Stock image of pills, capsules and tablets of different colors over white.

Shit That Needs to Stop : Prescription Drugs

Chances are, one of them is circulating through your body right now.  Unless you’ve found a way to cure herpes with essential oils (and again, I’m really sorry about that), you’ve most likely left your doctor’s office in the not-so-distant past with a unintelligibly-written slip of paper.  You then motored directly to your nearest CVS or Walgreen’s, only for a pharmacy tech to ask detailed questions about said paper that you could not possibly answer.  Good times all around.

An hour later, you scooted on home with your panacea pills in a cloudy orange bottle.  Maybe you’re the living-dangerously type that went bottoms up right away and popped a few down your gullet without reading the novel stapled to the bag; maybe you were a little more like your humble author and wanted to understand a little more about the pharma-cocktail you were about to ingest.

So, you started reading the warnings.  And you read.  And you read.  Twenty minutes later, you’re now convinced taking this pill will inflict pain and suffering on your person many orders of magnitude greater than the malady for which you sought it.

So, Seriously… Tell Me… What’s Going to Happen?

The listing of side effects associated with prescription medicine is useless.  Nothing more than an ass-covering exercise by Pfizer’s legal department, you are given absolutely no useful indication what negative shit might actually be about to happen to you.  For instance, let’s look at the official list of side effects for amoxicillin, a common antibiotic prescribed for garden-variety infections, including STDs (again, I can’t say this enough, I am really, really sorry about that).


You should check with your doctor immediately if any of these side effects occur when taking amoxicillin:

  • Abdominal or stomach cramps or tenderness
  • back, leg, or stomach pains
  • bloody nose
  • chest pain
  • chills
  • clay-colored stools
  • cough
  • dark urine
  • diarrhea
  • diarrhea, watery and severe, which may also be bloody
  • dizziness
  • feeling of discomfort
  • fever
  • general body swelling
  • headache
  • increased thirst
  • inflammation of the joints
  • itching
  • joint or muscle pain
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • nosebleeds
  • pain
  • pain in the lower back
  • sore throat
  • unpleasant breath odor
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • unusual weight loss
  • vomiting of blood
  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • wheezing
  • yellow eyes or skin

Some of the side effects that can occur with amoxicillin may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects:

  • Bad, unusual, or unpleasant (after) taste
  • change in taste
  • Agitation
  • black, hairy tongue
  • changes in behavior
  • confusion
  • convulsions
  • dizziness
  • sleeplessness
  • trouble with sleeping
  • unable to sleep
  • white patches in the mouth or throat or on the tongue
  • white patches with diaper rash

Wow, thanks for narrowing down the possibilities.  And, just to be clear, if I’m feeling ‘unusually tired’, I should seek medical assistance immediately, but if I have a fucking ‘black, hairy tongue’ and start convulsing, I should just chill out because that’s completely normal?  Yeah, ok.  I’ll tell you what—the former symptom likely is best addressed with a nap, while the latter is best addressed with a hatchet, gauze, and a priest experienced in exorcisms.

I know you guys in Big Pharma are busy filling swimming pools with hundred-dollar bills for your corporate parties, but maybe a little more effort elaborating on the likelihood and severity of the side effects is in order.

Each drug should come with a list of no more than ten side effects, divided into the following groups :

  • This shit will happen
  • This shit might happen
  • If this shit happens, call 911
  • Shit that only crazy hypochondriacs reported happening.

Can I Drink or Not?

Really, this is all we want to know.

I’ve more than once pondered the possibility of launching a website named www.canidrinkwhiletaking.com, where anonymous doctors and scientists answer questions from the public about if it’s actually dangerous to consume alcohol whilst taking any prescription drug.

In lieu of such a website, I hereby call on the FDA to separate all prescription medicines into one of five classes :

  • Seriously, don’t drink. You’ll die and shit.
  • You can drink, but you’re gonna regret it.
  • Have a beer or two, but don’t be a jackass.
  • Drink if you want, but the medicine won’t work.
  • Go nuts.

Special Mention : Pet Prescriptions

I have a cat.  He’s old.  Accordingly, I find myself having to administer medicine with increasing frequency.  Each time a new drug is added to his repertoire, I ask the vet tech what my options are.

“Does it come in a liquid?”

“No.”

“A powder?”

“No.”

“Ok, just pills?”

“Yep.”

“How big are they?”

The answer to the final query, without fail, is the vet tech connecting her middle finger and a thumb to make a circle, indicating the pill they are asking me to put in my cat’s mouth three times a day is roughly the size of a golf ball.

You know how often that process is feasible?  Once.  Maybe.  Even if you manage to sneak one down your kitty’s throat, they’re gonna be ready next time, and they’re going to be pissed.  Forcing a second pill on Kitty is going to require immediate medical attention in its aftermath, and not for the cat.

So for that, pharmaceutical industry, you go to hell.  Straight to hell.

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