Prescription Drugs: Think About It

Drugs have been a subject of conversation in our family lately.  Not only because of my health crisis, but also because of the health situations of several people that are near and dear to us.

Now, my family is particularly prone to having bad reactions to drugs, so this concern is not a new one for us.  But it carries more weight in the past year or so.  I am experiencing serious side effects from drugs prescribed for my health condition.  My sister-in-law recently had two separate life-threatening complications from the anesthesia medications given to her during a recent surgery.   And unfortunately, one of our family members is currently dying, and there is legitimate reason to believe that this may in some part be due to side effects from the drugs given her by her doctors. 

Drugs can be life saving, and they can improve your quality of life - but they can also damage or kill, and all too often we do not give enough thought to the potential consequences of taking the drugs prescribed by our well-meaning doctors.

According to Mercola.com :

"...prescription drugs are responsible for an estimated 700,000 ER visits a year due to adverse drug reactions. And adverse drug reactions from drugs that are properly prescribed and properly administered cause about 106,000 deaths per year, making prescription drugs the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S.  The truth is prescription drugs kill more than twice as many Americans as HIV/AIDS or suicide. Fewer die from accidents or diabetes than adverse drug reactions."

There are things you can do, however, to lower the risk for you and your loved ones.

~ First of all, keep a readily available list of the supplements and drugs that you are taking, and update it regularly.  Take this list to your doctor's office and pharmacist whenever you go there.  Memory is not reliable, especially in the stressful environment of a doctor's office.. 

 ~Don't make the mistake of not taking supplements as seriously as prescription drugs.  Anything that is strong enough to affect your body positively is also strong enough to potentially affect it negatively.  Supplements can interfere with or interact with drugs in a significant way, so you should keep your doctor and pharmacist apprised of any changes in your supplement regimen - even multivitamins should be on that list. 

~ And don't forget over-the-counter drugs, even the ones that you only take on occasion, like allergy or pain medications.  Like supplements, they can interact with other drugs in significant ways. 

 ~ Go over your list of supplements and drugs with your pharmacist on a regular basis, especially whenever your drug regimen changes significantly.  Doctors do not have the training and resources that your pharmacist has on the ways that all the different drugs interact with one another.

~ If you are having a side effect from a drug, don't be afraid to talk to both your doctor and your pharmacist about it.  There may be alternatives that will work better for you, or things that you can do to minimize those effects.  And perhaps more importantly, your doctor and pharmacist will know if a particular side effect is likely to be a sign of something serious going on. 

~ If you find that you have gradually accumulated a large number of medications, be sure to talk to your pharmacist and/or doctor about whether you might wean yourself off of some of them.  Certain conditions (particularly chronic diseases and mental illness) can tend to cause a 'snowball effect', with new drugs being added as old ones become less effective.  Unfortunately the elderly are more prone to chronic conditions, and are also more prone to over-accumulation of drugs in their systems, and thus can easily become over-medicated. 

~ Read the printout that your pharmacist gives you with your prescriptions, and read the labels and information sheets that come with your drugs.  Also look up the side effects for any medications you or your loved ones are prescribed - there are a number of good websites that can help you with this.  Be aware of the signs of serious complications that can be caused by the drugs you are taking.

~ You can sometimes get good information on side effects from consumer-based websites and websites/lists designed to provide information for people who are dealing with specific conditions.  These websites can also sometimes provide you with information about treatment options of which your doctor may not be aware.

~ Remember that you are not only a patient, you are a consumer.  You have the right to ask questions, and you can refuse treatment that you don't think is effective or safe for you (or your child, or your aging parent).


Delighted Hands said...

Great article here. I am also one of those who are in the rare percentage who has reactions to meds. It helps to know yourself and stick to your guns when dealing with medication!

krex said...

I think those are all great reminders, would only add that my own experience with DR.s is that they are often time limited and distracted and it might help to research your meds. on-line before you go to DR to ask specific questions . I also LOVE the new commercials that tell you the possible side-effects of medications because every time I think a medication might be nice to help with some minor pain or problem I can then weigh against the possible consequences (new problems) that the "treatment" may cause me since I know that I am likely to be in that "weird 5% of bad reactions. I would rather deal with occasional insomnia over driving my car while I'm "asleep" , (though I may enjoy that more then driving it while I'm awake?)

Nancy K. said...

Holy Shit! Those are some mind-boggling statistics. I usually fall asleep reading any kind of stats but these are terrifying!

What an excellent, informative post!
Thank you, Eileen. I will share it with those I know and love.

mrspao said...

Great advice. Thank you!