the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Cold Medicine


My mother flew back to New York today.  Thanks, Mom, nice having you.  We’ll make the Getty Center next time!

But, to be honest, it was nice to have her go.  I looked forward to some quiet time.   Of course, the gods had other plans for my life.  Sophia woke up today with a cold (second time in two months, poor thing!).   She had to work this morning, which only made her worse.  In the afternoon, I was about to go out and buy her some cold medicine when she told me to wait.   Sophia is a born researcher and didn’t just want any old cold medicine.  She researched online to learn what others think is the BEST cold medicine du jour.  So, here’s the lowdown — in 2007, Tylenol Cold and Benedryl are as “out” as Michael Richards once-flourishing television career.  The new headliners are Tavist D and Drixoral. 

OK, good enough.  Off I went to Vons, my local supermarket.    How do people ever choose a cold medicine?  There are literally a 100 different brands in different packaging — 12 hour, 24 hour, caplets, liquids, maximum strength, cold and allergy, cold alone, etc…  Strangely, Vons had every cold medicine under the sun, except for the two brands I wanted. 

I drove over to CVS Pharmacy.  They had an even bigger selection of products, but NOT Tavist D or Drixoral.   It seemed as if these medicines were selling out as fast as that Elmo toy at Christmas.

I went to Walgreen’s.  I could not believe it.  They DIDN’T have it either.  Surely, something was amiss.  I waited in line to “consult” with the pharmacist.  In Walgreen’s commercials, the pharmacist is always a friendly older man who looks like he would come to your house and make you some chicken soup you if he had the chance.   This pharmacist was a mean-looking young Filipino woman.

“I’ve been looking all over for Tavist D or Drixoral, but I can’t seem to find it.” I said.  “Is there a substitute I can use?”

“We do have them.”


“At the counter.” she snarled.


“No, BEHIND THE FRONT COUNTER!  California law!”

I called Sophia, who made fun of me.  Apparently it was a big news story last year.  Tavist D, Drixoral, and several other cold remedies contain Pseudoephedrine, and drug users were using these pills to get high.  Now pharmacies keep them behind the front counter.

“I don’t remember this news story.” I said to Sophia.

“You were probably too busy blogging at the time.” she answered.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:   At Least She Got an Umbrella 


  1. V-Grrrl

    If only you lived in NY, I’m sure you could have found some Drixoral openly displayed at a transfat speakeasy in NY. (“I’d like a large fry and a side order of Sudafed, please. Make that two, I’m feeling reckless.”)

    Remember, keep the cold medicine in the brown bag, we don’t want the neighbors to talk…

  2. Dave2

    What I do is buy a box every time I happen to notice them for sale… that way, if I should ever decide I want to get high on pseudoephedrine, I’ll have a massive stockpile available for my brain-damaging pleasure and won’t have to explain to the cashier why I am wanting ten boxes of Tavist-D.

  3. Bice

    The Pharmacy Nazi… No Drixoral for you… one year!

  4. Lux Lisbon

    At Target they now have these plastic cards that hang where the box of pills should be hanging. You have to take the cards to the check out. In Arizona there is a limit on how many boxes of pills you can buy at one time because people who make meth use it as an ingredient. A bit aggravating if you like to stock up on stuff.

  5. deannie

    This is one of those moments you pause and thank the Lord you didn’t know this since of course you don’t think like a illicit drug maker, you didn’t know how big a deal this really was.

    Allegra-D is a prescription drug but the best thing since sliced bread IMHO. Over the counter stuff just doesn’t cut it for me anymore 🙁

  6. jenny

    Yeah, Neil – where’ve you been? All the best meth labs are using Tavist-D these days. And here I thought you LA folks were with it… 😉

  7. Karl

    Yeah, they’ve been doing that for a while. Lots of cold medicines (with the Pseudoephedrine) are used by drughounds to make crystal meth.

  8. orieyenta

    Wait…you were too busy blogging to notice something? Say it isn’t so. 😉

  9. paperback writer

    I’m quite sorry for my attitude at Walgreen’s. The commute is a bitch from Pittsburgh.


  10. Megan

    Now all you can get in Florida without showing ID (yes, you have to show ID!) is this PE stuff, which is shit.

    I say, stick with nasal spray. It works better anyway.

  11. Amy K

    Yes, in New York people even have to sign a log that the state has when they purchase such medication! Hope S feels better; I feel like I am at work at an infirmary today, not a high school!

  12. Elisabeth

    Hey, I made “Crush of the Day” again – man, the high I am getting from this could never be equaled with Drixoral!

    Paperback Writer – Great comment! I laughed out loud when I read it! :o)

  13. M.A.

    That is so interesting. I was just about to write about how the new liquid form of Tylenol Cold Nighttime is the best thing ever. I’ve caught a second cold and that stuff worked (or it at least put me to sleep).

  14. e.

    It’s true, they’re all behind the counter. It might even be a national regulation, cause they’re sure behind the counter in Va. I suspect it’s less about the drugs, though, and more of a subversive movement in the government to promote human interaction. Seems about right, doesn’t it?

  15. plain jane

    You all must live in affluent neighborhoods. If you lived in a poor rural area like I do you would know all about cold medications and meth.

  16. ms. sizzle

    if it makes you feel any better, neil, i didn’t know they were behind the counter either. and recently when i went into the supermarket to purchase cold medicine, i was so overwhelmed with the choices, i stood there for a good ten minutes staring at the shelves. finally, a stocker for the store asked me if i needed any help. i just shrugged saying, “there’s just so MANY choices.”

