Doctors and Drugs

Campbell or Camp, my sparring partner in all things, controversial, intellectual or trivial, didn’t look so good this Thursday evening. Maybe it was the lighting or the fact that we haven’t seen much of the sun lately; just monsoon like rain, fog and more rain. He looked kind of pale and even his posture was not the usual straight back, upright with chin thrust forward attitude, but instead he looked somewhat compressed, sunken in with his chin on his chest.

“What’s up Camp, you look like shit,” I said, trying to be casual.

“Thanks for your concern,” he said giving me the evil eye. “I’m feeling a bit under the weather, stuffed nose, clogged head, sore throat.”

“I think a hot rum toddy is in order,” I suggested and waved Vicky over for a consultation. “Yes, we can arrange that,” she said, “rum, lemon juice, honey, hot water and a cinnamon stir stick.”

“Sounds like medicine,” Camp grumbled

“Let’s call it Deep Throat,” Vicky suggested with a wink, which got at least a chuckle out of my friend.

“You gonna see a doctor?” I asked which snapped Camp straight back up with his chin aggressively thrust forward and his eyes big and on fire, with fever or fervour was hard to tell.

“It will be a cold day in hell before I go and see a doctor for a common cold. They’re no better than car mechanics and if you find one you can trust you’re a lucky man. I have yet to meet one. They’re bone fixers and pill dispensers. Do I need to repeat how in the US alone the doctors turned millions of patients into drug addicts and how the health care business is the biggest growth industry in history? Don’t even get me started.”

“I tend to agree with you there Camp, I don’t have much good to say about doctors either. I just read an article in my Swiss paper about how unreliable and arbitrary doctors’ consultations are. How they cannot determine anything conclusive with a stethoscope because it has a shallow penetration threshold, maybe a couple of centimeters, nowhere deep enough to diagnose lung or intestinal problems. Most of those surface examinations have at best a placebo effect this study concluded.”

“Muriel’s friend took herself to the hospital because she feared an imminent heart attack. This woman is a nurse and not prone to hysteria. They gave her some aspirin and sent her home, claiming there is nothing wrong with her. That night she couldn’t sleep and the next morning she took the first ferry into town to St.Pauls Hospital where she was immediately hospitalized but still suffered a debilitating stroke that put her into a wheel chair and months of physiotherapy.”

“There are exceptions Camp,” I said, “like ‘doctors without borders’ doing incredible work in desperate situations. Also, remember when I had my busted knee fixed? Tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus, as well as dislodged a piece of bone under my kneecap. I stepped into a divot, twisted and kicked, missing the ball completely but instead collapsed like a felled tree. The doc had a plastic model of a knee on his desk and showed me exactly what he was going to do. ‘Pull this ligament, attach it over here, then pull it to the other side and staple it there, cut off a piece of the cartilage and take out the bone fragment. Takes me about 45 minutes, takes you about six to nine months.’ When I went to the hospital for a check-up after the operation he recognized my knee but had no idea who I was.”

Camp laughed, “That’s what I call a good doc.”

“What about drugs, you must take the odd Tylenol or Advil, maybe even vitamin C or D which is apparently good for lack of sunshine? It’s supposed to help people like me with SAD, Seasonal Affected Disorder. Although no amount of pills or artificial lamps can replace real sunshine.”

Camp just scoffed. It’s all snake oil and witches brew, give me a shot of brandy or Noni juice for more serious ailments.”

“Noni juice?”

“According to Pa, a self proclaimed guru I met in Raratonga, in the Cook Islands, many years ago Noni juice prevents cancer, promotes a healthy liver and even improves memory capacity. That sounds as good to me as any other medicine.”

“So you trust a self-proclaimed shaman more than your doctor who went through ten years of medical school. Doesn’t sound right to me.”

“Why are we supposed to have faith in the medical system, like it’s some sort of religion? Faith does not replace trust and I want to trust my mechanic and doctor, not believe in them,” Camp grumbled.

