The other day, when I was swimming laps at the NSU pool, there was a dad with three or four youngsters. After my third turn in the shallow end, I thought I heard one of the boys yell, “Doogie! Doogie Howser!” I chalked it up to water in my ears until I heard it again: “Doogie Howser! Doooooo-GIE!” The dad must have noticed my grin, because when I paused in the shallows for a brief breather, he said to me, almost apologetically, “They changed his meds about a week ago, and I don’t know what’s up with that. As far as I know, he’s never even seen that show.” I could provide no insight, because I’ve never seen it, either.
These days, open discussion of meds – or the diseases, syndromes or maladies that prompt their use – is sort of verboten, what with HIPAA laws and all. I sometimes wonder if HIPAA was formulated to discourage such dialogue, because if we all knew the number of meds everyone else took, we would become alarmed and turn on the pharmaceutical industry en masse. But then I dismiss the thought, because I’m pretty sure HIPAA was designed to hide from the public the syndromes, maladies and psychological problems plaguing politicians and their families.
The law may have put a gag order on specifics, but legally prescribed drugs are very much a part of popular culture, kind of like the not-so-legal psychedelic kind were part of the scene in the ‘60s. Nowadays, instead of blaming the devil for flaws in our makeup, errors in judgment and occasional criminal behavior, we can blame our meds, or lack thereof.
Law enforcement officers hear these excuses every day. A local cop once told me about a guy whose meds had caused him to put the pedal to the metal in a school zone. He let the guy off with a warning, but several months later, he caught the same fellow blazing through the same school zone. The lead-footed driver said he was speeding because he’d forgotten to take his meds. The cop surmised a ticket might improve the driver’s memory.
It doesn’t do much good to have a prescription for meds if you can’t remember to take them. With all the tasks and activities I have on my daily agenda, popping an antibiotic or some other curative is always low on the priority list. In fact, priority lists are sometimes low on my priority list. I carry around one of those faux leather planners, but I always have to remind myself it doesn’t help to write things down in the planner if I forget to look at the planner, or if I forget to bring it with me where I’m going.
Forgetting to take your meds is bad; taking them, but then forgetting you did so, is worse. Once, when my son was about 7, he and I were supposed to join my husband in Wagoner at his National Guard unit’s Christmas luncheon. I gave Cole his meds that morning, but forgot about it. When I offered him another pill before we left, he insisted he had already taken one, but I didn’t believe him, so I made him take another. By the time we arrived at the armory, he was very calm – too calm. The poor kid reminded me of a record album set to 16 RPMs (for those of you who know what a record album is); even the blink of an eye required about 5 seconds to complete. He looked like a salamander. My husband asked him what was wrong, and he replied, very slowly, with a tone of indignation: “Mom. Gave. Me. Too. Many. Meds.” At least he didn’t cause us any problems that day, unless you consider falling asleep at the dinner table a problem.
I’ve seen those little oblong plastic containers for meds, labeled with the days of the week, kind of like the day-of-the-week panties Sears used to sell out of its catalogue (for those of you who know what a Sears catalogue is). I’m not sure those containers work, because you have to remember too many things to use them effectively. You have to remember to replenish the pills, and then you have to remember to put the pill container in your purse (I have no idea how men transport these containers). Then you have to remember to take the meds once you get where you’re going. People who can’t remember what day it is would have yet another dilemma.
Doctors are pretty good about scheduling follow-up appointments to make sure we’re taking the right meds in the proper dosages. But they don’t call to ask if we’ve taken our pill today, or applied our cream to that itchy patch or embarrassing boil. An enterprising doctor might help pay down his student loans by coaxing us to sign up for intermittent text message reminders, for a nickel apiece, reminding us of our obligations to our own health. Come to think of it, text messages could also be used to determine whether our meds are causing any weird behavior: “Dr. Happyface here. Have you felt like beating up anyone today? Neglected to put on your pants? Said something stupid to your boss? Then you might need a prescription adjustment. Call to schedule an appointment today!”
I know about that saying-something-stupid thing. I’ve had two or three employees who have gotten in my face, only to apologize later and blame it on prescribed drugs. Years ago, a gal told me she needed two-hour lunches every day because of her meds. Some time later, I myself was prescribed the same pill, cyclobenzaprine, and I have no clue how she functioned at all. It pretty much knocked me unconscious.
As far as saying something stupid to a boss, I’ve done, too. But I can’t blame it on meds.
Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.
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