For anyone who has glanced sideways at this blog, or read my book, Sicko, the Sequel (now available on Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006E8EDMS) it is clear I would have to be hog tied to the podium at a drug rep convention and force fed in order to ingest anything remotely resembling a pharmaceutical.
Seldom in the past 30 years (I’m 65 now) have I had to resort to any drug for any condition that couldn’t be better served by plain old boring exercise, or physical therapy, or a natural remedy with close to zero side effects (keeping in mind here that over 100,000 Americans alone die every year from properly prescribed medications.)
But, recently I lapsed.
A sleeping pill was involved.
I took it on a night flight back from Hawaii to LA. I knew in advance I wouldn’t be able to sleep on the plane. An infrequent flyer (my last flight was 1987) I would have to stay awake in order to keep the plane up in the air with the sheer force of my will. I needed something kickass to knock me out or I’d arrive in LA at dawn having had not a minute of sleep. So, sparing myself the irritation of procuring a prescription, I stole a sleeping pill from a friend’s stash.
This approach was very different from the one employed on the flight to Hawaii. I was my usual holistic self here. I followed the jet lag tips on www.mercola including an ancient acupressure trick. I took some melatonin (it gets sapped during flight) and the powerful antioxidant Astaxanthin, which apparently is the ingredient that causes white baby flamingos to turn pink. (Haven’t turned pink yet; hopefully it’s not part of the deal). I did not get jet lag. Indeed, from the moment my toes hit the lava-encrusted, sacred grounds of the Motherland, I had enormous storehouses of energy with which to experience her extreme wonders. If ever one needed proof that nature trumps the tiresome meddling, the profound hubris, of modern drug chemistry, it is watching Hawaii give birth to herself at every turn with a vast cornucopia of healing plant life.
I even discovered the charm of the Hawaiian Kava Bar.
A traditional relaxant long used for spiritual, cultural and social purposes, Kava is a not-so-great tasting plant elixir served from a coconut shell in beverage form. My first act upon arriving on the Big Island was to visit a Kava Bar, and it was also my last act before getting on the plane for home. I honestly thought it’s magic properties might be enough to put me to sleep once on the plane, but, no dice.
So, I popped the sleeping pill.
It is here where I am forced to give pharmacology it’s due, albeit with the inevitable caveat tacked on the end. After a short time, I dropped off into a very deep, still sleep and did not awaken until the plane was about to touch down in LA. Amazingly, it had not fallen from the sky without my wakeful, willful assistance, and if it had, I’m pretty sure I would have slept through that too.
I was impressed, but as with any quick fix from hard prescription drugs, there was blowback. That night, “safe” in my own bed, I experienced excruciatingly painful cramps in both legs, and after a bit on internet sleuthing, realized I probably had a touch of the deep vein thrombosis. This is where blood clots form deep in the veins, usually in the legs. There are many causes but the ones that apply to me in this case are (a) taking prescription medications, and (b) long periods of inactivity. I’d been careful to get up and walk around when flying to Hawaii, but after taking a sleeping pill on the return flight, I’d been as immobile as death.
The deal with deep vein thrombosis is this. Those blood clots? They can break off, travel to the lungs and (gulp) kill you. For the next few nights, I slept with my legs elevated and, while frightened, I experienced no further leg cramps. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think any permanent damage occurred.
It was not lost upon me, however, that even I had succumbed to the mass hypnosis that has us accepting death as an appropriate risk factor when it comes to taking prescription medications.
Remind me of my flirtation with sedation, if I should ever threaten to pop another sleeping pill.