The other day I needed to refill a prescription on which I had no refills left. Since I'm uninsured, this involved going to a local medical clinic franchise and paying $100 to obtain a piece of paper from a doctor authorizing me to take something I knew very well I needed with no $100 consultation from him, thank you very much. As it was, I felt ridiculous, an adult grovelling for magic paper like a high schooler trying to beg, borrow, or steal a precious hall pass.
It got me thinking about what I might call the Other Drug Legalization, the absence of which I had previously taken for granted. Why, exactly, do we have prescriptions at all? The best answers I can come up with are that it:
--prevents antibiotic overuse
--buttresses the idiotic War on Drugs by limiting the potential for homebrewing
--makes sure people don't kill themselves with drug interactions
--makes easy money for doctors
Two of these (preventing antibiotic overuse and fatal drug interactions) are great. And my gripe about the cost aspect of my visit to the clinic could be cured by the simple, common-sense expedient of universal health insurance. But I'd want to see more drugs available over the counter, even if we all got health insurance tomorrow and antibiotics remain safely rationed behind the counter to prevent overuse.
Why? Because people ought to be able to decide for themselves what they want to put into their bodies. (I might say they have a "right" to do so, but that's another discussion!) Making more drugs available over the counter helps eliminate the medical community's ability to enforce the pernicious distinction between therapy and enhancement. If, for instance, people want to take an anti-depressant to feel better than well rather than just baseline, they shouldn't need to lie to an anti-enhancement doctor to get a prescription for it.
There is at least one problem I can foresee, however, (I assume commenters will foresee others!) if such liberalization is introduced while the U.S. is still in thrall to its heartless and wasteful for-profit health insurance system: people who can't afford a doctor are going to self-prescribe even if they need someone's help to sort out drug interactions, and they're going to end up dead--for reasons that have nothing to do with liberty, and everything to do with poverty.
Ah, well. I guess it'll have to wait until universal healthcare....