Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For the love of doxylamine succinate*

I have a secret. It’s a drawer in my bedroom filled with every American over-the-counter drug from Anacin to Zantac. Every time I return to the States, I buy bumper packs of pain relievers and cough drops, much to the amusement of the pharmacy checkout clerk. But I never really get sick so I don’t often open the drawer.

This past week, though, I have been ILL. Of course it’s nothing exotic like the swine flu, but just a plain old summer cold. It started in my chest and has now settled, days later, in my head, causing ferocious sneezing, hacking and wheezing.

I finally broke down today and wobbled to the local pharmacy, desperate for a fix of some OTC goodness. The pharmacist patiently explained the different potions, but the net result is she had something to make the cough stop, something to make the cough start, and some feeble saline nasal spray which I suspect does nothing more than wet an already soppy place. I kept asking, over and over, “But don’t you have anything that will help ALL my symptoms?” The blank look said it all.

Sensing her good humor might soon wane, I scooped up the ‘stop coughing’ cough syrup and went on my way. I figured between that and the contents of my secret drawer I could cobble together an approximation of what I wanted.

I am one of those annoying long-term expats who always spouts off lofty things to my fellow foreigners such as “You can find everything you need here in Norway!”, “There’s always a substitute!”, or “There’s nothing from the US I can’t live without!” Turns out I have been beaten and these sentiments are not true when it comes to cold medicine.

That being said, I came home with my second rate cough syrup and pulled out the recently emptied bottle of Nyquil I finished off two days ago. Reading each line of the ingredients of the Nyquil, I managed to scrounge a similar drug out of the secret drawer. After necking about 8 tablets of varying medications, slurping the Norwegian cough syrup, and topping it all off with a swig of Cognac** (hey, Nyquil is 10% alcohol, you know), I settled in and waited for sweet respite.

It didn’t come. Instead I ended up with a sore tummy, a fuzzy head, and the same sneezing, hacking, and wheezing as before.

So to every expat that I have every smugly rebuffed for bemoaning something they missed from home, I take it all back. While I do still think you can whip up biscuits and gravy or a Thanksgiving dinner with close Norwegian approximations, I have learned that there is, in fact, something I can’t recreate here. But I am receiving my just desserts as I lay in a pajama-ed heap on the couch listening to repeats of Murder She Wrote.

Perhaps I didn’t get the cocktail just right… another swig or three of whiskey might just do the trick!***
* Doxylamine suucinate is the 'so you can rest' part of Nyquil. It's classified as a hypnotic, and since I never got into the hallucinogens during college, this is the cloeset I will likely come to a drug-induced state of bliss.
** Please note I have no medical expertise other than what I have read on Web MD, so I do not recommend this concoction.
*** To be fair, you can get cough syrup with codeine with a prescription from a doc here in Norway, but since I am allergic to codeine this is of little comfort. I am also allergic to visiting my doctor, incidentally.