Pharmaceuticals…just say no

When it comes to pharmaceuticals, I do my best to “just say no.” I rarely take any pill or medicine. The kind of drug abuse that seems unnoticed in our society is that which is advertised everywhere we look. But for this trip someone told me about Ambien. “Take one and you sleep eight hours straight and wake up feeling sharp and crisp.” When dealing with jetlag, for me, staying up on the first day isn’t that tough. The problem is that I wake at about 4:00 the next morning and then I’m beat that next afternoon. So, on this trip, I popped one Ambien the first night and, on day two, I woke up after nearly eight hours to the memory of my alarm clock ringing. One point for pharmaceuticals.

I was “on camera” from the get go, and now our two week film shoot is over. No more wardrobe concerns. It’s so great to spill on my shirt and not send out an SOS for fizzy water. (A great remedy for oil and sauce splatters–a fact of life in European restaurants for someone as well-mannered as me.) I can change my shirt whenever I like–rather than wearing the same one for five days in a row as I do when making a TV show (to minimize “continuity” concerns when filming). I don’t care if I get a cold sore (I’m fever blister prone only when I’m over stressed and working too hard…which I only am and do when I’m filming). I don’t care if it rains (which is a major headache when making a TV show, as sunshine brings out the colors and the people and simply carbonates whatever we are featuring). When filming in cloudy weather, we work twice as hard for half as long. I don’t care if the schnapps pub is empty (last week, in Salzburg, it was, and I had to holler “free schnapps” to get those rustic faces laughing and twinkling around the bar). I don’t care if street musicians are disturbing the peace (last week I had to politely pay a bad flute player to be silent…tough to do diplomatically…but every bad flautist has his price). Simon and Peter (my Biblical named film crew…director and cameraman) flew from Munich to Seattle with some precious carry-on baggage: about 20 hours of hi-definition video film from which two dynamite programs–Vienna and Salzburg/Austrian Alps–will be edited this month. (Our new series airs this September across the nation on PBS.)

As they flew to Seattle and I flew to Madrid, I felt thankful to be able to collaborate with such a talented, hard-working, and committed-to-quality team. Working hard with the right people is a joy. Next stop…Spain!


17 Replies to “Pharmaceuticals…just say no”

  1. Jet lag US->Europe is worse for me than Europe->US direction. I also have the middle of the night alarm clock after arrival in Europe. My alarm goes off at 1:30 AM for several nights after arriving in Europe. I now use melatonin for about 5 days after I arrive in Europe. It’s still tough that first day to stay awake, but melatonin helps my brain sort out the timezone change much faster.

    Traveling back to the US always seems easier. I get on a plane in the morning at CDG, and it’s just a really long day of flying. When I arrive exhausted in Texas, it’s just getting dark. My brain can cope with that.

  2. I fly to England several times a year to visit family and so when we show up my Father inlaw immediately starts pouring the wine and after a couple of glasses of that combined with never being able to sleep on overnight direct flights from Seattle I am out like a light and wake up the next day feeling much more energetic. The jetlag when I return home is always much much worse. (I mostly chalk it up to coming back to normal life)

  3. Excellent insight into what goes into some of the shows. Glad to hear about the new season in September!

  4. Good morning Rick,
    My wife and I just returned from our latest visit to Europe, and as usual we used your guides to help us plan. We had a thoroughly great 3 weeks in Sankt Goar,Beilstein, Bruges, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen and many places in between.

    Jet lag never seems to bother us after our flight from Seattle to Europe. Maybe it’s the excitement of getting there? But, when we return the jet lag is terrible. Anyway, I’ll have to remeber the Ambien tip for next year.

    Love the blog. My wife and I started a blog for this trip too. I’m afraid we have a long way to go as travel writers, but we had a blast logging our thoughts and pictures for friends and family. It’s called Jacobsen

    Best wishes for a safe journey,
    Arnie and Jodi Jacobsen


  5. My advice for US travelers to Europe is to always take the last flight of the day in each direction. On the departure side, the later the flight, the easier it might be to sleep on the plane. On the return flight, you’ve given yourself that much more time to enjoy a last morning in a wonderful place.

    Upon reaching your destination, in both directions, always have a plan for light activities to keep you going till a reasonable bedtime. I’ve found that if I tough it out the first day, I’m in great shape the rest of the trip.

    Happy travels!

  6. Careful with the Ambien! My husband took it once a few years ago (at home) and we spent a terrible night! Every 30 minutes or so, he would wake up, get out of bed, and try to make coffee and hop in the shower – thinking that it was morning. He has little recollection of this! It would be a good idea to try taking Ambien at home before traveling to make sure that you don’t have a similar reaction.

    I personally prefer the gentleness of Melatonin myself. I take a very small dose (1mg) sub-lingually on the plane and I actually get some sleep! I also follow Rick’s lots of water/fruit juice and no alcohol rules en route. Works for me!

  7. I keep a light snack near the bed when traveling overseas, because when I wake up, it would probably be supper time in the U.S, and my stomach is reminding me.
    After the snack, I usually will be able to fall back asleep pretty easily.
    Also, I try to get on the local time for eating meals as soon as possible.

