Are you turning into a pill popper?

Pills and vitamins have truly coloured our lives. — AFP

If everyone were like me, pharmaceutical companies would go bust overnight.

I have an aversion to taking pills of any sort. I don’t even have a proper medicine cabinet at home. All I have is an old ice cream tub that houses a box of adhesive plasters, some Panadol, a yellowing bandage, and a small jar of Tiger Balm purchased about 30 years ago.

Sometimes, when I visit friends or relatives, I take a peek inside their bathroom cabinets – it’s called research. The contents often take me by surprise. Most people, or at least the people I know, hoard enough bottles of pills to treat the ailments of a small army.

After my friends and family read this, I suspect they’ll keep their medicine cabinets under lock and key when I come to visit – assuming, of course, I’m ever invited again.

They should know by now that I wouldn’t divulge information about their medicinal needs to anyone. Even though it surprised me that my friend William is taking Viagra, and one of my neighbours has a problem with intimate itchiness, my lips are well and truly sealed.

But I digress.

These days, you can take a pill for almost anything.

Afraid you might get pregnant? Take a pill. Afraid you can’t jump-start the equipment needed to get you pregnant? Take a pill. Feel like killing your doctor? Take a pill. Worried that you’re taking too many pills? Take a pill.

Pills can now be considered one of the three major food groups. The other two, of course, are chocolate and dessert.

Without pills, many of us would be walking around in constant pain. Lucky for us, most doctors are fond of pills. Go to a doctor with a problem and, while you’re talking to him, he will take down notes on a pad provided free by a pharmaceutical giant. Chances are he’ll also be writing with a pen that has the name of a drug company emblazoned on the side. And if you visit his restroom, you’ll probably notice that his toilet paper has the words “Pop a pill for peak performance!” running continuously along the outer edges.

Your doctor will almost always give you a prescription, and you’ll return home from the pharmacy with at least six bottles of pills. One kind, you’ll need to take three times a day, right after meals. Another kind, you’ll need to take six times a day, on an empty stomach.

A third kind, you’ll need to take once a day, while completely naked ... Just figuring out the pill rotation schedule will give you a migraine – which means you’ll need a seventh pill.

And you never know what side effects you’ll experience. That’s because the pill manufacturers, afraid of lawsuits, warn you against every possible negative reaction: “Taking this medication could result in sleeplessness, drowsiness, laziness, incontinence, impotence, loss of appetite, loss of memory, loss of body parts ...”

Even if you’re in good health, you may need a lot of pills. Vitamins and minerals also come in pill form, as do many nutritional supplements. Some bodybuilders spend half the day swallowing pills, and the other half looking at themselves in the mirror.

Did you ever wonder why you never see a bodybuilder taking part in a marathon or running up a flight of stairs? Since they are so muscle-bound they would suffer from severe inner-thigh blisters (from all the rubbing), but the main reason is because of the terrific noise they would make. You can well imagine the embarrassing rattling sound as a legion of pills swill around within their muscular insides.

One of the most popular bodybuilding supplements these days is creatine, which can turn almost anyone into an Arnold Schwarzenegger clone. And it’s much cheaper than taking acting lessons.

But there’s one major problem with creatine and some other supplements: their long-term effects have not been fully studied, because most people won’t admit to taking them.

This worries me. If I were to take up bodybuilding, I’d be afraid of waking up in a few years’ time to find that I’d grown breasts.

“But just a minute, aren’t you a woman?” I can hear some of you asking about now. “Surely you already have breasts?”

Naturally, I do have the usual attachments that most women have, but I was thinking about the kind that would make Dolly Parton envious. Knowing my luck, though, I would probably lose my balance, topple over and end up having to take pills for a severe concussion.

Of course, the supplement makers would be thrilled and would probably ask me to appear in their advertisements. We all know what they look like: the embarrassing before-shots, and the improbable “taken with a misty-lensed camera” after-shots. “If creatine did this for her,” they’d say, “imagine what it can do for you!”

Of course, they’d have to pay me a lot of money. I won’t embarrass myself for nothing. Well, at least not without taking a pill first.

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