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Dan Cook: Curtail dope material

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hooray for former Justice Richard Neely's Sept. 5 op-ed "Meth battle nonsense." He hit one nail dead on the head with his comments concerning prescriptions being far more simply and economically accessible to the well-connected, namely those who have doctor relatives or as personal socializing friends whom they can simply call for an instant Rx.

His estimates of 1 1/2 hours and $65 for a doctor's office visit by the rest of us do seem quite low based on my current experience. More like three-plus hours (including travel) and $200.

It takes more than his one nail to properly hold down a plank.

The fundamental "meth battle" issue is cutting off the doper's supply of pseudoephedrine, without which illegal and horribly addictive methamphetamines cannot be made. It is now readily available in so-called "cold medications" offered under various brand names by huge pharmaceutical companies. Its inclusion as an ingredient in their pill is to relieve nasal congestion. If one does not have nasal congestion, it is over-medicating.

Let's drive a second nail. Inform the masses that those patent medicines are not cures and cannot be advertised as such. They merely "relieve symptoms." When they first came out back in the 1950s, consumers were blasted with TV commercials promising "miraculous relief all day and all night." Feeling a cold coming on, I asked a doctor friend about "those new wonder drugs."

"Medicine show snake oil hokum!" he snorted. "Save your money. Go rest so your body's resistence is not taxed. Stay warm and dry. Drink cold liquids and take aspirin to keep your temperature down and relieve aches. Eat lightly . . . tea, toast and soup. Sniff Vick's or Porter's salve to open up your head. Rub it on your chest to relieve congestion there."

A very close pharmacist friend, who stocked the "new" stuff, gave the same advice.

Well, that medicine show hokum has developed into a multi-billion dollar cash cow for big pharma, no thanks to us in our family, who have bought zilch. We still follow that doctor's orders. No subsequent credible research has found the snake oil more effective. In fairness, medications containing pseudoephedrine are useful in treating allergies, but the most effective of those are already prescription-only.

Coot that I am, I also recall when one could buy a tiny bottle of paregoric (an opium-based treatment for diarrhea and colic) and codeine- (cocaine) based cough syrup, simply by signing a book in the pharmacy. Abuse caused availability of them to be tightened severely, but we of modest means soon found non-addictive alternatives.

Nail number three is to counter those decades of TV and magazine brainwashing that has created a demand where none existed before. Educate the suckers that camphor-based inhalants, aspirin, soup, tea, toast and rest, work as well as a $30 pack of snake oil. At the same time, we need legislative action restricting pseudoephedrine as was done with paregoric and codeine medications, which were also abused. They are now controlled substances -- prescription only.

If that idea makes you angry, complain to the abusers who caused such action to be the only really viable alternative -- and to those medicine show hucksters who seduced you to buy their overpriced palliatives.

Cook is an author, artist and inventor who lives in Hurricane.


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