My friend is asking me about my dog’s health. I explain that we went to see the vet this week to review his progress and discussed increasing his exercise levels. He is to stay on his current medication for another two weeks. After that the vet will decide if we can start reducing the drugs. First dropping the anti-inflammatory one and if that goes well, the removing the nerve pain suppression one too. Having seen my dog pelt around the back garden, there is a bit of me that wonders if the vet is taking things rather slowly. I remind myself though we are dealing with a back problem here so better to take it along the slow route. My friend wonders whether the drugs are covering up the issue and I am reminded of the time I said the same thing to the vet. I got corrected.

I think the covering-up mentality is incorrect because it has a negative feeling about it. If we look at recreation drugs then I think culturally we do tend to think of them in one of two ways. People who take the drugs believe they will have a better experience because of them. People who don’t use drugs, believe that recreational drugs are used to cover up other issues that is causing the person pain. Both points of view have merit.

The only real time I have been noticeably high was after my liver transplant. My body was pumped full of opiates and steroids. I felt amazing. I didn’t need to sleep. Everything was so clear and possible. I was going to change the world. I could even eat as much ice-cream as I wanted. I didn’t change the world. Not in a way I felt I was going to anyway. Nowadays with the various mental and physical pain I undergo every day, the memory of super-me is very appealing and I can sense the temptation to find that place again.

In a sense my post-operative high was a side effect of the drugs being used to enable me to heal quicker. Removing the pain of surgery allowed me to move around and get my body working better. Movement is important because it encourages the flow of blood and antibodies around the system, stops muscle deterioration and stretches those scars a bit so that they heal with more flexibility. All good stuff for the short and long term I think.

My experience with anti-depressants was similar too I guess. Prozac gave me a buffer on life. I only felt happy for the first day or so before a dampening field arose around me. I still interacted with my life but in a more distant manner whereby difficult things had a lesser impact on me. Life was less overwhelming and because I had a goal of wanting to be more creative, I was able to focus on that and find a stability that eventually meant I wanted to come off the anti-depressants and function more authentically. But in even writing that sentence I know that I am judging the use of anti-depressants. Why do I feel my life off Prozac is better than when I am on it? Why make that comparison? They are just different. Anti-depressants lead me down the path of writing publicly. For me that was a good thing too.

Okay so those we major incidents in my life when I was under medical supervision, but we all take drugs most days. I take anti-inflammatories before I go running. Yes it does reduce pain whilst I run I suppose but the main thing is that it stops any longer term pain after the running. Once the ibuprofen wears off, my knees still don’t hurt. I don’t appear to be doing any more longer term damage to my body than any other runner and the physical and mental benefits are good enough reasons for me to continue.

And what about alcohol? Had a stressful day at work? Do you think you deserve a glass of wine /a pint of beer / a scotch in the evening? We often use alcohol to relax a bit at the end of the day. Is that a bad thing? The occasion drink isn’t. More regular drinking can be. I am tempting to get on my box about increasing incident of liver disease but I will hold myself back over that one!

The point is that most people probably use drugs in some way to help them get through a short term issue. For me that would be painful knees from exercise or dealing with headaches. I could say I am masking my issues but I would rather say that the drugs are helping me get through a short period of difficulty. They are helping me to heal if you like. Yes, drugs can be dangerous but that is why we have medical supervision but that supervision is there to make sure the drugs are used in a helpful way.

So no, I don’t think the drugs I give my dog are masking the back problem. I prefer to think of them as supporting his recovery. In the same way as I have been given drugs to support my transition through difficult moments in my life too.