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17 Jan. 2009
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Prescription Strength

"Court to hear case of teen strip-searched for ibuprofen"

This headline caught my eye yesterday, and not because (on this family-rated blog) of the notion of a teen being strip-searched.  The CNN Article, relates the story of "A 13-year-old Arizona girl who was strip-searched by school officials looking for ibuprofen pain reliever [who] will have her case heard at the Supreme Court."  The Supreme Court took the case to decide a constitutional issue, which is why we keep the Court around.  The issue is "whether school administrators are constitutionally barred from conducting searches of students investigated for possessing or dealing drugs that are banned on campus."

This is a good question, and well worthy of attention by the Court.  If you want more details, read the article or re-take "civics" in high school.  We are paying those nine worthies big bucks to decide, in this case, whether a federal appeals court ruling withstands constitutional scrutiny.  The ruling, in part, was this: "Common sense informs us that directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen ... was excessively intrusive."  The school, of course, is defending the notion that it's OK, and, presumably, not just for Demon Ibuprofen, but for the harder stuff like Tums.  I'll let them take care of it and move on to more important issues, as is my wont.

400 Milligrams

Just as this blog has thousands of millireaders, each gram has a thousand milligrams.  Most drugs come in milligrams, and the number of milligrams per tablet is carefully researched by the developer as to what an appropriate therapeutic dose might be.  For some drugs, such as the blood thinner coumadin, the dosage is very critical and must be carefully adjusted on a patient-by-patient basis.  For others such as Lipitor, the anti-cholesterol statin, dosages are available in binary progression, i.e., 10, 20, 40, and 80mg.  This tells us (without even asking a doctor!) that the precise dose isn't quite so important.  Still others, such as the bottle of Motrin brand ibuprofin pain reliever tablets I was holding in my hand seconds before I had to put it down to resume typing, have instructions such as:  "Adults and children 12 years and older:  Take 1 caplet every 4 to 6 hours while symptoms persist."  Oh yes:  one caplet is 200 milligrams.

The label directions give no weight to that of the individual taking the drug.  A 12 year old girl might weigh 75 lbs, it is not unusual for an adult male to weigh 250 lbs.  Considering the time variation of 4 to 6 hours, and you get a daily dose of from 800 to 1200mg in a body weight of 75 to 250 lbs, or a ratio of five to one.  Anything within this range is considered a therapeutic, non-dangerous dose.  These 200 mg caplets are available "over the counter."  I could (and, as you can see from the photo, someone did,) go into a store and buy this drug.

Breaking the Law

Motrin brand ibuprofen tablets These are OTC strength ibuprofen tablets.  I believe I can possess as many as I choose.  Being an adult, I am in no danger of being strip-searched to locate one, even if someone could be found willing to do the deed.
Ibuprofen tablet closeup Somewhere in this picture might be two caplets that I have (or haven't) surreptitiously glued together with a non-toxic glue such as Elmer's.  Is it possible that, if I were younger and had this evil combo in my pocket or secreted elsewhere on my adolescent self, the temple that would be my body might legally be desecrated by the school nurse?  Only the Supreme Court knows for sure, and it won't be telling for several months.

I've always been puzzled by "drug policy."  The fact that we and, especially, our government, exhibit such concern with "substances" of various persuasions.  But I have no immediate plan to get into the discussion-morass of drug "prohibition."  Rather, I'll gently wonder about the bizarre notion of "prescription strength."  The phrase says it all.  A 200mg caplet is available, in any quantity, to any purchaser, including children.  But for whatever mysterious reason, to get a 400mg caplet, as our 13-year-old Arizona girl was suspected of possessing, one must consult a medical professional, get a prescription, confer said prescription to a pharmacy, pay the pharmacy considerably more per milligram, and finally pocket the properly packaged prized pill.  Or use, optionally, a drop of Elmer's.  Or, (dare I suggest it?), just take two of the OTC version.

To be fair, this Supreme Court case has little or nothing to do with the milligramage of the ibuprofen pill, and everything to do with the ever-shifting boundary between individual rights and those of The Authorities in whatever guise.  But I'm bemused by "prescription strength."  Perhaps enlightenment will come to me from an unexpected quarter, since writing this blogitem hasn't provided any at all.

Aunt Lene

Yesterday's "Now Playing" was "New Toy" sung by Lene Lovich.  I sustained an email the next morning from a gentleman who inquired about an aspect of the PriUPS project, and appended the following note:  "Also, interested in this post: "New Toy" , btw : Lene Lovich is my aunt.  :)"

I know nothing about Lene Lovich beyond her music and the fact that I like a number of her very quirky songs.  But it is impossible for me to imagine her as somebody's aunt.


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