More people in the City are taking uppers and downers to help them work, rest and play
Yet again this week the news has been full of stories about new wonder-drugs, and tales of successful types taking Ritalin or modafinil, drugs which are prescribed for, respectively, ADHD and Alzheimer’s.
Apparently, when given to healthy people they have the peculiar effect of making then hyper-alert, and able to concentrate for hours on end on tasks which they would otherwise have drifted away from. Which is just why they are perfect for people taking exams, or at work.
So are these the cure for all work-related ills? If you can work twice as quickly, then you can either get your work done in half the time, or get twice as much done. Either way, it sounds like a winner.
From Coke to coke, people in the City have always taken pharmaceuticals to help them work better.
Do you remember the tag-line for Berocca (a sickly orange mixture that is something like cold Lemsip with an Alka Selzer dropped in), which suggested that it was responsible for the success of those in the City? “Ever wondered if all the most successful people are on something? They are”.
Modern life is full of drugs. We think nothing of popping a Nurofen or six to dull our pains, or a sleeping pill to give us sweet dreams.
So is it okay to take stimulants and sedatives, whether chemical or natural? They were invented to ease the sometimes painful, weary, slothful or downright dismal path through life. Is it right to use chemical enhancement? In short: do we really need drugs to live well?
I didn’t sleep well last night, or for nearly long enough. Then again, that’s hardly unusual and not just for me. For the millions of urban professionals dividing their time between strenuous office jobs and equally demanding social and family lives, a regular good night’s sleep is about as realistic as sudden world peace.
When you’re having trouble sleeping or wake up feeling exhausted, the last thing you need is additional anxiety about how you’re going to get through the day. Thing is, coffee has limited benefits for one whose physiology is as tank-like – and whose sleep problems as severe – as mine. And nobody wants to drink Red Bull unless they really, really hate their bodies. What else is there for me and my type to do?
The unhelpful but most common response to this question is laden with vague suggestions for relaxing before bedtime, trying yoga and going herbal. From experience, none of the above have any effect on a mind that persists in waking up just when its owner turns off the lights, or in solving the problems of an over-stuffed diary. Pare down the diary, you say. I say: that’s defeat. Life’s there to be lived.
Humankind has invented ways to cope with most acute discomforts, from headaches to bad skin. And when it comes to speed and efficiency, we’ve really pulled out the stops: cars, mobile phones, portable internet. That we’re still stumped by tiredness – one of the biggest barriers to getting the most out of our jobs and our lives – is utterly pathetic.
I say: if a smart drug works, why not use it? When the alternatives are perpetual exhaustion, frustration and anxiety arising from said exhaustion and bottomless tankards of coffee, it’s hardly a risk not worth taking. As soon as herbalists come up with the perfect solution to bad sleep and the demands of a modern professional lifestyle, I’ll think again. Until then, I surrender to the pharma gods.
Boing! That’s me jumping out of bed in the morning at the moment. That’s not normal, you understand. The key words in that first sentence were “at the moment” – normally moving me first thing is like shifting a sack of spuds. And it’s all because I am on the wagon. Yes, from time to time I give up on the use of alcohol, sleeping-pills, painkillers, tobacco or anything else that might interfere with the natural rhythms and workings of my body. Even caffeine has been cut down to one espresso a day, replaced by gallons of green tea.
Call me an old hippy if you must, but every so often I go drug-free – it’s nothing so grand as a “detox”, which suggests a diet of mung beans and seeds augmented by long meditation sessions accompanied by the sound of a gong. The only thing that changes is the booze and the chemicals.
It has been a revelation. Everything falls into place. A long-time insomniac, I drop off to sleep in a second, and remain soundly in the land of nod for seven hours.
Usually a victim of gloomy, mid-afternoon slumps that are almost Swedish in their depth, I suddenly find myself in a weird equilibrium. The clarity is like a sort of high in itself.
The conclusion I’ve come to, is that once you start messing with your body in one way then you end up messing with it in others too. Uppers lead to downers. It’s a slippery slope. Drugs are evil.
That’s why chemicals are now banned from my body. Well, except hay fever drugs in spring. And obviously when I do start drinking again the painkillers will re-take pride of place on my bedside table.
Okay, I’m a self-congratulatory hypocrite, but I’m a self-congratulatory hypocrite who is going to feel great in the morning. Boing!