Bitter Pill

February 1, 2008

It seems like there’s a pill for everything now. If you’re too depressed, too happy, if you’re unsure about life’s purpose, if your plants start talking to you, there’s a pill you can take that will even everything out so you can stop being concerned. There’s a pill to help people overcome shyness. How do the people who really need this pill get it in the first place, since they’re probably to shy to tell their doctor they have a problem? Someone who’s really shy isn’t going to say, in a regular checkup, "By the way, Doc, I’m really shy and it’s affecting my work. The other day my boss asked me to give a presentation and I was so upset I threw up all over him." The worst part is the doctor would see this as an excuse to whip out his prescription pad and say, "I’m going to give you a pill for that, and also you need to lose some weight, so I’ll give you a pill for that too. And just in case you get a toenail fungus, here’s a prescription made by a company that just bought me a new car." How did they find out that the pill that helps you overcome shyness worked, anyway? I know they do experiments on laboratory mice. Did they notice that one of the mice which spent most of its time in the corner had, after being injected with a new chemical, suddenly move up to the position of vice president of water bottle control and get a huge bonus in food pellets?

But I digress. The worst part is the advertising, because commercials make people start thinking that maybe they need medications they really don’t. I haven’t thrown up over anyone lately, but I was a little nervous the other day when I had to get up and speak during a meeting, so maybe I need that pill to overcome shyness. And every night while watching television I see a commercial for eye drops. It’s always the same thing: a soothing voice says, "Are your eyes tired, itchy, or red?" And immediately my eyes start itching and, when I think about it, yeah, they do feel kind of tired. Maybe I shouldn’t be watching so much television. Or maybe I need some of those eye drops even though for all I know they’re made from a leftover liquid that was used to process salmon eyeballs for export to third world countries. And the eyedrops are over-the-counter medications, or "OTC" as they’re cleverly called now because "Doctors weren’t handing out enough prescriptions for this crap so we decided to put it on the shelves" doesn’t fit well on a box, even if you reduce it to an acronym. Some pills even add "OTC" to their names even though eventually every pill will be available over the counter. That’s going to cause some confusion, though, so maybe they’ll start coming up with acronyms to describe the conditions the pills treat. For instance, pills made to treat psychosis could have names like Loonien NAF (Nutty As Fruitcake) or OOYT (Out Of Your Tree). I know none of this is new, but somehow I always manage to be behind the times, under the curve, between a rock and a hard place, neither here nor there, a day late and a dollar short. It’s a serious problem for me. I wonder if there’s a pill for it.

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