Japanese painkillers: a bit like…

Posted on 31.07.2014


img56721545I came to a conclusion at 3:45 this morning, as I was kept awake by an insane migraine that required FOUR Excedrin in order to get back to sleep: this entire stereotype about Japanese drugs being weak is, to me, a whole hell of a lot like the UK’s ‘you can’t buy more than 2 drugs containing paracetamol at a time, because we assume you’re trying to kill yourself’ rule.

What I mean by that is that over the past few weeks, I’ve been sampling Japanese drugs and cold medicines, as I’ve been hit with the notorious ‘summer cold’ that officially equals the German ‘allergic to AC because we don’t have it EVERYWHERE’ symptoms. Blasted by AC at work, but you have to walk without AC down the road to the train station, so the hot-cold-hot-cold finally gets to you.

A general rule here is that drugs tend to be weaker than their western counterparts. This is not just something the westerners think. I’ve been told by numerous students that western drugs are too strong for them. So overall, the Japanese don’t use meds as often as we do, or they tend to use less than them. They also tend to weigh less, and be shorter than Europeans overall. So you do the math. Smaller person + lower body weight = less drugs required to have the desired effect. Also, as stated earlier, they tend to either experience a LOT more of the side effects, or at least be more concerned about them.

As I wrote in a previous post, I was able to all but eradicate my typical 2-week headaches merely by staying hydrated. I’ve been getting them lately, I think, due to the pressure changes associated with running in and out of air-conditioned places, and my inability to not drink water as quickly as I’m either pissing or sweating it back out.

The readers who actually KNOW me might recall that I already have a ridiculously high pain tolerance, and thanks to my dad, a really high tolerance to pretty much any drug on the market. Side effects? NEVAR! But this also means that it usually takes about 2000 mg of ANY painkiller, or the addition of caffeine, for it to actually have an effect on me. This led to problems when we stayed in the UK and had to either go back to the store every other day to buy more painkillers, or go shopping with family members who would buy painkillers for us, separately, so we could have more. We also had to hide this fact from a certain family member of Mark’s, who lives and dies by the recommended dosage tabs on the backs of drug packages. She was just NOT allowed to know exactly how many pills I was taking, or we risked being told off about the harmful side effects of overdosing on drugs. I had to literally SNEAK the drugs behind closed doors just to keep the headaches at bay.

The UK, as you may recall, seems to have an overabundance of citizens who prefer to kill themselves by overdosing on pills containing paracetamol (which is a drug very much like aspirin or ibuprofen, for those of you reading in the US). This led them to make a rule stating that no one can buy more than TWO items at any given time which contain the drug. So if you actually happen to be sick, you have to buy the cold meds and painkillers 1 box at a time, which means you have to literally walk in and out of the store a few times if you don’t want to go back to the store every day and prefer to stock up and stay at home, like many of the people I know.

Thankfully, Japan doesn’t seem to have that rule. I imagine that this is because jumping in front of trains seems to be the accepted way to end things around here.

I can’t read the Japanese Excedrin boxes. But I know 2 things:
1- Excedrin comes from the states, and I’ve used it before. The pills may or may not be caffeinated.
2- the Japanese are HARDCORE about dosage rules and ingredients lists (I have learned this from a few students who work in the pharma industry here)

So even though I can’t even find the number of mg per pill listed on the box (I never expected THAT to be hard), I know that I can still follow my own rule, which has worked in every country: if one pill doesn’t work in 15 minutes, pop another. And then another, until they start to work.

This morning, I’ve taken my MS pill, BC pill, and 3 Excedrin. Even by US standards, that’s about right. And I know they work for about 4 hours, since I took the last set at around 3:45. I may be hopped up on caffeine, but I have no idea. One thing is certain: my headache is gone, for now.

I’m not going to complain about the Japanese painkillers. The cold meds seemed to do their job just fine. I am, however, still going to ask friends and family to send painkillers and Lemsip from Germany and the UK whenever they can. For the sake of continued research.