on drugs

Right, I meant to address this a long time ago. Ann says:

there’s medicine you can take for that ’spoons in the drawer’ thing.

Which reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to mention about Expat Life.

Little secret for ya – the famous Universal! Free! Healthcare! in Germany is, erm, not without its problems (though I still think it’s miles ahead of what the US has). Universal healthcare is not free, it’s actually quite expensive, and one of the ways Germany keeps costs down is through a pain-management philosophy that boils down to: Suck It Up, Ya Pansy. A friend who got a massive uterine infection after the birth of her first child did not get painkillers, though the nurses did pat her shoulder and say “aw, don’t cry, Mrs. X.” Contrast this with what the nurse told me after the Sniglet’s birth in Wisconsin: “here’s drugs for when your anesthetic wears off, here’s some more drugs, trust me you do not want to feel that pain.”

I wrote before about how Germans don’t do the “have a nice day” thing because it’s not genuine, and they consider themselves more “real” than, you know, people with manners (pet peeve of mine, sorry).

If you combine this with their philosophy on pain, you can see that drugs that affect brain function are very frowned upon. We got a lot of raised eyebrows and lashings of judgement on the Ritalin thing (from people whose kids don’t have ADD, of course), and never actually gave it to him because my own husband is – well, German. Hardcore German – dude refused novocaine at the dentist for years, before I came along and asked him what the hell he was trying to prove.

Mental problems kind of exist at the intersection between medical problems (suck it up) and personality (be honest). If your crazy inconveniences your kid’s teachers, it should be rigidly suppressed through iron self-discipline. If you work for the post office, public transit or any government office, you can of course unleash it on the public, but otherwise no outlets or crutches for you. So while I have thought about asking for help, I don’t really have the cojones to fight an entire culture’s assumptions when I can’t even count on my husband for support.

To be fair, I can see the value of this attitude, in a wider sense. If you want to make sure everyone can afford healthcare, you need to try to keep costs low. Social pressure is essentially free, and therefore a very good tool for that particular job. See? It’s working. I’m not getting meds on the public dime, and neither is my kid.

Song du jour of the day: Worn Me Down, by Rachael Yamagata.

6 responses to “on drugs

  • amy

    What’s it like in the Netherlands?

    I have absolutely no German in me, and I can’t stand painkillers. I don’t think I’m even going to fill the prescription after this c-section. I took exactly one after the last one. I just don’t like them. (But dental work? I’d get knocked out cold if insurance would cover it.)

    As for the psych drugs, I don’t like them for myself, but I have used them on occasion, very lightly and very sparingly. (Like, a super-low dose of Zoloft, and when that plateaued, I just went off it, not wanting to go to a higher dose.) But there are days, if someone told me X drug would calm my kid down and get him to listen and do something about the defiant mixed with hyper, I’d give it to him. Only some days, though.

  • alala

    I had to have my wisdom teeth surgically extracted when I was 18. They gave me Percocet for that, and it was so horrible I only took one. I did a dance workshop three days after the surgery with no meds and a big ol’ bruise on my jaw – I hates the pillses, yes I does. Though I’ve mellowed out some in my old age.

    I don’t know about the Netherlands firsthand yet, though I did read an article which shows a fairly frightening attitude (and ignorance) about managing childbirth pain (I am deeply glad that I won’t be having any babies there.) From the article, it looks like they’re worse than the Germans. Maybe I’ll keep my German dentist.

    Re medicating kids, that was the terrible irony of the Ritalin debate: I only wanted to try it, to see if it would help. Even if it did, we might not have kept him on it, but I wanted to know.

  • Melanie

    I just finished a research paper on the pros and cons of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (ie. Prozac). If not completely BAAAAAAAAAAD news, as least very misrepresented regarding benefits vs. risks. Was a surprised to learn that Bush Sr. is is on the board for Eli Lilly, makers of Prozac? No, I was not. While he was in power rules changed re: how drugs get approval and started allowing for those direct-to-consumer “ask your doctor” TV ads. Coincidence? Naw. If I get the postpartum crazies again I’ll be going for cognitive therapy.

  • alala

    @ Melanie: oh yes, I have a long rant in the making, about Big Pharma and their incomprehensible greed and how they say they need all those obscene profits for research and development but it looks to me like they’re researching and developing ways to pathologize ordinary personality traits like shyness or a tendency to gossip and then spending all those wads of cash buying up TV air time to convince us we need to take some drug (which may cause side effects like hair loss, explosive bowel movements, and uncontrollable sobbing) to achieve some arbitrary social construction of “normality,” and that’s why they can’t supply cheap AIDS drugs to Africans living on ten cents a day, because it’s better to let thousands of people die unnecessarily than to let anybody think they don’t actually need the $1.50 each that they charge for those pills.

    Yeah. Someday I’ll write that.

  • I’m sorry, did you say “Boarding School”? « alala

    […] but she is also a total hovermom who would be on serious medication for her panic disorder if she weren’t in Germany, so if she was able to consider this place for her kid, it must be pretty nurtury and […]

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