The Wonder Drug Scores Again?

You know, sometimes a thing happens to me that causes me to shake my head and go “Good god, man, why didn’t you pay more attention to your own advice?”. Well, today’s example is my glowing praise for corticosteroids; cortisone is called “the wonder drug” for a good reason. As early as last December I wrote on the topic:

Much of the lethargy-induced misery, sadness, and tiredness one reads about on places like Reddit comes from poor lifestyle choices, but to make the effort to change your lifestyle you need energy! The solution is as radical as it is obvious: just give them energy! Feed them a low to moderate dose of amphetamines or corticosteroids and they’ll get off their butts and start living life in no time. I’m sure a few imaginative doctors are supervising such treatments right now, but it’s not a mainstream therapy, so we leave millions behind to silently suffer in their mothers’ basements. That needs to change. […]

The corticosteroids in particular are extremely useful, being dubbed “the wonder drug” for a good reason (they’re arguably the most useful drugs to have in a medicine cabinet; the stuff can treat almost anything), but for ordinary Americans it’s like pulling teeth to even get some for an autoimmune disease, let alone to control the symptoms of a virus, so what chance do the lethargic legions have? For many Americans the first time they even heard of dexamethasone was when Donald Trump got a big shot of the stuff in 2020 for COVID-19. Embarrassingly, this seemed to include many journalists!

And just yesterday I averred:

My physiology has always responded great to corticosteroids whenever I’ve taken them; for me even more than for other people it’s truly “the wonder drug”, since they pretty much cure every malady I ever get. I even find their pep to be much better than what caffeine gives me, and with no adverse effects whatsoever to boot, other than making me kinda hot (I’m heat-sensitive enough and live in a hot enough climate that I feel uncomfortably hot even for much of winter, let alone the rest of the year…).

Background

The topic must have been bubbling up to the tip of my brain, because for the past few days I’ve come down with a sore throat and to a lesser extent a runny and stuffed nose. It might be some sort of (very mild) virus, or it might be an allergy — the fact the nose (albeit not the throat…) gets worse any time I go outside and I sneezed once when going outside might be a clue — or perhaps a combination of both. Anyway, in my closet I’ve got a stash of a generic brand of Nasacort, which I use whenever my nose bothers me (which is kinda frequently). I also used it on my throat, after that oral anesthetic stuff proved totally ineffective, and good god, what a difference it made! And not just for the throat.

An Elixir of Rejuvenation?

A couple sprays of the stuff down the hatch, and I felt better across the board. It didn’t really hit me until today, when I realized that the sort of frustrations, annoyances, and setbacks I encounter on a daily basis that usually make me feel like literally my whole day is ruined — seriously, from the moment it happens to when I go to bed and even into the next day; it’s like I feel devastated — just didn’t get me down for long today or bother me nearly as much. I didn’t feel that way anymore. Now, I’m easily disappointed and frustrated and always have been (I believe “low frustration tolerance” is the technical term), but I’ve become far worse over the past two and a half years post-lockdown; on the generic Nasacort, it was like the clock had been rewound to 3 years ago, like none of the travails that have ground me down over the past 3 years ever existed.

And when I thought about it today, I realized I had more energy and more drive, my mind was sharper and my brain was clearer, and I felt happier. It’s like a cloud of lethargy, depression, and brain fog that has condensed around me since 2020 has suddenly dissipated.

And as if that wasn’t enough, my nose bled today — I get nosebleeds really easily and the blood pours out of me like water through a sieve (fortunately only the nose does that; I’ve read it’s a symptom of high white blood cell count) — and after putting tissue paper on it it stopped much faster than it usually does.

All because of plain old over-the-counter Nasacort. The active ingredient in Nasacort? Triamcinolone acetonide, which just so happens to be a corticosteroid.

One spray into you is 55 micrograms, and today, for instance, I took 3 sprays into the throat, amounting to 165 micrograms total. According to Wikipedia it’s about eight times more potent than prednisone, so the equivalent amount of prednisone would be 1.3 milligrams. When I was much younger I took prednisone on occasion when I was ill, and the effects I’ve experienced today and yesterday (and other times I’ve taken that nasal stuff) are comparable to the days I was on 1-2 milligrams (the most I’ve ever taken if I recall correctly is 10 milligrams). So Wikipedia’s numbers seem dead-on to me. That’s all considered low-dose as far as corticosteroid therapy goes, by the way.

Defying the Grind

The difference is stark, though. When I was younger those odd 1-2 milligram doses just made me feel a lot less sick and made me hot and perhaps a bit irritable; that’s all. Nowadays, on the other hand, it’s like a comprehensive rejuvenating potion. I knew my psyche and even my body were being ground down little by little after the lockdown. By the middle of this year, I was slipping into a shadow of my former self, filled with frustration, despondency, hopelessness, and a kind of creeping fatigue that left me barely able to muster up enough motivation or energy to do much of anything unless I willed myself into doing it.

About the only thing I had left that really gave me joy and fulfillment was ballroom dance, and over the summer even that started to slip, to where the high of happiness I got from it was milquetoast, and so fleeting that by the time I made the super-commute back home I felt worse than when I left.

I thought it was some kind of inevitable grind-down that happened with age and living in a hard world, but maybe it’s not as inevitable as I thought. Maybe there’s even something else wrong with me — much of my family suffer from a variety of disorders that only corticosteroids work like a charm on, and I’ve always had a touch of that sort of physiology in mine. Though I suspect I’ve got the same physiology and psychology as I ever did, it’s just that my body and mind have taken to the stresses of the past 3 years very badly. Even more badly than I thought, apparently.

Fortunately, there seems to be an affordable and accessible medication that restores me back to my old self. Sitting in my den today, I felt like I did in 2019, with only me feeling hotter than I did then in the same weather and a bit more irritable reminding me that the rejuvenation was not natural. But what does that matter? I now know again vividly what I’ve almost forgotten: what it feels like to be a normal wholesome human being; a feeling I intend to cherish for as long as I can make it last.

One Reply to “The Wonder Drug Scores Again?”

  1. Addendum: about a month later, I find that taking the stuff not every day, but rather on days I need particularly high energy, as well as varying the dose by how much energy I need and when I need it (in terms of time of day) works best for me. I do much the same thing with my high-caffeine coffee. 🙂

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