Sunday, August 20, 2006

Some Forms Of Torture Are Already Legal

Posting this makes me nervous because I just took some codeine pills that expired last February. I have little experience with narcotics past their best-by date, so I’m worried I’ll have some adverse mental reaction that ends with me screaming at you CIA goons to get the hell out of my head before I kill you. According to all those just-say-no movies I saw in school, that sort of thing happens all the time when people take cocaine-based drugs without a doctor’s supervision. It’s even worse when the drugs have had time to go bad, I’ll bet.

Reassurance: I don’t generally hang on to consumables with six-month-old expiration dates. Actually, I’m quite scrupulous about throwing old things away. Though a lousy housekeeper I’ve never once been sick from eating something I’ve eaten at home, in part because I’ve never been tempted to keep milk, fish or other perishable items after their safety date’s passed.

But I can replace these things any time I wish. If the same held true for codeine pills I’d throw my old ones away and buy a new bottle right now. Maybe something stronger. I can’t, though, so I have to take my chances with the old stuff.

I don’t usually take painkillers outside the occasional aspirin, but these days I’ve got a wisdom tooth growing in the wrong way. It became annoying a week ago and as of Thursday it officially Hurts, every day a tiny bit more as the young tooth moves a tiny bit further where it doesn’t belong. On Friday I tried finding a dentist to extract it, but had no luck. I’ll try again tomorrow morning, but meanwhile the pain is here with me. Four consecutively worse days of it, now.

If we had a truly free market in dentistry, without government regulating who can claim dentist status and what hoops must be jumped through to get there, I could probably leave my house right now, find a walk-in clinic, pay a couple hundred dollars for X-rays, anesthetic and an extraction and be asleep in bed before midnight.

But no. I can’t just walk in and have a problem tooth removed; first I have to make an appointment for a general check-up, and get the X-rays. I can’t have the tooth pulled the same day because rushing the process like that would be irresponsible dentistry. Meanwhile, the added costs of all this are — I don’t know how much, actually. Nobody will tell me what this costs.

It’s enough that the average person can’t afford it anymore, so you have to buy a policy from a heavily regulated insurance company with its own requirements for referrer visits before anything can actually be done, and those will add at least one more day to the time I must live with this tooth and the pain it generates getting worse each day and drilling just a little further into the parts of my consciousness that function better without the distraction of agony, which is to say all of them.

Whoa. Did I just write that? I did. Christ, it’s not you guys, the CIA or even the codeine that need to get the hell out of my head lest I go insane — it’s the pain. How can I make it go away right now, without breaking the law and risking a long term in prison? I can’t.

My government is legally requiring me to suffer pain. I haven’t even committed any crimes, and my government is legally requiring me to suffer pain. If I try to escape it tonight I can only do this by breaking the law. I mean, yes, I’ve got those old pills left over from my last wisdom tooth extraction. But I took them more than an hour ago and I don’t think they’re working. They're making me pretty tired, I'll admit, but my tooth feels exactly the same.

Most galling of all: the laws requiring me to experience every bit of this pain are justified with the excuse that they protect my health.


Blogger rhhardin said...

You can keep eggs past the expiration date. Months, in fact. They just cease to be fresh eggs and become more suitable for hard boiling (easier to shell). I buy tons on sale just to have old eggs available.

Supermarkets have some toothache stuff you spread on your gums, I think. The market's response to medical insurance.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "toothache stuff" is Orajel or Anbesol, the gel in the little tube that looks like a toothpaste tube. It's 20% benzocaine. Put a little on a cotton swab and smear it right where the pain hurts (that BS on the package about squirting it into your mouth is for the birds). Buffered aspirin for the pain works better than anything, if you can tolerate aspirin.

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

6:56 PM  
Blogger CGHill said...

For the price they demand for dental insurance these days ($300-400 a year) I can get three cleanings and one set of X-rays, which for the past few years has been quite adequate in preventing any seriously-expensive dental work. Easier just to hand the MasterCard to the receptionist and be done with it.

Orajel is the name of that drugstore product that you spread on the affected toothal area.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Thanks, guys. I have tried the gel, but it doesn't seem to work. And I feel somewhat stupid whining about my toothache problems, but if the right to free yourself from pain without government interference isn't a libertarian issue then I don't know what is.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Hunter said...

Codeine isn't cocaine-based: it's an opiate.


8:06 PM  
Anonymous Fido said...

"I haven’t even committed any crimes, and my government is legally requiring me to suffer pain."

Are you sure you haven't done anything? Could you maybe have crapped in someone's yard or something?

5:49 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Expriation dates on drugs typically correspond to lack of potency, not danger (this from a Doc who was prone to use expired routine meds 'cause they were cheaper). As long as you're not drinking alcohol or using some other depressant, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

That wouldn't apply to a mix or something which is more delicate.

Specific quotes:
The Army study was presented at the 2002 U.S. Food and Drug Administration science forum. The review examined 96 different drugs, and included 1,122 lots in all, and found that 84 percent remained stable 57 months beyond the expiration date.


LaCivita recalled a recent study that found that liquid antibiotics, often prescribed for children's ear infections and meant to be stored no more than 14 days under refrigeration, began to lose some therapeutic value after the 14 days.


"The biggest problem is, it won't be as effective," Bongiorno said.

Just don't take anything that's obviously damaged, ie, falling apart or having green mold, etc. Also I'd stay away from antibiotics where a drop in potency could have real negative issues.

5:52 AM  

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