Legal Addiction

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I have the greatest respect for the clever, sometimes brilliant, concerned and compassionate doctors and surgeons in our system, but they are faced with impossible tasks and demands. You only have to read the daily papers to notice the multi-page ads for grog (the worst addiction – particularly with young people) and drugs (dished out on special—two for the price of one, we will not be beaten on price etc.).

Huge and impersonal drug warehouses cater for our society’s obsession and craving for the good life. There are drugs for anxiety, gut relief, detox, sleep-aids, wake-up aids, “miracle” arthritis, psoriasis and baldness cures, weird supplements from krill (have you ever seen a nervous or anxious whale?), memory tonics, weight-loss and weight gain supplements, libido stimulants for men and women, stress relief, menopause relief and a multitude of vitamins, minerals and herbs all guaranteed to make you live forever (but if you die, you get your money cheerfully refunded at the funeral).

These are just the over-the-counter items. Also  advertised are cheap prescription items– Viagra, Valium, Mogadon,  antibiotics, vaccines, anti-hypertensives, analgesics, hormones – the list is endless.

With such promotion, along with the promotion of gambling, drinking and junk food, is it any wonder western societies are addicted, frenzied, stressed, fearful and unhealthy?

In the last few years of my working life, I was staggered by the extent of legal addictions occurring (and encouraged). People were becoming hooked on Ventolin spray, codeine – containing preparations (Mersyndol, Nurofen Plus, various cough mixtures, Panadeine products), sleeping pills (Dozile, Restavit, Stilnox) and sedating anti-histamines. There was also a marked rise in the use of prescription narcotics—Oxynorm, Oxycontin, MS Contin and others- I think doctors had just given up and ordered these for anyone who had a sore back.

Another problem was the supply of pseudo-ephedrine. This drug is highly effective as a decongestant for use in respiratory tract infections, and for clearing airways to the ear in aeroplane travel.

It can also be a precursor for the manufacture of amphetamines, so bikie gangs would send out “mules” to buy up as much legal pseudo-ephedrine as possible. The banning of amphetamines has led to police corruption, burglary, murder and super-rich gangsters and this stupid policy naturally led to the virtual banning of pseudo-ephedrine. It has now been removed from most products and replaced with less effective decongestants (phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine), which also have more side-effects. The pack sizes of pseudo-ephedrine were drastically reduced – this meant that the bikies’ mules had to work harder and travel more.

The official directions for pharmacists was for us to closely question every purchaser, check whether their noses were dribbling and ask for ID. During my night-time shifts, you can imagine how many times I did this when a fat, balding bikie swinging a chain came in and pretended he was dying from a cold. I never knocked anybody back—they all got what they wanted and everyone was happy (especially me when that chain didn’t finish up wrapped around my neck).

I will finish off by reporting the latest lunacy in our “war on drugs”. A scientific paper has just been published by a group of medical nongs, stating earnestly that marijuana use by the young causes anxiety attacks in later life. Nowhere was it suggested that perhaps it was anxiety that persuaded the young people to try marijuana in the first place. We are continuing to get it all back to front.

Related Post: All Drugged Up and Nowhere To Go

Robert Gosstray

Robert Gosstray is a retired pharmacist and the resident health writer for Midlifexpress. He is the author of The Pharmacist's Secrets: Drugs, lies and money.

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