A Story – Chapter 3 – Occupational Hazards

My cowboy boots’ clomping echoed down the tiled hallway as I sped towards the elevators.  The docs had ordered some new blood work on a bipolar woman.  Time to check her Lithium level.

I swung my venipuncture tray side to side with my left arm as I sprinted out of the laboratory.  But I abruptly slowed as I passed the Dutch-style doors of the pharmacy.

My right arm lifted up while my roommate’s arm reached out of the open, top-half of the pharmacy door.  Hands clasped, or slapped.  A sort of modified low-five.  But as my hand withdrew it was now in a closed fist.

The exchange happened so fast that no one would have noticed anything odd.

Our coworkers knew Mike and I were roommates.  And we were always goofing around. Quick as a magician’s hand, I emptied what I had pulled out of thin air into my right lab coat pocket as I continued down the hall.

When I arrived at room 303 on the psych ward a somewhat agitated woman greeted me.  She was baring her teeth and sort of growling but her eyes softened when she saw me.

“Ms. Jameson, how are you today!”  I burst out.  “You know what I’m here for.”  She smiled widely.  “The vampire, I love vampires,” she said as she laid back on her bed.  Totally compliant, she let me draw her blood, smiling the entire time.

The nurse standing in the corner of the room suddenly spoke up.  “I don’t know what kind of hold you have over her, but before you got here we thought we’d be tying her down in these leather restraints.”  She pointed to the chair where the wrist and ankle cuffs lay ready and waiting.

“Oh no,” I said.  “Gladys and I get along just great.”  I looked over at Gladys and said, “Don’t we beautiful?”

Ms. Jameson smiled, “You need some more blood?”  “If you need any more just come on back here.”  She stood up, extended her left arm, and walked towards me.

“I’ve got to go run your test now, but I’m sure I’ll be back.”  “You be nice to the nurses, now, Ok?”

Gladys sort of gazed out into space.   “Sure, anything for you.”

As I walked out the door, I could hear her growling start up again.  Something about the vibe of the nurses on that floor just didn’t sit well with her.

With the immediate task at hand now done, I peeked into my pocket to see what Mike had passed off to me.  What we’d be partying with later tonight.

I had always said that if Mike had put his intelligence and creativity to work on some legal business venture, he’d be a millionaire.  But he was always after that momentary thrill.


Mike’s military career had come to an abrupt end.  Caught smuggling drugs, he was going to be court-martialed.  But a quick-thinking attorney argued that his recruiter had falsified his entrance application.  The judge bit.  After all, the military didn’t need this type of publicity.  It was ruled that he was never in the military legitimately, his records were destroyed, and he was put on a plane.  Those years erased completely.

It was only a matter of time before we would link up once he returned to our sleepy little home town.

For me, college life had been going smoothly.  I had quit fooling around with all of the drugs, settled down and put my brain to work, and I had one semester to go to finish that bachelor’s degree.

It wasn’t to be.

Mike moved in with me and we had both gotten jobs at one of the town’s hospitals.  Technicians – me in the lab and he in the pharmacy.  And the clock had just stuck 21 years-old for both of us.  Occupational hazards were ripe for the picking.  It was a recipe for disaster.


Looks like Mike handed-off a bit of a selection.  Valium, Placidyl, Chloral Hydrate, and Soma.*  All C IVs – locked but not counted.  He had open access to these drugs, and more, and they’d never be missed.

The pharmaceutical companies had lobbied hard when the Controlled Substances Act passed in 1970.  It was widely known that many of the popular drugs being used on the street had somehow migrated out of the pharmacies or somewhere out of the legitimate chain of distribution.

The companies making them didn’t care if they were being intercepted after the initial sales were complete.  They were making a profit.  A huge profit.  Double or triple the profit if they had to replace stolen supplies.  And if patients sold or gave away their prescription meds to their friends, well, that was just free advertising.

So, while some might have been aware of the legal drug classifications based upon what supposedly represented the drugs’ dangers, they weren’t aware of what the classifications required in terms of pharmacy practices for handling the drugs.  Once you came up the list and hit Schedule 4 [C IVs], the drugs no longer really had to be accounted for.  They could slip out into street use because no pharmacist had to physically count them to be sure the inventory matched what was actually prescribed.

Free-flow of the drugs most commonly abused, including those I just pocketed, was ensured.

Well, full-time work, full-time school, and full-time wilding took its toll, and I ended up out of commission for a week.  I bedded down during the last of the winter’s snow and when I emerged from my den, rested, the snow had melted, the grass had turned an electric shade of green, and the trees were beginning to bud.  Springtime in the Midwest.

While I was down, I had lent Mike my car to go to work.  So, I had a friend drop me off at the hospital to pick it up.  It was a Saturday and Mike was working a double shift.

I walked to the pharmacy to let Mike know I was reclaiming my car, and he surprised me when he said, “Be careful driving home.  You’ll find it in your tool box in the trunk.”

He looked both excited and scared to death.

Lightening was about to strike . . .


Stay tuned as this story unfolds . . .

Disclaimer: The same disclaimer made in Chapter 1 applies to every chapter of this story 🙂

Photo: I found this picture on the Internet in the public domain.  It tracked back to a web page called Pharmafactz Medicinal Chemistry Glossary.

Prior Chapters:  You can find the first two chapters of this story here:

A Story

A Story – Chapter 2 – Bad Chemistry

*Valium: Diazepam – a benzodiazepine (sedative) used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, seizures and as a muscle relaxant.

Placidyl: Ethchlorvynol – (sedative-hypnotic) for re-inducing sleep if waking in the middle of the night.

Soma: Carisoprodol – a skeletal muscle relaxant and pain blocker used for short-term treatment of skeletal injuries.

Chloral hydrate: a geminal diol – (sedative-hypnotic) used similarly as the benzodiazepines.   When mixed with alcohol, it was commonly called “knockout drops” or a “Mickey Finn,” nick-named after the manager of the Lone Star Saloon in Chicago who allegedly used the drug to incapacitate and rob his customers.

**Why play around with medications that are designed to sedate or induce sleep?  Well, if the abuser stayed awake and mixed them with alcohol they’d experience intense euphoria, often listed as a side effect.

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