  17. Jack

    57 different drugs and none of them do a thing. They are filled with sugar.

  18. Ash

    You get cold medicine in the supermarket?? We can’t even buy aspirin in the supermarket – have to go to a chemist for that and it’s behind the counter!

    In one of those strange twists of fate one cannot buy cold medicine (of any type) here in Holland at all.

    One can, however, wander down the road for some semi-legal street drugs of choice.

    Husband brought some cold meds back from the US. Thank goodness he did because I got a cold just after Christmas.

  19. kristen

    When I recently bought my husband Sudafed, I had to give my drivers license and it was registered.

  20. Rick

    Oh, yeah, anything with “ephedrine” in the name is good as gold. Takes a lot of it, though, and some tractor starter fluid, to getcha goin’ in the mornin’.

  21. kapgar

    Katie knows the whole enchilada. Pseudophedrine can be reduced to give you the components needed to make crystal meth. At one of her old jobs, they busted some kids who tried to make off with the pharmacy’s entire stock of Sudafed. Got busted by security. Soon after, the stuff was locked up.

  22. Margaret

    I didn’t know about this either, but I not a researcher..

  23. gorillabuns

    leave it to oklahoma to start the insanity. yeah, we’re the meth capital of the world, what of it?

  24. Churlita

    In the other meth capital of the world – Iowa, they even watch whether people are buying fertilizer and hoses in the winter, and call in to report them.

    My, but aren’t you getting a po’ white trash education today?

  25. Rhea

    When I visited Japan a few years ago I developed a terrible cold. I stopped at a pharmacy where, unfortunately, no one behind the counter spoke English. I pantomimed my symptoms and a woman brought back a little bottle. I paid for the medicine and took some, even though I couldn’t read the directions. Scary. I don’t recall my cold getting any better, but ever since I’ve had unexplained cravings for salmon maki.

  26. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I don’t know what it is today, but the comments are hilarious. There’s no way I can follow that. Good thing all I was going to say was I’m going to the Getty for my birthday in a couple weeks. Yay me! Last year it was the Huntington. I love them both. The Huntington’s tea room is far better for eating, but you can’t beat the Getty’s collection. Although the Huntington does have Blue Boy, Pinky, and my favorite Cassat. Ok. Rambling. Shutting up now.

  27. sara lee

    lol, I found this out the hard way too. I bought a medicine that I thought was sudafed, but much to my surprise I had purchased the watered down version and needed to speak to the pharmacist to get the real deal! What a pain!

    p.s. I cannot believe you are still getting comments on Too Skinny!

  28. Neil

    Sara Lee, Too Skinny is without a doubt the most popular post on this blog. And I have to delete half of the comments because of the obscenity.

  29. Mist 1

    You have to be 18 in my state to make meth.

  30. Edgy Mama

    The interesting thing about this story, of course, is that you went to three different drug stores BEFORE you thought to ask.


  31. Pearl

    Sophia, you’re either really rundown, to be getting sick again so soon, or someone’s been passing you some bad germs. NEIL?????
    Feel better soon, Sophia. Gargle with some vodka, too. That’ll get rid of those unwanted germs. And have Neil get out there again on the hunt for the ultimate chicken soup to heal you.

  32. Lynnster

    Drixoral was my pharmacist father’s cold/sinus drug of choice 20+ years ago. Just took the rest of the world that long to catch up, I reckon.

  33. rach

    Wht a star you are. How lucky is Sophia? In times of need I always found that a hugely strong brandy and hot milk works a treat. Knocks you out for hours.

  34. ElizaF

    My mum always says that medicine cures a cold in 2 weeks and if you don’t treat it, it goes in 14 days 🙂 My “cure” is to make a really hot curry with lots of ginger, garlic and peppers, go to bed after two hot whiskeys with a jumper over my PJs and sweat the damm thing out. I tend to shake a cold off in three days. So get cooking Neil…

  35. Dagny

    Drixoral has been my drug of choice when I am congested for many years. It used to be really easy to find but now? It’s like a search for the grail. I took my last one before boarding the plane to Mexico last month and now dread having to search for it once more. Thank you for doing the research.

  36. TherapyDoc

    See, this is why I encouraged F.D. to blog. He JUST did a post on sinuses. It’s pretty funny. And educational. Before you buy more Tavist you have to know what the “D” stands for, for example. Read my boy at
    You’ll never think of your nose the same way again.

  37. Neil

    thanks, therapy doc. Sophia and I both found that link very educational.

  38. Alison

    I’m kinda with ElizaF on this one…

  39. Jazzy

    I ama new blogger. hihihi. Just some information I had was, Drixoral has been off the market because they are moving there plant. Now my question is how come it takes so long to more plant and how come they have drixoral available from Canada! I just did a research on internet and found it available on . If they have it why cant we in States.

  40. oyun indir

    You have to be 18 in my state to make meth.

  41. Thomas

    This pill does not work well for me. I have had chronic sinusitis from who knows what for about 10 years. I would have a sinus infection for most of the year. Any time I got a cold, my sinuses would immediately get stopped up and turn into a full blown infection that would be terrible for a few weeks. I currently am using Flonase ( READ UP ON IT AT KIWI DRUG) and this helps the most for me when it comes to my sever allergies and cold symptoms! clears me up amazingly

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