A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Fun with pharmaceuticals

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 24, 2007

Yesterday morning I walked out of my building and into … Kuwait. The air was hot and dry, with a dusty haze hanging high over the city. It was totally unseasonable, and totally weird. By the end of the day, the heat was gone, but the dust and strange atmosphere remained.

It isn’t the khamseen, exactly, but the cars here are all covered with dust – white, not the usual khamseen red. This morning, though, the air is fresh and cool – a beautiful Beirut spring morning.

This morning is also proving a good one to sample some of Lebanon’s other joys.

Lebanon, like much of the Arab world, is a great place for what I like to think of as the do-it-yourself drug industry.

This isn’t quite the same as self-medication, although the region’s minimal drug regulation does mean that a wide array of medications (including many whose use in the US requires strict physician supervision) are available over the counter.

What I am talking about is the literal drug-making. This morning, my kitchen became a little lab.

I had stopped by my favorite pharmacy (the sheer number of pharmacies in Beirut never fails to amaze me – almost as many as there are bodegas in Manhattan) while out running errands to pick up a particular skin cream – one that I have often purchased with a prescription in the US.

(Don’t worry – this narrative isn’t about to degenerate into a sad tale of a botched self-botox attempt. I am vain, but not stupid.)

Ah yes, said the pharmacist, We have this – the exact same thing.

And they did – same box, same brand. I returned home, delighted.

When I opened the box, my delight faded. There, instead of the large tub I expected, was a smaller tub and two vials. The accompanying sheet of paper gave instructions: Dear Pharmacist, it began.

Oh dear, I thought. I was never good at science. More specifically, I was terrible with labs.

And not even terrible in the spectacular, I-blew-up-the-high-school-chem lab sense. My labwork produced not a bang but the whimper of lagging reactions and insipid color changes. Was this history something I was willing to bring to bear on a cream destined for my face?

Still, as I wiped down my kitchen counter and laid out the two vials, I felt the illicit thrill that comes from doing something not sanctioned in one’s home culture. Here I was, impersonating a trained medical professional – in the secrecy of my own home.

It wasn’t quite on the same level as running a meth lab in rural Iowa, but it did give me more of a rush than, say, pulling the “do not remove” tags off my mattress and pillows ever has.

And I am pleased to say that at least as of the first application, my pharmaceutical efforts appear to have paid off.

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One Response to “Fun with pharmaceuticals”

  1. intlxpatr said

    Dying laughing, Little Diamond. I think the chemistry thing must run in the family – I actually DROPPED chemistry, I was so bad at it!

    Hope the results of your brave experience are all you hoped for!

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