RogerBW's Blog

I just want to buy drugs 21 December 2020

Buying drugs is more difficult than it used to be. I don't do it very often…

Me (masked, at supermarket pharmacy): "Good morning. I'd like two boxes of paracetamol caplets please."

Pharmacy assistant (unmasked): "Why do you want two?"

Me (thinks): None of your business. On the other hand my friend clearly needs the stuff urgently.

Me (also thinks): Because unlike you, who clearly have to spend your entire shift here, I try to limit my exposure to shops and especially to unmasked people – like you – as far as is possible.

Me: "Because the person for whom I'm buying them asked for two. He doesn't get out very often."

PA: "Does he have a problem?"

Me: "No, he just doesn't get out very often."

PA, grudgingly: hands over drugs.

I don't think this particular PA has enough initiative to have thought of this for herself, so there has probably been a Directive from On High.

Do they think they will prevent suicide-by-paracetamol (a nasty and painful business, acute liver failure; don't do it, and I say that as someone who is not at all morally opposed to suicide) if they poke their noses in, thus causing the potential suicide to have to visit a second shop to get their lethal dose? Or, of course, buy it off the Internet and avoid all this nonsense?

Or are they trying to catch people who really ought to see a doctor but don't feel like waiting six weeks to be told without more than a trivial examination "there's nothing wrong with you, stop wasting my time"?

  1. Posted by Chris at 11:02am on 21 December 2020

    Indeed and indeed, you don't buy drugs often. This has been a legal guideline going on since September 1998, and a right bloody nuisance it is too. Not to mention that although they are only prepared to sell you one pack of sixteen, of twenty-four or if you are lucky of thirty-two without putting you through an inquisition, they seem just as happy to sell you one pack of ninety-six on exactly the same terms if they happen to have them in that quantity.

    The Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Amendment Order 1997 is the one you're looking for, I suspect.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:29am on 21 December 2020


    Neither "The quantity sold or supplied in one container or package shall not exceed 32" nor "The quantity of non-effervescent tablets, capsules or a combination of both sold or supplied to a person at any one time shall not exceed 100" seems to me to have any effect in entreating or requiring the shop assistant to ask why I am purchasing a legal quantity of drugs.

    (Also might have said "because I need a supply for the next several months until the supply chains start working again and they come back into stock at twice the current price," of course.)

  3. Posted by J Michael Cule at 01:42pm on 21 December 2020

    Yeah, I'm sorry Roger. I should have mentioned that to you. What's worse my doctor currently has me on another drug that is incompatible with paracetemol. So until that has run it's course I'm keeping the pain in my knee under control by ice packs. Now if only I could tell where I've put the bigger ones... I'm down to one small ice-pack out of three until I can search the others out.

    They like to know you before they will sell you that many paracetemols. The Boots in the town centre will (when I can get out) just say 'Right you are, Mr Cule." Because I've been going to them for so long and haven't committed suicide by Paracetemol yet. Only new employees who've never seen me before feel the need to ask for an OK.

    Now, there is a valid concern here. Some people have been known to committ suicide by paracetemol. But as a public health warning let me say to any people feeling down at the current season of the year that death by paracetemol is death by liver failure and according to my best information that is one of the agonisingly painful ways to go.

    Speaking of not getting out much... I'm stuck at home waiting for the chap to come and service my gas boiler. He cancelled last Monday but so far today so good. But I've got an afternoon slot and it's possible he won't get to me until five o'clock.

    I sincerely hope that reports of panic buying in the wake of the French closing the borders yesterday aren't true at all, at all.

    As a very tiny silver lining, it looks like DHL may deliver my copies of the print version of OGLAF about mid afternoon.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 01:58pm on 21 December 2020

    Murder by paracetamol, on the other hand, is fairly impractical; people probably get a bit suspicious after the 30th tablet.

    (Also, the really good reason for not using paracetamol for suicide: these days if they find you during the several days of agony they have a fair chance of bringing you back, so it was all for nothing. And you then have a knackered liver.)

    I sincerely hope that reports of panic buying in the wake of the French closing the borders yesterday aren't true at all, at all.

    My dear fellow, you are so charmingly optimistic. (Short version: it's very patchy.)

  5. Posted by Jon Hancock at 03:27pm on 21 December 2020

    There is a grim irony in how painful it is to use a common painkiller for suicide.

  6. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 04:23pm on 21 December 2020

    Paracetamol is one of those over the counter drugs that has a LD50 that can vary quite substantially due to confounding variables; weight, sex, and health.

    Prior to 1998 it was thought that 4000mg was toxic. Then it was discovered that 1000mg was sufficient. Hence the paranoia of pharmacists.

    If UK Gov insisted on all paracetamol combined with the antidote then the LD50 would be consistent, but more expensive, and I imagine at a lot higher dose too.

    Caveat water has an LD50 of 6 litres.

  7. Posted by Nick Marsh at 10:42pm on 22 December 2020

    And a mere 6kgs of chocolate will send you seizuring, shirting and sated to your grave.

  8. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:59am on 23 December 2020

    I just say "I have a bad back" (true) and not only will they sell me however many paracetamol and/or ibuprofen I want (they work best in alternating combination), they offer me much more serious stuff. I tried codeine once and felt so awful the pain was a relief when it came back.

  9. Posted by J Michael Cule at 11:30am on 25 December 2020

    I tend to turn down offers of opiate related painkillers knowing that way constipation lies.

  10. Posted by Gus at 08:50pm on 27 December 2020

    Another really annoying thing is that Lidl (and quite possibly other places, but I haven't tried) will only sell you two packets of paracetamol and ibuprofen. Two of one, one of the other and checkout says No. That strikes me as particularly pointless. And what about the people shopping for isolated or actively plague-ridden neighbours?

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