The Joys Of Modern Life: Pills

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The Independent Culture
RECENTLY I went to the doctor. It turned out to be a disapproving French locum. Not only did he tell me that I must never take Nurofen Plus again (fat chance; I'm convinced they contain all the nutrients for a healthy life, and take at least two daily), but he gave me a prescription for precisely one pill. One pill! Golly, I felt cheated. Because there's one thing I do like, and that's my pills.

In my bathroom I don't have a medicine chest, I have a medicine chest- of-drawers. The top drawer is for tubes of things for eczema, piles, acne, and so on, and six drawers down (after a drawer each for anti-depressants, tranquillizers, colds, painkillers and migraine preparations, coughs, miscellaneous and muscular aches) is the one where all the plasters and Dettol is kept.

The miscellaneous drawer is perhaps the most interesting historically, and recently I found not just ancient bottles of antibiotics with other people's names on them, a few bottles of old sleeping pills, some eye- drops well past their sell-by date, and a bottle of dried-up calamine, but also an entire packet of arsenic suppositories. Truly.

According to Dr Phil Hammond's Trust Me I'm A Doctor, the Lancet wrote in 1954, that: "For some unintelligent and inadequate patients, life is made easier by a bottle of medicine to comfort their ego." Count me in. I'll take anything.

Pills have become even more fun these days with the preposterous labelling that pharmacists are obliged to write. "May cause drowsiness. If so, do not drive or operate machinery", is a mantra of our times. Or there's: "Avoid alcohol". Not, "Do not drink alcohol", just "Avoid". I'm afriad I've never managed to avoid alcohol and the pills work just as well. I've got a wonderful pill which has a whole legend on its packet. "In case of severe MAOI [monoamine oxidase inhibitor] reaction, break one capsule, hold in mouth for two minutes, swallow - repeat once if necessary and proceed to nearest casualty department as soon as possible."

When I asked my doctor if this was really necessary, he replied: "Oh, no. Just swallow it. And there's no point in going to casualty. If the pills don't work, you'd probably be dead by the time you got there anyway!"

Actually I've got no intention of dying of an MAOI reaction. I'm hoping to die exactly when I want. How? Just look in my "miscellaneous" drawer.