Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Denial ain't a river in America

It sure is, and it's only going to get easier.

I read an article in Wired this month, "The Thin Pill," that documents how drug companies - and some doctors - have established a "disease" called "metabolic syndrome." What is metabolic syndrome?

Well, put simply, it means you're fat.

Obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels. These are the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome. Or what we used to call being overweight.

But by labeling the "syndrome" a disease, the article explained, it makes it easier for drug companies to treat the symptoms with a drug.

A new thin pill. It's on its way.

The idea is to take a condition that may be conquered with a lifestyle change (namely, diet and more exercise) and to recondition it as something that can only be cured by medication. The profits to be reaped are extraordinary, of course, because more and more Americans suffer from this supposed syndrome.

What boggles my mind is that more and more of these "syndromes" keep popping up, and - lo and behold - drug companies are there to provide the only recourse.

ADD, anyone?

So the new recipe for business success in America is:

1. Find a problem
2. Invent a disease
3. Market a drug to cure the disease

Voila! Instant millions.

Sadly, what's happening is drug companies are giving Americans a reason to deny responsibility for their own actions and behavior. Ritalin is the cure for being a six year old, we're told, but maybe kids should be allowed to be crazy and annoying and full of piss and vinegar.

And if Americans can simply take a pill to lose weight, is there any reason to get off the couch, turn off the TV, and go outside to walk your dog? It seems too easy.

It's turning into a denial syndrome, where we can deny the fact that our lifestyle is affecting our health, for good or ill.

What confuses me is how a society seemingly obsessed with sports and athletes and "Just Do It" can find any excuse not to get up and move. If we're so enamored with the fit, physical human form, why don't we do more to make our body-machine into a well-oiled fitness example?

Why leave all the work to athletes?

I think because it's easier to deny we have a problem, take a pill, and sit back and not change anything. That's the lazy route.

Maybe I'm off base here. Maybe finding enjoyment in going outside for a walk, tasting the fall air, and preventing an oncoming coronary is the kind of thing reserved for lunatics. I see what happened with my grandma and her small stroke, however, and I know that it can be avoided.

Not everything can be prevented: I could get creamed on the highway going 85 mph.

Wait. Make that "I probably will get creamed..."

But why leave it to chance?

Or, even better, why leave it to some pill that features side effects worse than the "syndrome" it's treating?

The same idea applies to fossil fuels: as long as gas prices are down, no one cares that our entire economic system is built on the shaky (and profit-rich) foundation of big oil that poisons us as we speak.

Or terrorism. Leave it to the government to keep us safe, so we can continue to live our lifestyle uninterrupted. Torture, start wars, do whatever - as long as I can listen to my iPod in peace. Nevermind they can't seem to do anything right these days.

I read about all this somewhere, sometime. "Brave New...something something."

Who's up for a Soma tablet?

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