Monday, April 7, 2008

Musings about drugs...

I apologize for not updating recently at all. Totally goes against what I've been hoping to do, but with the end of classes (on April 3rd) and my current sinus infection, I've been under the weather with regard to blog posting.

That said, the latter does bring up one of my current rants.

I went looking for a decongestant today, because my sinuses are terrible (and when they block up, I get horrible shooting pains in my skull, specifically near my eyes). Now, I know as a rule that when one looks for a decongestant, one looks from a drug called pseudoephedrine. Essentially, pseudoephedrine is a vasoconstrictor (that is it constricts blood vessels) and this allows less fluid to leave the blood stream and slows mucus production significantly, as well as reducing inflamation.

However, pseudoephedrine (you have no idea how annoying it is to type that out every time) is also an important precursor in the creation of methamphetamine. As a result of this, and of the corrispondingly more stringent rules against the sale of pseudoephedrine, drug companies have begun to reformulate decongestants with other, less illicitly useful drugs, primarily phenylephrine.

The problem is, clinically speaking, that phenylephrine hasn't been shown to have any useful effect at all. A variety of studies have shown it to be no more or less effective than a placebo.

Which makes it somewhat troublesome for those of us who just want to get our nasal passages declogged to do so.

Is it reasonable that we restrict the distribution of a known-useful substance in order to prevent it from being used illicitly? This isn't a merely hypothetical question; this question springs up at every level of governance and law, from firearms to narcotics to motor vehicles.

It's probably unlikely someone will die due to their nasal passages being clogged up and unable to be relieved. It's equally well known that people have died from methamphetamines.

The problem is that judging risks and rewards when the numbers are measured in human lives is a very grisly business, and rarely do we accept that perhaps it's better to let a few people die for convenience...