What Are You, On Drugs?
With so many Americans popping prescription meds, who
needs nature and sex and exercise?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, December 8, 2004
The odds are very good that you are on drugs.
Right now. This minute. As I type this and as you read
this and as false Texas dictators rise and sad empires
crumble and as this mad bewildered world spins in its
frantically careening orbit, there's a nearly 50/50
chance that some sort of devious synthetic chemical
manufactured by some massive and largely heartless
corporation is coursing through your bloodstream and
humping your brain stem and molesting your karma and
kicking the crap out of your libido and chattering the
teeth of your very bones.
Maybe it's regulating your blood pressure. Maybe it's
keeping your cholesterol in check. Maybe it's helping
you sleep. Maybe it's helping you wake the hell up.
Maybe it's opening your bronchial tubes. Maybe it's
brightening your terminally bleak outlook.
Maybe it's adjusting your hormone levels or
controlling your urge to weep every minute or relaxing
the blood vessels in your penis or cranking the
serotonin to your brain or pumping carefully measured
slugs of alprazolam or fluoxetine or sertraline or
atorvastatin or esomeprazole or buspirone or
venlafaxine or any number of substances with
Latin-rooted jawbreaker names through your flesh in a
bizarre dance of miraculous vaguely disturbing
death-defying scientific wonder.
Forty-four percent of all Americans. That's the latest
number. Almost half us are popping at least one
prescription drug and fully one in six are popping
three or more, and the numbers are only increasing and
this of course doesn't count alcohol or cigarettes or
bad porn and it doesn't count the mad megadoses of
jingoistic flag-waving God-slappin' fear -- which is,
as evidenced by the last election, a stupendously
popular FDA-approved drug in its own right. But that's
Have a teenager? She's probably on drugs, too. One in
four of all teens are, according to new research. And
we ain't talking pot or ecstasy or meth or fine
cocaine or Bud Light or any of those
oh-my-God-not-my-baby devil drugs that are so
demonized by the government, but that by and large are
no more (and are often far less) toxic and addictive
and caustic than any of your average 8-buck-a-pop
silver-bullet chemical bombs shot forth from the likes
of Eli Lilly and Glaxo and Pfizer, et al. Ahh, irony.
It's the American way.
All of which means one of two things: either it's the
goddamn finest time in history to be an American,
living as we are in the age of incredible technology
and miracle medicines and longer life expectancies and
$5 coffee drinks and a happy synthetic chemical to
match any sort of ache or pain or lump or rash or
spiritual crisis you might be facing.
Or it's the absolute worst, what with so many of us
heavily drugged and over half of us massively obese
and IQs dropping like stones and our overall quality
of life deteriorating right under our noses and
shockingly huge numbers of us actually finding Shania
Twain somehow interesting. Which perspective is right
for you? Ask your doctor.
It's become so you can't crack a joke about Prozac or
Xanax at a party without at least three or four faces
suddenly going still and unsmiling and you're like,
whoops, as you suddenly realize that you can, as you
walk the streets of this fine and heavily narcotized
nation, imagine at least one very expensive drug
pumping through the time-ravaged body of nearly every
other person you pass. It's a bit like knowing their
secret fetish or favoritest dream or on which nether
part they want to get a tattoo. Except totally
And you might say, well, so what? So what if
pharmaceuticals help us cope, relieve the pressure,
help us survive this ugly and irritating world? Better
living through chemistry, baby, so long as you don't
mind the numbness and the glazed eyeballs and the
heart palpitations and the lack of true feeling in
your fingertips and the nightmares about snakes.
So long as you don't mind the slightly nauseating
sense that you have lost some sort of vital and
perhaps irreplaceable link to the animal world and the
luminous organic planet. But, as Dubya says, who the
hell cares about that crap when you got baseball and
war and apple pie?
Because here's the nasty truth: it's a highly toxic
BushCo world right now and we've set it up so it's
only getting worse, darker, more poisonous and
unsettled and unsanitary. Maybe all our meds just help
us maintain some sort of jittery and numbed balance,
some sort of sad equilibrium. The BushCo doctrine
dictates detachment, exploitation, abuse of every
known ecological resource and profiteering from every
known loophole and caring not a whit for nature and
organic systems and balance? Hey, like nation, like
But let's be fair. It must be said right here that
many of these drugs indeed help an enormous number of
people and restore lives and bring light where only
darkness once reigned and far be it from me to
begrudge anyone his or her chemical-assisted reprieve
from genuine suffering.
But here's the thing: it's still only a fraction. Only
a small number of people whose doctors prescribe these
meds like candy actually need them, and as for the
rest there are these things called lifestyle change
and dietary change and perspective change and even
spiritual shift that can affect the overall health of
your life like a goddamn miracle, like a thousand
drugs combined, changes that millions simply refuse to
undertake because, well, it's just too damn hard.
We don't want to know. We don't want to understand
deeper, complex natural systems. We want pills, not
awareness. We want magic bullets, not true magic. We
want to eat what we want and exercise not at all and
pay no attention to our bodies and our quality of life
and expect it all to work sufficiently well until we
die at 90 and they forklift us into our
refrigerator-size coffins. After all, we're Americans.
We're not supposed to care.
Nevertheless, it bears repeating: maybe what's lacking
most in this society is a true and thoughtful and
nuanced connection to and understanding of the natural
systems, soil and sunlight and sustainability, lunar
rhythms and whole food and maybe knowing where the
hell your water really comes from. You think?
Because the truth is, it's not all that hard to get
informed. It's not all that hard to affect serious
change in your life and eat better and kiss better and
require less chemical crap in your bloodstream and
slowly but surely reduce the need for medication in
your life. It is far from impossible to clear out the
toxins and flush the BushCo-endorsed crap and defy the
demonic corporate pharmaceutical PR and reevaluate
just how you tread this life. They just want you to
think it is.