The Slavic Curse

One of the many shitty things about being Slavic is that our bodies tend to have the capacity to break down and eliminate narcotic substances very fast. Hence the insane levels of alcoholism and drug addiction. (There are, of course, psychological causes, but the physiology makes it easy to accommodate those psychological causes.)

The result of this obnoxious peculiarity for me is that I process anaesthetic with lightning speed. They give me shots at the dentist’s and wait for 30 minutes for the anaesthetic to work. But in 30 minutes it all wears out and I need new shots. And so on.
It took 3 sets of shots for me today to explain how this works. Every time it’s the same story. I try to tell people but nobody believes me until we try and fail several times in a row. 
What’s really weird is that in Canada nobody seems to get this either even though First Nations people have the same peculiarity. 

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21 thoughts on “The Slavic Curse”

  1. Oh wow! I never knew this. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m entirely Slavic (Ukrainian, Russian, and a bit of Polish) on my father’s side. I literally have the same experience at the dentist each time. I didn’t know this was a Slavic thing! Dentists have been shocked at how quickly my body processes an anesthetic. I feel a kindred sense of understanding now. 🙂

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    1. Im half slav, half Lebanese and I completely agree. I can drink a pint of vodka and feel absolutely nothing. My ex who is Czech and Serbian could drink a pint and feel nothing. My back is broken and I go through a bottle of Ibuprofen in two days. Drugs just don’t touch us.

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  2. “What’s really weird is that in Canada nobody seems to get this either even though First Nations people have the same peculiarity. ”

    I don’t know about anesthesia, but it was my impression that Native Americans have the opposite problem with alcohol – their systems can’t metabolize it (or can’t metabolize it fast enough) and they tend to get very drunk on minimal amounts of weaker alcohol and stay drunk for longer. The results in terms of higher rates of alcoholism are the same but from the other direction.

    OTOH Native Americans seem to have higher than average tolerance of some psychotropic substances though I don’t know if that’s physiological or psycho-cultural.

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    1. What you’re talking about is known as the Alcohol flush reaction:

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_flush_reaction

      Because of the association with Asian ancestry, alcohol flush reaction has also been referred to by such informal names as Asian flush syndrome, Asian flush, and Asian glow. Approximately 36% of East Asians (Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans) show a characteristic physiological response to drinking alcohol that includes facial flushing, nausea, and tachycardia.[3]

      It’s exactly the opposite of what Clarissa is talking about with Russians and Slavs.

      As for Native Americans:

      http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh301/3-4.htm

      It is worth noting that the Aztecs had the death penalty for any nobles who engaged in public drunkeness.

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  3. “I process anaesthetic with lightning speed”

    This wa san AHA! post for me. A few years ago I had some intrusive dental work done and first I was amazed that they asked if wanted anesthesia each and every time, my answer was always YESSS!!!! AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!!! (I am American). They always checked if it was working before they got to work and I had the impression they were a little… impatient

    “Can you feel this?”
    “Yes”
    (impatient checking of watch)
    “This?’
    “Nmmmmhgh”
    (exasperated sigh that means “Finally!”)

    Then a few years ago I needed a minor surgical thing that involved cutting with a local anesthesia and the doctor sliced right in there before the anesthesia could kick in

    “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (very expressive sound on my part)

    A few months ago I needed a similar procedure but made sure I asked something right after the anesthesia just as a stalling tactic to give the anesthesia a chance to work.

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    1. Right! Just like I kept wondering why in the US doctors keep waiting for anaesthesia to work. The idea of having to wait is bizarre to me because where I’m from no waiting is needed.

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  4. Yes, it’s genetic, and you can find out all about how it works …

    CYP1A2:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CYP1A2

    CYP3A4:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CYP3A4

    CYP2D6:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CYP2D6

    CYP2C19:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CYP2C19

    As for your lidocaine reaction, look at CYP1A2 and CYP3A4, and you probably also wonder why paracetamol and naproxen don’t do much for you, so you’ll want to look at CYP1A2 for that as well.

    You might find a genetic screening useful just so you know what will and what won’t work in terms of analgesics at least.

    BTW, now that you know, don’t drink your grapefruit juice …

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    1. I think that the mantra of “It’s the genes!” is kind of funny. These days, it “explains” pretty much anything. At least, to people who are too bored to look for actual explanations.

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  5. Interesting:

    A diet high in fat and sugar during pregnancy may be linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children with behavioural problems early in life, experts have found.

    The research, led by scientists from King’s College London (KCL) and the University of Bristol, is believed to be the first to indicate that an unhealthy diet alters the baby’s DNA in a way that might lead to brain changes and later ADHD.
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/aug/18/unhealthy-pregnancy-diet-high-fat-sugar-adhd-children-dna

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      1. You don’t think that changes in DNA matter?

        Epigenetics:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics

        Epigenetic changes modify the activation of certain genes, but not the genetic code sequence of DNA. The microstructure (not code) of DNA itself or the associated chromatin proteins may be modified, causing activation or silencing. This mechanism enables differentiated cells in a multicellular organism to express only the genes that are necessary for their own activity. Epigenetic changes are preserved when cells divide. Most epigenetic changes only occur within the course of one individual organism’s lifetime; however, if gene inactivation occurs in a sperm or egg cell that results in fertilization, then some epigenetic changes can be transferred to the next generation.[26] This raises the question of whether or not epigenetic changes in an organism can alter the basic structure of its DNA

        It’s like the genes are cards in a poker game. You can’t change what’s in the deck, but you can change which ones are dealt out, and which ones remain hidden in the deck.

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        1. “It’s like the genes are cards in a poker game. You can’t change what’s in the deck, but you can change which ones are dealt out, and which ones remain hidden in the deck.”

          • Exactly.

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        2. “You can’t change what’s in the deck, but you can change which ones are dealt out, and which ones remain hidden in the deck”

          I’d say it’s more a case of you can’t control the cards that you’re dealt but you can decide how to play them (and any hand can win if played right).

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            1. Well the linked article is the type that gets overturned periodically. In a few years it will be “pregnant women who don’t have enough sugar and fat in their diets cause hyperactivity (or hypersluggishness) or something bad that we don’t have a name for yet”

              Some years ago there was an article in the Onion about the new condition discovered by scientists “Small Child Syndrome” with terrible symptoms like fidgeting, short (or very concentrated) attention spans, incomplete sentences, inability to appreciate classical music and a host of others I’ve tried to google it but it seems to have disappeared.

              (nb the Onion is a news satire site that is often so accurate that it occasionally gets mistaken for real news).

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              1. “In a few years it will be “pregnant women who don’t have enough sugar and fat in their diets cause hyperactivity (or hypersluggishness) or something bad that we don’t have a name for yet””

                • Oh, absolutely. Here is a radical idea: maybe not everything is determined by what we eat.

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