I realized this because I was looking at some drug info and noticed that lots of drugs, for example the antibiotic gentamicin, are nephrotoxic. That is, they give your kidneys a good hard pounding and that can be enough to stop your kidneys working.
This is a useful thing to know. But rather than continue on and try to learn more useful things, my reaction was to immediately pick up some past exams and try to figure out exactly how many different types of question I might be able to avoid answering simply by writing down, "gentamicin nephrotoxicity". This is damage control at its finest.
Gentamicin nephrotoxicity appeals to me for several reasons:
- Each word is polysyllabic and hence sounds very learned.
- The mechanism is either poorly understood or outrageously complex, hence I don't have to bother to try to remember anything.
- Lots of people take antibiotics, so it's broadly applicable.
- By singling out a particular drug it gives the illusion that I have carefully considered this specific scenario rather than used a blanket Get Out Of Jail Free card.
If I had spent half the time studying that I have spent worrying, I wouldn't have had to spend half the time worrying that I have.