A couple of months ago, I was home from work with a bad case of bronchitis. Not only was my breathing affected, but the body aches and the rapid swings between feeling hot and cold had me running through wardrobe changes faster than Cher at her Farewell Tour.
At one point, I was feeling so crummy, I was taking the maximum daily dosage of pain reliever. In doing so, I quickly depleted my supply and needed to open a new bottle. Little did I know the ordeal that was lying ahead:
The box was “sealed for my protection”. I understood why. I believe many of us can remember the events of 1982 that led to the reason why medication packages are designed and secured in the way that they are.
Check out this link for a refresher: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/tylenol-murders-1982
But despite the multiple attempts, with the “brute force” I was putting into it – maybe it was my weakened state – I just couldn’t tear through the simple plastic seal on the cardboard box, no matter how hard I tried. The packaging was visibly mangled, but I just couldn’t break in.
I gave up.
I took a knife out of the kitchen drawer and sliced my way in.
As I held the bottle in my hand, the next barrier was the sealed plastic wrap around the neck. I got what little nail power I could to try to tear it open, but all I succeeded in doing was to stretch the plastic. The plastic around the neck and the cap weren’t budging. I couldn’t break in.
Out came the knife again to slice through it while being careful to not slice through my hand, given my foggy, groggy state. The plastic around the neck of the bottle finally came off.
Was I trying to open a bottle or play a video game?
At level 3, I had to fight with the child-proof cap. On this day in particular, the body aches felt like the way I imagine how arthritis might feel. The joints in my hands were not cooperating and hurting more as I continued to force the bottle cap to push and twist.
I put the bottle down, took a deep breath, coughed a little from the bronchitis, and then took a moment to get centred and to find my happy place. I mumbled to myself, “You can do this”. I tried again, gently squeezing as I slowly turned the cap, and I was finally able to open the bottle… or so I thought.
At level 4, I had to face another most uncooperative security seal. The first step was to lift up half of the label to make a pull tab. The bottle was having no part of that. Our came the knife again to release the half to become the pull tab.
I thought the finish line was in sight until the pull tab decided it didn’t feel like pulling today. The silly thing did not want to lift even though that is what it said in its job description. Or again, was it due to my weakened state? Out came my trusty knife, one more time, to slice my way in.
After I took the medication, I looked back at the kitchen counter and the mess the Fort Knox of analgesics left behind.
What I find ironic is that so many medications caution users against piloting heavy machinery after taking, but in this case, I needed to risk injury by using sharp objects to get at them in the first place.
While I certainly do not want to diminish the tragic events of 1982 that led to these precautions, I just wonder if security seal over security seal over security seal is the best option.
Plus, at a time when we are rethinking our use of plastics in general, have we hit a point where the remedy might be worse than the disease?
Are there better ways of protecting the integrity of the product?
Is it time to rethink our options to strike a happy balance between maintaining safety in the packaging of medication and without making the environment sick?
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Have a great day,