“I trust the nurses more than the doctors. At least they actually talk to you like a human being and answer questions. I’m just grateful that we have a universal system here and don’t have to bring a credit card and a financial adviser to a medical consultation.”

“Now that I can agree with.”

“How is that toddyl?”

“Probably better than anything the doctor prescribes.”

“That calls for another one.” I held up one finger for my beer and mimicked one finger pointing down my throat for Vicky.



The Pain of Addiction

“Remember that song ‘Addicted to love’ by the late Robert Palmer? With the catchy refrain ‘you might as well face it, you’re addicted to love,” I asked Camp as soon as I sat down at our usual Thursday table at ‘Gramma’s Pub’. The song was stuck in my head, playing the catchy refrain over and over, driving me crazy.

“Yeah, I sort of remember,” he said warily, “where is this going?”

“Well, if you change the refrain to ‘addicted to pain’ you’re right in line with the latest epidemic. I’m talking about the opioid crisis in the US and also here in BC where over 800 people have died from overdoses this year alone. It’s a crises as big and more complicated than Aids, some experts say.”

“I take it the pain you refer to is threefold: First there is the real pain which gets dulled with ever increasing pain meds, which can lead to the pain of addiction itself; the stigma attached to it and then follows the pain of loss; loss of self, loss of money and loss of relationships and eventually loss of life itself.”

“That’s putting it pretty crassly Camp,” I said, sipping my beer.

“By the way, Americans, who are 5% of the world’s population, take 60% of the world’s painkillers. Americans are the most drugged people on earth,” Camp stated and then went on, “according to an article in ‘Guardian’ over 90 people die each day from opioid overdoses in the US.”

“It’s incredible,” I said, “and how does all that heroin get from Afghanistan to the US each year?”

“Well you can start with the CIA trained Mujahedeen which later turned into the Taliban and who outlawed opium production in 2000. Then the US took the war to the Taliban in 2001 and after 2,300 US soldiers were killed and thousands maimed, Afghanistan in 1995 was once again the producer of 90% of the world’s supply of heroin. Figure it out.”

“And as long as millions of people need and want these drugs, somebody will produce and deliver them. The war on drugs should be a fight against addiction with medical, social and judicial resources, not guns, military and cops. I still don’t know how all these illegal drugs get into the US and Europe.”

“From the south they come in mostly by sea in everything from pleasure boats to submarines, also by cargo containers and tunnels and even catapults and air canons are used to send drugs across the border. Heroin from US-occupied Afghanistan gets in by airplane. People getting on and off military and CIA aircrafts aren’t searched. It’s as simple as that.“

We both sat quietly for a few beats, contemplating the enormity of the mess. Time to change the subject, I thought.

“Camp did you hear about New Zealand’s new prime minister ? She’s 38 years young and tweets as a kitty cat named ‘paddles’ ?”

“No, that news item escaped me.”

“Well, I’m glad I got something new for you. Her first tweet after being elected was: ‘You asked fur it.’ Get it?”

“And here in Quebec they elected Valerie Plante as the new mayor of Montreal. I can tell you Muriel is ecstatic and for my money women can run the world. Get rid of all the old men who are in power the world over.”

“You’re preaching to the choir Camp, we’d all be better off I believe. You know the first thing Jacinda Ardern, the new Kiwi PM, wants to do is stop the sale of New Zealand properties to foreign buyers, because the housing market is through the roof and has become unaffordable for middle-class kiwis, with more and more homeless people on the streets. Kind of reminds me of Vancouver, except here everything is still up for sale. If someone from Timbuktu wants to, they can buy ten properties at once.”

“Yes, this is a problem, even here in Gibsons, property has become unaffordable for young people,” Camp agreed.

“How do you guys want to pay,” Vicky, who suddenly appeared, asked. “I prefer cash or would you boys like the machine?”

“How about a tab Vicky? Could we start to run a tab?” I asked.

“And where would my tips go ?”

“Oh, they’re separate, due each Thursday,” Camp laughed.

“Under what name would you boys like to start a tab”

“Thirsty Thursdays,” I said and Camp pulled out a fiver for Vicky’s tip.