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Under the Weather? Over the Counter!

Posted Friday, July 3, 2009, at 11:49 AM

This one makes you larger.
[I apologize for my extended absence from this 'space.' I was hiking the Appalachian Trail.]

Misuse of drugs, accidental and deliberate, has been much on people's minds of late. You may have heard some vague mention of the circumstances of the recent death of pop idol, Michael Jackson. (Though you might have missed the story about that asteroid that destroyed Australia.) And in the four or five minutes of the 24-hour news cycle left for other topics, you might have also heard that the FDA has suggested that people in general may be regularly taking too much of some over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, the pain reliever in Tylenol and who knows how many other medicines. This acetaminophen thing can have consequences to your liver, so I immediately took note, being particularly concerned with that organ.

My liver concerns go back to a time in the late 1970s when an acquaintance in Newton County, Arkansas handed me a Mason jar filled with a clear liquid and said, "Here, try some of this. I made it myself." I did so, and after I woke up some time later on the floor of a salmon cannery in Ketchikan, Alaska, I found that I had several lingering effects from the experience. Among these (cryptic tattoos, a bench warrant in Idaho, etc.) the most serious was the fact that my liver had entirely exited my body. It was not completely gone, but now would only follow me at a discreet distance. When I attempted to retrieve it, I found that it had procured a restraining order.

So these stories about acetaminophen and its effects caught my notice, as you might imagine.

They particularly troubled me because when I started trying to tally up my own use of acetaminophen to see if I was at risk, I immediately hit a snag when I couldn't remember if acetaminophen is the little green one or the little pink one. Or maybe one of the others, like the red and blue one. I especially like taking the red and blue ones, because they remind me of Spiderman. I try to keep track of dosages and warnings, but reading those tiny little labels is so difficult. I have to squint, and squinting gives me a headache. When I get a headache I take acetaminophen. So you see the problem.

Keeping track is even harder since I have developed my own preventive health program. For a long time I, like the rest of you suckers, used to wait until I got a symptom and then try to take some kind of medicine that matched the symptom (or that happened to be in front in the medicine cabinet). Then I realized that I was being a chump. At that point I went to the store and bought up a cross-section of over-the-counter medications and popped them all out into a large Tupperware container. Now when I get up in the morning I just reach in and grab a handful and wash them down with my morning coffee. Voila, I'm covered for the day, come what may! Unfortunately, this makes calculating exact dosages problematic. And admittedly there are a few side effects to this regimen, such as nausea, dizziness, bleeding from eyes and ears, ataxia, aphasia, jitteriness (though that might be from the coffee), the occasional three- or four-day coma and spontaneous Charlestoning. On the other hand, I haven't had the sniffles in months.

I don't recommend my plan for every(or any)one, but I'm not sure that it is any worse than what my doctor would have done for me. Since every time I see him I have a long list of drugs which TV commercials have directed me to ask about, we seldom even have time to get around to any illness I might or might not be suffering from. The last time I was in I asked (as the deep-voiced announcer told me to), "Is Climara right for me?" The doc said, "That's an estrogen replacement patch." Then he just sighed, reached for his prescription pad and said, "Sure, what the hell."

Now if you'll excuse me, these little capsules here remind me of Green Lantern!

Showing most recent comments first
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Ken, You always give me the best laughs!!! This is a classic!! (Friend of your wife)

-- Posted by pmiotti on Fri, Aug 7, 2009, at 11:59 AM

Ken, You always gie me the best laughs!!! This is a classic!! (Friend of your wife)

-- Posted by pmiotti on Fri, Aug 7, 2009, at 11:58 AM

Teutsch, was it Appalachia or Argentina? Nevertheless, I enjoy reading your creative digressions..............

-- Posted by Johnny Yuma on Tue, Jul 7, 2009, at 10:16 AM

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