Obecalp: For the little pill-muncher in your household

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My daughter currently has a little rash. Although we aren't completely sure about its cause, my wife and I have decided that it probably came from a sunscreen that we recently used. My daughter, like my wife, has extremely sensitive skin, and will break out at the drop of a hat (or the squirt of a sunscreen, apparently). Over the past few days, my wife and I have been keeping little Georgia covered in an Aveeno lotion, which we have bolstered with the occasional dose of Children's Benadryl.

I mentioned all of this as background to my latest parental fear. To put it bluntly, I'm afraid that I'm setting my kid up to be a miniature Judy Garland. Every morning, she tugs on my pant leg to demand her daily multivitamin, and she's gotten so used to being healed by creams, cough medicines, and Benadryl that the words "Mommy's bringing the medicine" are usually enough to calm her down when she's itching, or sneezing, or has a compound fracture, or...whatever.

Of course, my kid's pediatrician has either prescribed or explicitly OK'd every drug that we give her, but that doesn't reassure me all that much. After all, Elvis' doctor was pretty liberal with the prescriptions; that didn't keep the king of rockabilly from getting into deep trouble. Basically, I don't want to turn into my daughter's version of Dr. Feelgood.

My biggest worry is the kid's absolute trust in medicine. I was a member of the first generation to be massively medicated for school. Although my parents managed to (barely) resist my teachers' demands that I take Ritalin, I knew a lot of kids who swallowed "the smart pill" every morning. While I'm sure that their drug-based placidity made my classmates easier to teach, I'm also disturbed by the lesson that they got from their daily fix. Many of my friends learned that they were somehow "broken," that they couldn't function normally without a heady dose of drugs in their system. For some of them, this lesson continues today, in ways that aren't particularly constructive.

I am not, under any circumstances, suggesting that we stop prescribing medications, return to the dark ages, start using leeches, or any other drastic change. I know people who have benefited from the use of tranquilizers, pep pills, mood-altering medications, and whatnot. Hell, in college, I knew a guy who was completely insufferable unless he was stoned out of his gourd!

That having been said, I felt an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw "Obecalp." The brainchild of Jennifer Buettner, Obecalp (placebo spelled backwards) is a chewable cherry tablet that comes in a handy medical-looking package. Designed to provide relief when a child is displaying symptoms of hypochondria, Opecalp contains no medication, but lets the child know that mommy and daddy care.

While there is plenty of medical data to support the value of the placebo effect, I don't want to teach my kid that she can always find relief in a medicine bottle. I think my biggest worry would be that she might start to think that mommy and daddy's love always has a pill attached. Besides, given my daughter's deep appreciation of the chalky, artificial taste of vitamins, I think Obecalp might lead her to develop the first ever psychosomatic case of Ebola!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. His parents taught him to equate affection with books, which has led to get some very hard-to-explain paper cuts.

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