Partner added.  “They usually give you a prescription for twenty pills once a month, so that you can’t take one every night.”



“Oh!” the wife said.  “You need a prescription for it.”  She looked at us both sympathetically.  “Haven’t you tried something like Tylenol PM?”



I am not known for my tact.  “Feh!” I said.  (Literally, I said “Feh.”  I surprised myself a little bit.)  “Tylenol PM is kid stuff.  Why bother with that, when you know there’s something that can really help you?”



You have to wonder what people have in their heads these days.  I have heard otherwise intelligent people say things like: “Well, I get the flu shot every year.  But sometimes it gives me the flu.”  No, honey, it doesn’t.  Or: “I hear a lot of stuff on TV about how the flu shot’s not really good for you.”  Would you please tell me on what Satanic TV channel you hear such nonsense?



I know lots of people who believe it is a sign of weakness to take medication.  Aspirin (or, in life-threatening situations, Tylenol or Advil) is permissible once in a while.  But nothing more



I carry a few Claritin in my briefcase for emergencies.  I don’t find it very useful, frankly, but on a bad allergy day it can be a life-saver.  I proffer it to people sometimes when they’re coughing and wheezing, and they react as if I’m giving them heroin. 



Seriously, kids: human beings are highly irrational.



I really should have asked Doctor Cutiepie about this while I had the chance.



My life in the drug trade

I read recently that people are using bath salts as a drug. No joke. Some bath salts apparently contain a potent chemical which gives you a methamphetamine-type jolt. It apparently also gives you hallucinations, intense cravings for the chemical itself (some bath-salts benders go on for days and days), and violent self-destructive impulses.


I don’t mean to make light of this. It’s just that I can’t help wondering: Who in the world thought of using bath salts to get high?


Then again, I suppose anything that looks like powder gets snorted sooner or later, and anything that looks smokable gets smoked. Remember nutmeg? Remember banana peels? (I have a vague recollection of a woman in a Cheech & Chong movie snorting Ajax Cleanser.)


Apparently you can get high on salvia too. Salvia! It grows in front of the local grocery store!


I grew up in a very rural area. There was a lot of open space, a lot of forested area. Once, while rambling down through the field near the edge of our property, I found a neat little marijuana garden that had evidently been planted by some sneaky hippie; he’d cleared off maybe two square feet of pasture in a secluded corner, tilled the soil very carefully, and planted maybe half a dozen very cute little pot plants. I uprooted them and brought them up to the house, and my mother and I marvelled over them for a while. We debated smoking them, but decided against it. Finally we threw them in the kitchen stove and burned them. We were stupid enough to fret for a day or two that the police would somehow detect the smoke and come get us.


We had some pharmaceutical adventures when I was overseas, too. While I was living in Morocco, a visiting American friend came bursting through my door with a full-sized grocery bag of freshly-picked marijuana. “Five bucks!” he wheezed. “The guy in the market sold it all to me for five bucks!” He spent the rest of the day sitting at my kitchen table, humming to himself, sorting seeds, stems, and leaves. I’ve never seen a happier boy. And once a friend brought back some “hashish” from Spain. It looked like a lump of wood putty to me. We tried to smoke it, but it wouldn’t light. Finally we chopped it up and put it in spaghetti sauce and had it for dinner. We all got violently ill afterward.


I’m pretty sure it was wood putty.


Enough reminiscing. Time for my bath.




%d bloggers like this: