“You know I’ve seen a lot of people
Walking around with tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don’t care
Ah if you live or if you die” — Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher”
I wrote a column in March when I was in a hell of a mess, perhaps close to death. I am no expert on that subject, nor do I hope to become one. But if you read My Recent Brush With Death: Life Saved, Liberty Lost At The Hands Of Socialized Medicine,you will see I was a sick, seized-up old dog.
I don’t believe a living person can rightly judge how close death is, but people can say how sick they felt. For me, it was pneumonia and tachycardia that had the paramedics transfer me to emergency in a screaming ambulance.
Months later, I thought I should tell you I am not sure that the cure isn’t almost as bad as the disease.
I have seen six different doctors, had 11 separate tests and, after all that, I still see three doctors regarding my atrial fibrillation (heart flutter). I have done my best to follow every instruction and to swallow every pill I’ve been ordered to take.
Only because of my own research have I discovered that many people can live with heart flutters for decades and that I may have had this one for years. Perhaps all I had was a case of pneumonia that day the ambulance drove me to the hospital. Just perhaps the medical system is drumming up business along with the big pharmaceutical companies. Most importantly, if this is true for me, it is true for you.
I won’t harp on about my ailments other than to say this: In 56 years, the only medication I took regularly was an emergency asthma inhaler. Yet for the past three months, my doctors — supposedly working together — have had me under orders to take 10 pills a day. Ten pills per day! This despite the fact that I feel good and I exercise one hour every day, seven days a week.
As for why I take all these pills, the doctors maintain I need them because my heart doesn’t beat like it did when I was younger. I have news for them; nothing works in my body the way it did when I was younger. It is called getting old.
But what the hell do I know, right? I have a 1980 Bachelor of Arts degree. When I was taking geology classes, some of my professors may have thought the Earth was flat. They were old-school, and so am I.
I grew up in the 1950s. That was a time when we shut up, put up and, when it came to it, prayed that the doctor we saw knew what he was doing.
I Don’t Know Medicine — Just Plain, Old Economics
I understand the concept of profits and losses pretty well, and the $600 I now spend on monthly prescriptions isn’t causing the doctors any pain. They get big paybacks prescribing those drugs — kickbacks from Big Pharma. It is all very big business, in excess of more than $1 trillion in new pharmaceutical sales around the world each year.
So how well does this Holy Grail of modern medicine work? That depends on whom you ask. This summer is the fifth anniversary of when Michael Jackson’s doctor killed him off and it’s the 34th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Both singers complained they couldn’t sleep. Both doctors fixed them up good and dandy so sleeping would never again be a problem.
Stephen Tyler, the lead singer for the rock band Aerosmith, was on the radio program “The Dr. Oz Show” last September talking about his life of addiction:
You know who the new dealers are? They’re doctors. The dealers aren’t on the street. It’s not a shady guy on the street. You know how many doctors I’ve gone to and said, “I, I, I’m in a 12-Step program, I’ve been sober for. . .” He goes, “Ah, good for you!” On the way out he says, “You need something to sleep tonight?” And I’m trying to tell him that I can’t take anything that’s mood altering, ’cause if I do, I like to ride it. We all do, right?
Making Millions Curing Crazy
If only it was just addictive drugs pushed on Americans, we would probably be all right. For most people it is easy to say no to opiates and just tell the doctor you can deal with the pain. But what do you do if your doctor tells you that your blood pressure is too high and you might have a stroke or, worse, sudden death. But there is good news, he can write you a prescription for two or three drugs and fix you all up. Have allergies? Here’s a pill! Can’t run the 100 meters at 60 like you did at 20? Here’s a pill! Life in the bedroom not the same as when you were 25? Here’s a year’s supply worth! Or my favorite: “Feel a little blue?” Take these antidepressants. Let me know if you feel heart palpitations or the urge to drive your car off the bridge; these are common side effects. They may or may not start working. And if they do, you may feel a tad better in three weeks. So cheer up.
Researchers don’t know why drugs like Prozac, Sarafem, Ladose, Fontex and scads of other antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work. But I’m willing to bet nine out of 10 doctors whose office you walk into off the street will prescribe them to you. In fact, in 2010 more than 25 million Americans were prescribed a version of these antidepressants. And while there is no proof to show it cures depression, it has been proven beyond all doubt that it makes Big Pharma happy. And isn’t that really what it is all about?
And if you want that young look and just can’t get enough of it with the plastic surgeon, there is what we used to call Vitamin T back in my football days. Back then, testosterone was legal. In fact, in the 1970s the family doctor gave it to me. And I can tell you it works! I became stronger and faster than I ever had been in my life. My skin also broke out in pimples, and I had such terrible rage I had to quite taking it. But if looking a flashy 50 is more important to you than a saggy 60, I am sure you won’t have a problem finding a doctor who will write you a prescription for it.
While Big Pharma is making plenty of money off of sick patients, selling medications to people whose only affliction is that they are aging fattens corporate profits. Since we all want to be young, doctors and drugs get a huge new customer base of people who aren’t even sick. Like testosterone, there is hormone replacement for women and then there is the Cadillac for men: human growth hormone (HGH). Even when it was legal and I desperately wanted to get stronger, I wouldn’t touch it. Yet your doctor can — and just might — prescribe it to you. Beware. As its name suggests, it is involved in human cell growth. And as we get older, more often those cells are cancerous.
The more I’ve looked into this because of my own health, the more disillusioned I have become and the more determined I am not to accept willy-nilly a fistful of pills every morning. That means I have some work ahead of me. And that’s the only advice I can give you: Find a conservative doctor, use the Internet and get a good pharmacist. It’s all out there, and the quality of your life depends upon your doing all three.
Yours in good times and bad times,