Tuesday, October 08, 2002

South Oakland Man Addicted to Placebos

South Oakland resident Craig Barton can’t stop popping placebos.

“It's like this insatiable hunger,” Barton explained. Sometimes I take 50 to 100 pills a day!”

Barton developed his placebo-dependency after years of research study volunteerism. In 1999 he participated in a UPMC-sponsored trial of the impotence drug Viagra, where he took 10 placebos over a two-week period.

“It felt great! I was making money and having awesome sex,” he said, “so I decided to sign up for other experiments.”

Barton completed 64 studies – ranging from acne-drug tests to sleep disorder remedies – before hitting the streets in search of a more potent placebo. He immersed himself in the seedy, sugar-pill underworld and his life soon spiraled out of control.

“I was stealing from friends and family ... selling my body on Liberty Avenue ... anything that I could do to score some ‘bo,’” Barton said.

Last month he hit rock bottom. After experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms, Barton rooted through his girlfriend’s purse and stole her “reminder” birth control pills – she subsequently became pregnant.

“I’m going to be a father,” he said. “It’s time to admit that I have a problem and get help. I don't want my kid getting ridiculed because his dad’s a bohead.”

Barton checked into Placebo No-No, a local clinic that specializes in sugar-pill addiction, where he’ll undergo weeks of experimental treatment.

“It’s a painfully slow process,” said Dr. Steven Miller, director of Placebo No-No. “We’ll start him off on a strict regimen of Pixie Stick injections and gradually step down to Sweet N’ Low shock treatment before eradicating sugar from his system all-together.”

Barton is confident that he'll beat his addiction.

“I gain strength through the Serenity Prayer,” he said. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference between a placebo and a medicinal substance. Amen.”

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