I have always been wary of the medicine-as-candy notion — that medicine could taste like anything other than something unpleasant, something to avoid if possible seems alien to me. It may have something to do with the fact that when I was a child, my family was visiting with friends and they had Children’s Tylenol — only when I came across them, I thought they were candy because they looked like candy, were chewable like candy and were definitely sweet!

I couldn’t have been older than 8, and I had just wandered off in search of a snack. My parents couldn’t have possibly imagined that I would do something that might be harmful to myself and so they had no qualms letting me go into the snack pantry — which happened to also have the Tylenol in it. As a result of taking too many chewable Children’s Tylenol, I accidentally overdosed on the drug and needed immediate treatment. My parents wouldn’t have known any better had I not brought the bottle back with me to ask where we could get some candy like the one I had just eaten. It is quite fortunate that it was Children’s Tylenol and not full strength.

I was rushed to the emergency room where I had to get my stomach pumped — certainly it was an unpleasant experience but on the other hand, I had learned a valuable lesson that would stay with me even until today and that is that medicine should taste unpleasant so that you remember that it’s not meant to be enjoyed — only something to be suffered through so that your body somehow gets better. I should add to my story that it is based purely on my own recollections as the episode was so upsetting to my parents that they do not wish to speak about it — and the memory is at least 25 years old so take that into account.

Could a bitter blocking compound be the thing to change all that? I’m not sure that it is necessarily a good thing. The researchers behind the compound claim that it will make bitter medicine easier to swallow because it will make you unable to taste any bitter flavors.

I am reminded of an episode of The Twilight Zone called The Hellgramite Method, about a man who is cured of his alcoholism by swallowing a small pill that contains a worm that ingests his alcohol instead of him, threatening to kill him should he drink too much. I realize that blocking bitter tastes is not nearly the same as growing a worm inside of you, but could the bitter blocking lead to more drug abuse? What if a drug is extremely pleasant in its effect but unpleasant in taste, for example?

Ultimately, I suppose that anyone who is sufficiently determined to abuse drugs will do so anyhow — the bitter blocker will only facilitate the process. I am somewhat relieved, however, to think of all of the people who will no longer be able to complain that their dark leafy green salads are too bitter to eat because this bitter blocker will make that a thing of the past. Moreover, the bitter blocker will make enjoying other healthy vegetables easier, and for that alone I commend its creation.


  1. Love the article, Gordon! I’m glad you have the courage today to share the warning about what happened to you as a child and the unintentional overdose. I wish your parents would be open to talking about it, though, because their hard lesson was won in the winning back of your life — and a miracle like that should always be shared even if there is some shame in the confession.

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