A Tough Pill to Swallow
This may or may not be a shock to many of you, but one of my best friends is a drug dealer. No, he does not have a meth lab or marijuana grow room down in his basement, at least not that I know of. No, he does not sit out on his front porch all day, hanging with his homies and dealing dime bags or crack rock. In fact, I think he usually wears a tie into the office. He might be one of my few friends who actually works in the field of his college major (I know too many English majors). My friend, you see, works for a pharmaceutical company.
The reality is that we have created some sort of false dichotomy between legal and illegal drugs. The dangerous part of this schism is that it is rarely questioned and often relied upon for individual decisions regarding health and wellness, because, you know, who could question the moral integrity of an FDA that is consistently bought off by the largest drug companies? The typical American consumer blithely believes that the FDA properly vets the medications the drug companies are producing, but deregulation and corporate influence have made the drugs we are being prescribed by our doctor far sketchier than the illegal shit you can buy out on the streets. Fact is, at least I know where my meth is being made. Can you say the same about your Oxicotin?
These days, it seems like we have a pill for everything: Are you having chest pains? We have a pill for that! Unhappy sometimes? Oh, we definitely have a pill for that! Can’t get an erection with the same partner twenty years later? Don’t cheat on your spouse or keep a stack of girly magazines hidden in the basement like your grandfather did- we have a pill for that! Is your kid struggling in school? No worries- we have a pill for that as well!
Yes, in the 21st century we have become a society that has a medication for every malady that afflicts us. Pharmaceutical ads have become more common than the marketing that is allowed for that other over-the-counter medication that makes our family problems go away: alcohol. We all know the ad by now. It starts with a series of troubling questions voiced ominously: Do you wake up during the night? Do you urinate frequently? Do you stare longingly at your cat? “Shit,” you think to yourself, “I have that!” Then comes the ray of sunshine, the simple solution you’ve been waiting for that requires no personal exploration or development. Your solution comes in a bottle, albeit one that has a childproof top.
And have you ever then heard the list of potential side effects that might accompany the pills they’re peddling? This may cause cramps, hemorrhaging, nausea, and profuse bleeding from the eyeballs Holy shit, Merck- I’ll stick with the illness I already have, thank you very much.
But doctors keep on prescribing this poison, and we, anxious for an easy solution to our problems, you know- one that does not involve a healthier diet, exercise, or spending more time with our family, continue to take the pills they prescribe. Children in the United States are prescribed Ritalin at double the rate of almost any other Westernized nation. Do you honestly believe we really have twice the rate of ADD or do we just have teachers overworked by large class sizes and a parent base that struggles to cope with their children’s behavior? But hey, if we just give them pills, they shut up brilliantly!
But don’t worry- Big Pharma isn’t going anywhere. Global drug sales of the five largest drug companies have risen faster than Hugh Heffner’s erection after popping a couple of Viagra, going from $550 billion in 2004 to $770 billion by 2010. Now that’s a lot of boner pills! Big Pharma isn’t going away because there is too much money to be made selling you every possible pill they can convince you that you need.
Companies like Pfizer, Novartis, and Johnson and Johnson continue to put that money to good use, buying political influence through lobbying efforts intended to increase their profitability through further deregulation and weakening of the FDA. Meanwhile, they eliminate their competition by pouring money into the political system to keep the drugs they don’t sell illegal. Take marijuana, for example. Have you ever heard of someone that bled through their eyeballs because of weed? Or had hemorrhaging? Or nausea? No, the only side effects weed has ever produced was some idleness, munchies, and couch surfing. It has been proven to reduce chronic pain and nausea for cancer patients, and as to its effectiveness in reducing anxiety- have you ever seen Snoop Dogg or Willie Nelson throwing a fit or breaking down from a panic attack? I rest my case. But still marijuana is illegal in most states because, despite a majority of Americans in favor of its legalization, the drug companies have lobbied our political system to maintain that bs dichotomy of legal versus illegal drugs so that they can sell us Zoloft and Oxicotin instead. Put down that joint, stoner hippie; that’s no good for you. Take a couple of these Perkisets instead!
Right now, for example, I have a pounding headache brought on by beating by head against the wall for the past couple of hours as I know whatever I write right here won’t matter worth a damn versus all the money the drug companies can spend. Oh well, guess I’ll pop a couple Xanax and forget all about it…..
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com