Friday, February 28, 2014
The Doctor and Cocaine
When we were young my wife and I belonged to a group of people who liked to cook and who held rotating dinner parties. Once in a while we would be the hosts, other times we went to someone else's home. We met an eclectic group of people, as the guests were never the same twice in a row.
We met a retired doctor once; a man who was at the same time elderly and in the prime of his life. He told us about the "good old days" when he went to med school, and took cocaine to cram for exams during "all-nighters." I had heard that during another time in history, Coca Cola actually contained cocaine. This man had grown up when using cocaine wasn't illegal and was often used as a stimulant.
He went on to tell us about his first practice. He moved to a rural village which I won't name here, although he told us where it was. In his first six months he had seen numerous patients with deviated septums, that is, a hole in the membrane that separates one's left and right nostrils. In med school he had been trained that this was the number one indicator that the patient was abusing cocaine, snorting so much that it was burning a hole through the septum.
His puzzlement wasn't in the condition, but the patients. This was a farming community and the people lived a simple, basic life that might involve a little drinking but surely not cocaine abuse. He went on to tell us that after a couple more months he figured the mystery out. Gesturing to his nose with his index finger he indicated that the people hadn't burned a hole through their nose, they'd simply picked their noses over and over until they'd picked right through them!