  8. Ah…better living through pharmaceuticals. Having been on two of your tours (acting as the unofficial tour pharmacist), I am an Ambien believer. One ambien on the evening non-stop flight from Seattle to London and one every night for the next few nights and jet lag can’t touch me. I tried to tough it out on the first tour and was wide awake at 2:00am in Varenna…4 hours before the church bells pealed 64 times. Marcia is right, though…always try any new medication out at home to see how it affects you before taking it on your vacation and running the risk of missing something wonderful…as one of the side effects of ambien is amnesia!

  9. Whoa Nelly, be careful of the Ambien, my cousin had the same reaction of Marcia P above, waking up in the middle of the night, going to the refrigerator, making a sandwich, taking several books from the library, sitting at the table with the lights off, eating, and not remembering anything the next day….she even spoke several words (for us to leave her alone with her food).
    The next day she said we made it all up !

    I’m lucky, if I stay up, I never get jet lag either on the way or on the return, just by “rejoining my regularly scheduled life” when I get home.

    By the way my boss is a prescription drug junkie, began with a toothache years ago, now has 12 bottles on the top of her desk for every ache and pain real or imagined….try to keep it natural…

  10. So Mr. Steves, Did you have a RX from your Doctor or are you just “trying someones medications?” There is a safety issue here along with the legal aspect.

  11. Rick,

    I had a terrible time with jet lag in Feb. 2006 visiting my new grandson, son & wife in Finland for 10 days then returning to Seattle and work. Took a couple months to get normalized, so I was prescribed Ambien. It didn’t do much for me then but I saved it and took it to Europe (Germany, Austria, Italy Germany all thru June, 2006. I used it most every night and did well as long as I didn’t stop. When I ran out in Cinque Terra, I showed the bottle to a pharmacist in Monterosso al Mar. He couldn’t be sure what it was, but after I got a description off the internet he sold me the Italian version Stilnox without having to see a doctor.

    While in Piano di Sorrento staying in a room high above the Naples Bay with a double door open all night in front of our beds, I had some trepidation. Ambien is said to cause people to go traveling in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to go flying out the window. The sleep was wonderful and necessary. I stopped soon after returning home.

  12. Rick,

    I agree with you about the Ambien. I’ve always have trouble sleeping the first night of arrival in Europe, even if I’m tired and exhausted. This last trip I took an Ambien in Paris the night we arrived and the next day I was well rested and needed no more.

    As a pharmacist I recommend you take only what you absolutely have to have and leave the rest home. If you have no prescriptions to rely on than I recommend four over-the-counter drugs to take with you: 1. Liquid Benadryl for hives, allergic reactions, sniffles, etc – 2. Aspirin for aches, pains, fever, and chest pains (if advised by a doctor) 3. Hydrocortisone 1% for rash, itch, insect bites – 4. Bacitracin for burns, blisters, and cuts.

    By the way, have you noticed how your kidneys are overactive during the night after returning from Europe. It’s because our vital organs operate on a clock. They are active during the daytime and slowdown at night. When you change timezones they adapt.

  13. Theses are good comments on Jet Lag,but each time I travel to Europe ,I have somewhat of a problem with irregularity in my bathroom habits. I exercise and drink loads of water while at home no problem;but when there is a change of time plus having to be on a tour bus by 7 or 8 a.m.there is a problem for me. Any suggestions.
    Thanks, CSG

  14. Regularity has been a concern of mine while traveling too. It is very disconcerting to be on a busy street in an unfamiliar neighborhood (or on a bus) when you realize you need to find the facilities. I can suggest to Cherry to try a teaspoon full of Metamucel before bed. If you wake up at least an hour before breakfast, you will have a relieving bathroom visit before starting your day! It’s not a laxative, but natural fiber, so not habit forming. Try it at home to see how it works for you. Take your own from home. It may be difficult to find overseas… Croatia never heard of it.

    Jet lag is always minimal goint West Coast to Europe for me. Coming home, however, is terrible. I think it is mostly depression having to return from vacation!

  15. Ambien was a charm for me on our long flight to South Africa and another Trip to Europe. No jet lag at all…My doctor would only write a script for 7 pills with the warning that they are extremely addictive. Another Doctor on my latest trip wanted me to try Lunesta. It is said to have fewer side effects and is not addictive. Did the same job, BUT…bad side effect of NASTY metalic taste in my mouth for a day after taking it….Rather have my Ambien

  16. I use valtrex for fever blisters.(Prescription) I also apply LOTION AFTERSHAVE 2 or 3 times daily everyday that I shave.The lotion absolutely cuts the fever blisters down to a minimum, it really works great for me!The valtrex has side effects but works IF you take it soon enough.Try aftershave lotion liberally spread on and you may be surprised at how effective it is in de-stressing your mug!Rick is so honest to admit the “curse of the fever blister”, that I had to share what works for me in the hopes it will work for You also!Happy Travels to You too!

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