It is an inevitability of life that we will all be faced with an illness that will require us to take prescription drugs. Many of these medicines are incredible things that can save your life.
However, prescription drugs are not worry-free miracle cures. Taking them should not be a decision made lightly. There are over two million Americans currently addicted to prescription drugs, and none of them popped their first pill thinking it would lead them down a dark path. With many doctors as ready to whip out their prescription pad as fast as a cowboy reaches for a six-gun in an old western, it ultimately falls on the patient to ask the right questions, and not become another statistic.
Do You Need It?
This is the first question to ask whenever a doctor prescribes medication. It doesn’t matter what it is. Doctors are trained to diagnose and fix problems, and several of the ailments that people come in with can be treated by prescription medicine.
For doctors, writing a prescription can be a simple fix that usually makes both him and the patient happy. However, not every illness requires a prescription to make the patient well again.
Sometimes a simple change in lifestyle can fix a health issue. Simple things like a better diet, getting more exercise, or finding ways to reduce stress is all it takes. One group of drugs which are continuously overprescribed is antibiotics.
Doctors often tell patients to take these, even when they don’t need them, and this has led to the rise of superbugs. Antibiotics can also kill the good bacteria, and cause other health problems like yeast infections and allergies.
Always ask your doctor if you can get by without the prescription. A healthy person can efficiently fight off an average case of the flu or a bad cold without help, even if it makes them feel like death warmed over. The wrong kind of staph infection that starts off as an itchy patch of skin could be much more severe, and make antibiotics necessary.
Is It Addictive, and if So, How Addictive?
We have seen several entertainers lost to us because of prescription drug abuse and addiction. Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, and Michael Jackson are just a few who abused these drugs in one way or another which resulted in their deaths, but those are only the names we all recognize.
Forty-six people, on average, die every day in the US due to abusing prescription pills. Many of these were opioids. However, opioids, like painkillers, aren’t the only addictive prescriptions out there. There are also a large number of stimulants and depressants. It also isn’t just painkillers that people have to worry about having addictive qualities. Medications such as antidepressants and sleeping pills can also be addictive.
Taking a medication, even without becoming addicted, often means contending with withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and none of them are pleasant. Even sleeping pill withdrawal can be a harsh and distressing problem for patients. Ask about ways to keep from becoming addicted, and how best to come off of a prescription after you are done taking it.
What Are the Side Effects?
Or maybe a better question is what are the side effects realistically going to be? Every night there are scores of drug commercials on TV that show happy people living fulfilled and healthy lives, with the heavily implied subtext that it is all thanks to the drug being advertised. Then the announcer goes through a litany of side effects that often end with, “and in rare cases death.”
By law, drug companies must list the side effects of their products, and for a good reason. That being said, the severity and likelihood of these side effects can vary from person to person. Factors like overall health, how advanced the condition is, and age can influence the severity of side effects. Also, remember to let your doctor know about any other prescriptions you are currently on. There is the risk of dangerous drug interactions, or some prescriptions increasing the likelihood and severity of side effects.
What Kind of Results do Most People Experience?
As miraculous as modern medicine can seem at times, it can still only do so much. A new drug on the market, or even a well established one, will often sound like a little magic pill that will eliminate all of a patient’s problems. Commercials may exacerbate this problem by creating unrealistic expectations in patients about the drug’s effectiveness. Ask your doctor what the drug will realistically do for you. The hype of the commercials may not be the same as real life.