Monday, February 18, 2008

Pill Swallowing Made Easy

I read this awhile ago at Lew Rockwell and it reminded me of a true story of pill swallowing phobia.

The pill is not a unique good, a special something that behaves differently from any other things you swallow. Yes, it can be a bit harder but it is about the same size as many foods we eat routinely. We eat hotdogs and chew them only here and there and down the hatch they go. Same with steak. We chew a bit, mash it around somewhat, and down it goes. Same with biscuits, rolls, sausage, chocolate cake or any number of other foods. We know we should chew our food into a pulp but we do not. We often just manipulate it into a reasonable size and swallow. That reasonable size is often far bigger than a pill.

So why do we have such trouble with a pill? Because we are thinking about it as a dreaded pill instead of as yummy chewed food. I submit that if you change the way you think of the pill, the throat will open and it will go down easily without any crazed head tosses.

Now, for lifetime pillphobics, there is a small moment right before the pill goes down when panic sets in and the gag reflex takes over. We suddenly realize "Oh my goodness, I'm taking a PILL!" and then disaster sets in.

Read the rest here.

Now, here is the true story. Imagine someone who has never had an easy time swallowing pills. Since childhood it has been a problem. They haven't taken any pills for quite some time. The last time they remember taking a pill was when they had some wisdom teeth removed and were given an antibiotic prescription to take afterward. At that time, with some great amount of effort, the pills miraculously went down, but every time a pill was due to be taken, the moment was anticipated with dread. When each pill swallowing episode was over, a great wave of relief washed over their person, until the next time, several hours later, when it was pill time again.

Now, imagine they have discovered a swelling fingertip on one of their hands. It is very red and reaches the point that it starts to stretch the skin to such an extent that it becomes very painful. The finger is filling fast with pus and eventually bursts, letting blood and pus ooze out. The finger, unfortunately, even with this release of pressure, is not getting better. An appointment is made to see a doctor. The doctor diagnoses that the finger is infected and prescribes an antibiotic and when they go to the pharmacy at the supermarket near work to get the prescription filled they find that the pills are pretty large. WAY TOO BIG TO SWALLOW. A second appointment is made when the finger's condition has not improved after several days (of course the pills have not been taken; it was hoped that the advice of a kindly nurse to soak the finger in hot water and Epsom salts would work, but by itself this treatment seems nearly useless and the finger begins to swell again until it reaches its former humungous proportions). The doctor they see is not the same one as the first visit (it is an office with more than one doctor, in fact a whole army of doctors appears to occupy the place) and at first he suggests using a needle on the finger to lift up the edge around the fingernail and let the goo out that way and do it several times daily. He does not know that the previous doctor has prescribed an antibiotic. The hope rises in their heart that this doctor doesn't think an antibiotic necessary. But there is a human factor that intrudes (or perhaps it can be said that there is a human intruder, a busybody) for they had invited a friend to come along and the friend says "show the doctor those big pills you've got in your pocket and see if he can give you some smaller ones." The doctor looks surprised. "They prescribed an antibiotic?" he asks. "Well, yes." The doctor takes the bottle of pills in his hand and opens it. He puts his unwashed fingers inside and pulls some of the little oval shaped drugs out. "See this line here in the middle of each pill?" he says. "You can the split the pill along the line and then it's only half the size and easier to swallow." They are not convinced this is an answer to the dilemma so the doctor ends up writing them a prescription for a smaller sized pill. These smaller pills are half the dose so twice as many must be taken. They are round and quite flat but when the attempt to swallow one is made the pill gets stuck and begins to disintegrate and is regurgitated as a half-mushy mess.

A return to the pharmacy gets them a cherry flavored liquid version meant for small children. The bottle is large and it goes down quickly as the several tablespoons required for each dose are consumed. The finger starts to go back to normal size and the redness subsides and all is well. But wouldn't it have been easier to just follow this advice to begin with?

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