Foreward to the past
22 January 2021 | And a little bit of this'll get you up And a little bit of that'll get you down
I am certainly not one of the five people who went to university in the 60s and didn't smoke dope. Indeed, I have to confess that in my youth I shoved industrial quantities of an assortment of psychoactive substances into my system on a regular basis. These would be accompanied by pretentious prog rock from the likes of King Crimson and Yes bludgeoning me into insensibility. Was there ever a more pretentious, poncy, self-regarding album title than Tales from Topographic Oceans? I think not.
However, those days are long gone - I even managed to kick a 30 a day nicotine habit. Nowadays the nearest I get to chemically induced nirvana is a bottle of Leffe Brune to be savoured with Bella figlia dell' amore blasting out through the headphones.
It seems, though, that an unholy trinity of age, the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry is doing its damnedest to reverse this progress toward staid middle-class respectability. It's that bloody second law of thermodynamics again. Entropy increases. Chaos and disorder will win in the end. Parts wear out and break. Systems start to fail. Maintenance intervals get progressively shorter whilst the maintenance itself gets bigger, more time consuming and exponentially more expensive. This is true for the entire universe, for every star, every planet, every aging campervan and every boat.
And every man (1),
Which brings us back to drugs. As a rule, modern prescription medicines work well, but they are far from being a benign panacea. In general, the basic tenet of drug assessment is the old saw 'If it has an effect, then it has side effects.' The knack in medicine is to balance things out so that the beneficial effects outweigh the detrimental side effects by as wide a margin as possible. This is relatively simple when dealing with a single drug, but when you're dealing with more than that you have to take interactions into account. Consider my circumstances, which are not out of the ordinary for a septuagenarian. Every time something starts to go wrong, whichever doctor I am seeing at the time reaches straight for the prescription pad. I'm now on six different drugs spread across two different dosage times. This gives 15 different possible drug interactions.(2)
On top of all these challenges to the physician's art there is the awkward little matter of genetics. Different drugs affect different people at different doses in different ways. The only way to find out which does what to whom and at what dosage, is trial and error. This is clearly evinced by the Artane debacle as detailed in the 'Shaking all over' entry. In my befuddled state, I was so befuddled that I didn't realise just how befuddled I was (3), which didn't fully hit me until well after the effects of the artane had worn off, I had become slightly less fuddled, and life had returned to what is laughingly called normal.
Well, normal for me. My sort of normal is being very keen on spreadsheets. I love spreadsheets. My life revolves around them. Apart from their obvious uses such as finances and inventories, they can be pressed into service in all sorts of roles. Whenever I come across a novel task, requirement or problem, my first thought is invariably "How can I set up a cunningly inventive and complicated spreadsheet for this?"
So, once I had a scintilla of my mental faculties back, I naturally started to bring my plethora of spreadsheets up to date. I started with the accounts and loaded the most recently updated copy.
It was garbage.
Absolute unmitigated and mathematically inept cobblers.
It looked as if it had been drawn up by a half-blind, half-witted, drug-addled, semi-conscious, stoned retard who wouldn't recognise a square root if it stood up in his soup. Then I realised that it had been. It had been modified and updated by me before they changed the Parkinson's meds. This drug-fuelled digital GBH had been perpetrated several times while I was under the influence, so what followed was hours of mind-numbingly tedious forensic accounting. It was chaos. Amounts had been put in the wrong columns and formulae composed apparently at random. Whole chunks were mis-referenced and complete sections deleted or renamed. It took me nearly two weeks to get all the spreadsheets back into something even vaguely resembling order. Odd discrepancies are still turning up even now, months later.
So the current regime is a definite improvement on its predecessor. Mental clarity, speech, gait and posture are all back to non-Park's levels. (4) The only fly in the ointment is that, despite the cocktail of drugs rattling around inside me, the tremor remained stubbornly uneliminated.
So, I thought I'd throw in my three penn'orth.
There is some evidence to suggest that cannabis can have beneficial effects on Parkinson's symptoms, so I thought I'd conduct a rigorous controlled scientific experiment to investigate this. I nicked a wodge of my nephew's stash and set about making some chocolate weed cookies. (Recipe available on request).
Very tasty they were, too.
There were, though, a few problems with experimental design, mainly resulting from choosing the digestive tract for the delivery method. It took about an hour and a half to kick-in and it was impossible to titrate the dose accurately and reliably. On top of that, the severity of the tremors varied unpredictably before taking the dope so judging outcome was akin to guesswork.
But I persevered. Never let it be said that I faltered in my scientific obligations.
I was, if truth be told, just a little disappointed. If my memory served me well (unlikely, given the amount of psychoactives I used to have swirling around my bloodstream at that time) the experience in my younger days was far more enjoyable than the current business. The effects I remembered were personal and social euphoria, characterised by garrulousness, silly humour and a heightened sense of the absurd. And, of course, the munchies. The modern experience, by contrast, was more like being mugged with a shovelful of rohypnol.
More research is needed. (5)
Despite all the difficulties in experimental design, we think there was some damping effect on the tremor. But then, of course, there is the matter of side effects as previously discussed. Expected complications are compromised judgement, risk-seeking behaviour and a sense of invulnerability. More worrying, however, are reports of a sudden and total loss of fashion sense. This typically manifests itself as an incomprehensible predilection for flared velvet loons, cheese-cloth shirts unbuttoned to the navel, winged collars that could give Solar Challenger a run for its money, and facial hair that would put the Taliban to shame, topped off with a bouffant coiffure à la Barry Gibb.
Happily, though, there appear to have been no instances of a resurgence of sales of Yes albums and the renaissance of 'Far Out!' and 'Where it's at' peppering speech patterns.
That would be a step too far.
I still like the Floyd, though.
(1) and every woman, child, gerbil and fruit fly. In fact, it's true for any sexually reproductive species. Death is the price we pay for sex. I don't remember being consulted on this deal. Probably worth it though.
(2) If you're interested, the number of possible interactions between six drugs is found by:
N(6) = 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1
And that's just interactions between any pair of drugs in the mix. Start taking interactions between three and four drugs into account and the whole thing starts to increase exponentially.
(3) It's like the Dunning Kruger effect. This is a psychological phenomenon whereby those who are knowledgeable and competent in an area tend to underestimate their competence and vice versa. Or: people are often too stupid to realise just how stupid they're being.
(4) Notice the familiar terminology. After a distinctly shaky start to our relationship I have made my peace with the interloper in my brain. Park's and I are now on nickname terms.
(5) This sentence used to be ubiquitous among papers submitted for peer-review. It is now banned from many scientific journals on the grounds that it is (a) essentially meaningless and (b) at best a statement of the bleedin' obvious.