The Big Issue : Edition 505
THEBIGISSUE19FEB–3MAR2016 15 bottom hole. It is the terrible agony of talking to the pharmacist. Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to enjoy very decent health and therefore very few conversations about my health with the pharmacist or anyone else. The most extreme medical procedure I ever underwent was the removal of a facial skin cancer that was far less serious than it actually looked. A facial bandage tends to make one look terrifying – like one of Hector’s henchmen from season three. As such, all persons, including pharmacists, avoid extended contact and just wish for you to quickly leave and return to your business with the drug cartel. But haemorrhoids are not so threatening, and as I have had recent frequent occasion to visit the pharmacist to secure a range of ignominious ointments, all I’m enduring is contact. This is not, by any means, to demean the pharmaceutical profession. These learned persons work hard at the coalface of everyday health care and I am sure their patience, compassion and forbearance is tested more than during pregnancy. But I have lately observed a new habit of the pharmacist that has been emerging in the broader culture for some years. I don’t like it and I don’t think Heisenberg would approve of all this conversation about what is apparently called “complementary” medicine. I can’t quite recall the name of the thing the pharmacist suggested I should purchase. I want to say “dingleberry extract”, but I don’t think that’s right. Whatever it was, no fewer than three pharmacists urged me to buy it with the promise it had been “clinically tested”. There are now towering rows of things that have been “clinically tested”. I was never great shakes at science, but I do seem to recall that the mere fact of a scientific test is no guarantee of scientific proof. I, for example, could “clinically test” the hypothesis that the series finale of Breaking Bad was not good for my piles. I could, for that matter, “test” for evidence that the tooth fairy tended to leave more generous donations during Gus’ reign of New Mexico’s meth supply. This only means that I have tested garbage, which I am pretty sure what my purchase of dingleberry extract would be. This is a peculiar age of pseudo- science. We use these half-enlightened terms about implausible things and then we tell people they will help their inflamed bottoms. Or, as it apparently goes in pharmacy conversations now, their digestive tracts or their depression or even their eyesight. I know that pharmacists have to make a living through the sale of items, and as I am, like Skyler White, a fairly cynical consumer, I find it quite easy to say no. I have been tempted to explain to the pharmacist that you don’t cook the best blue crystal in Albuquerque by simply accepting that every hypothesis that cannot be falsified is the same thing as proof. If Walter White taught me anything, it is a great respect for the labour of the scientific process. “I can’t quite recall the name of the thing the pharmacist suggested I should purchase. I want to say ‘dingleberry extract’, but I don’t think that’s right.” RAZER For the Love of Science PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND ILLNESS, AS YOU know, is nothing but a tedious waste of binge-viewing time. If I’m going to be laid up, sweaty and nervous, I want season four of Breaking Bad to be the cause; I prefer to waste my time in good health, not in poor health. Whether you are lazy like me, or professionally ambitious like Walter White, illness is just a bore. But, after a few mild bouts of nothing-particularly-serious, I do not simply begrudge illness: I have come to actively loathe it. Once, I just resented it for robbing me of my television-in-bed time. Now, I actually hate it and plan to do whatever I can to avoid it, even if this includes eating my greens. This is not due to the unbearable pain of my condition – a mild and unromantic case of piles. It’s not even due to embarrassment, which is an indulgence that never helped soothe a single itchy » Helen Razer (@HelenRazer) is a writer, internet TV viewer and anti- pseudo-science educator – on a mission to eradicate “dingleberry extract”.