DrugsDon’t we all? Even if it’s just a painkiller for a headache once in a while, or a contraceptive pill, or a shot of coffee to wake you up, there’s nobody reading this who can honestly tell me they never use drugs of any kind. I’m not going to use this post to complain that the government sees fit to make some drugs illegal, though I do think it’s wrong and it’s patently obvious to me that we should decriminalise recreational drugs starting with marijuana as soon as possible. Anyway.

The gut complaint I mentioned in this post about healthcare appears to be an IBS-type syndrome, which involves the gastrointestinal tract being overly sensitive and overly active for no apparent reason. So, my anticipation of a simple event like preparing for an important guest, or my eating of a food rich in cheese or high in fat, or my coming out of routine to attend a function, or my staying up much later than I should can begin to produce the kinds of symptoms you might experience if you fell ill with a stomach virus (discomfort, bloating, nausea, gas, etc.). Unfortunately it looks like I may have to deal with this for some time, so I’ve been seeing my doctor about it.

I’ve been prescribed a drug which acts on both the brain and the gut (since it’s the complex neural circuitry between the two that seems to be responsible) to relax both; and I’ve been prescribed Xanax too for the rare occasion I need it while extensively traveling, a drug which is traditionally prescribed for anxiety disorders but which in my case is prescribed for the relaxing of the mind and, by extension, the relaxing of the GI tract. I can tell you this now: these drugs are great. Haven’t we come a long way? It wasn’t too long ago that I would have been told to drink some vinegar or something. The advancements in medical science within the past 100 years have been wonderful.

I came across an interesting website the other day called Pill Girl Report. Pill Girl Naomi Wax says this in her introduction:

“We’re all on drugs. Well, maybe not every single one of us, but many of us. Most of us. Even if we’re not taking them daily, we likely take them occasionally. A pill for this backache, a pill for that acne, a pill so I can fall asleep without the grueling effort of having to relax at bedtime, a pill so you can stave off that heart attack while you eat those fries. Wait: I’m not saying that pill-taking is always frivolous or that it doesn’t save lives. And, believe me, I totally understand the desire to make life feel even a little more liveable than it might otherwise seem. It’s just that, well, when I open the medicine cabinet in my—let’s just say “in the home of two reasonably healthy senior citizens who live in the Midwest, where I grew up, whom I’ve known most of my life”—and see more than 40 pill bottles, it makes me stop and think. I think two thoughts simultaneously: “These doctors, the pharmaceutical industry, this country, we are all out of our fucking minds,” and also: “I wonder if there’s something here I might like.””

I concur with these kind of mixed feelings about drugs. On the one hand (and I think the stronger hand) we have made life immeasurably better for us all. On the other, it’s possible to go overboard. Xanax, for example, is a highly addictive drug. It works for me on a rare occasion when I need a low dosage because of my dicky stomach. But I’d be frightened to be on this stuff at much higher dosages every day: I’ve read that some people need 2mg of Xanax every 8 hours just to keep their heads above water, which is terrifying to me, since my 0.25mg dosage once in a great while is more than enough.

My mother hates the idea of taking drugs regularly. She’d struggle through even normal headaches, out of pure stubbornness on this point. But I think the medical community have done us all a huge favour by developing effective drugs to deal with the various maladies that can affect human quality of life. The technology is brilliant, and embracing it cautiously and responsibly seems to be the order I’d live by.

I want to be able to live my life with only a minimal intervention of peripheral chemistry. But if my pursuit of happiness is being hindered substantially by something that isn’t as effectively dealt with in other ways, drugs can be a godsend. There are some syndromes which haven’t traditionally been understood well by others, especially mental disorders. Many human beings find life very, very tough to live, including long bouts of depression which really lowers their quality of life. I’ve never experienced clinical depression – controlling my mood has always been extremely easy for me – but I tell you this: I wouldn’t muscle through serious depression without the help of medical science just so that I could say I did it without drugs. When we have the ability to fix it, for heavens’ sake, let’s do it.

Where drugs are used to replace the promotion of general healthiness, they’re being misused, certainly. (Perhaps a better diet alone could solve many of the problems doctors deal with on a daily basis.) But, generally, drugs are a delightful blessing. Coffee, Xanax, or marijuana: if you ask me, they’re all potential options for rational, sensible people who are trying to get on with the business of living.

I love drugs. Don’t you?