When you pick up your prescription drugs, do you read the paper labels that contain the risks and warnings associated with the medication?
I used to read them. Then I’d call my doctor with my concerns.
The Classic Phone Call
“Dr. Smith,” I’d say, “I’m not comfortable taking this new pill because the label says it can cause dizziness, edema, depression, diarrhea, shortness of breath, confusion, short term memory loss, nightmares, and a whole lot of other things.”
“Shirley. I’m your doctor. Now you know I would never prescribe something that I thought was going to hurt you. You know that, right?”
“Well yes. But the warnings are there, and I sure don’t want to experience them. It frightens me,” I said.
[the classic response:]
“Shirley. Your blood pressure is high. You’ve gotta get that down. Otherwise you could end up having a stroke. That should be your immediate concern. I seriously doubt you’re going to experience any of those side effects. Drug companies only include those warnings to protect themselves from lawsuit in the remote chance someone had one of those reactions. But it’s rare. And in my opinion the benefits of you taking the medication far outweigh the risk of those possible side effects. We’re talking about your blood pressure, here.”
“But what if I am one of those rare persons who get the reactions?” I said.
“Listen to me. I really don’t think you’ll have any problems at all – but if you do, call me. And we’ll do something else. I only want what’s best for you. Okay?” Dr. Smith said.
“ . . . . . ok.”
After a few phone calls like that about other pills I was prescribed, I eventually stopped reading the paper labels. I just took whatever the doctor dished out to me. But that was a mistake on my part because then I didn’t know which of my new symptoms were caused from pill reactions vs. “old age.”
If I had read the labels, I would’ve realized that perhaps many of my “old age” symptoms were indeed drug-related. But I did not. I opted to trust my brain to another human being. Most of us do that. Especially from my generation. We rarely question a doctor – but rather see them as some kind of a god who is much more intelligent and all-knowing than we are.
STOP THAT NOW.
Once our brains become shrinking globs of mush, it is too late to ask questions and demand changes. For one thing, we may be too confused by that time to realize what’s wrong. And our kids, bless their hearts, may think we’re just getting old and senile. Then we are sadly on the wrong side of the fence, with no chance of parole.
Look at those label warnings, and take them seriously. They are there for a reason – mainly to place the blame on us for taking a medication that has clear warnings that something could go wrong. I mean, look – if you know fire can burn you, are you going to put your hand in it?
But what can we do? For starters, we might try a different conversation with the doctor.
The Proactive Phone Call
“Dr. Smith. I’ve read the label that came with my medication – and am not comfortable starting on a new drug with this many risks – in fact, I’m not going to start taking it. We need to discuss other options,” I said.
“There is another medication that might work. And it doesn’t have the possible side effects you are concerned with. However it may not be as effective. But we can try it,” Dr. Smith said.
“I want to get my blood pressure down. If the other pill may not be as effective, are there any more options?” I said.
[the proactive response:]
“Well, you know that blood pressure is very much related to diet and exercise. I could refer you to a good nutritionist who may be able to help you understand how to adjust your diet to help regulate your blood pressure – also order some physical therapy to help you get on a good exercise plan. Let’s do a few things, here. I’ll change your prescription to the less effective one, as well as refer you to a nutritionist so you can get started on the right things to eat, and physical therapy to get you moving. Then as your blood pressure starts coming down, I can keep lowering the dosage of the medication. If all goes well with your diet and exercise, you might not need any medication. Deal?”
“Deal!” I said.
What just happened?
A few things occurred in this conversation. First off, I took an assertive and proactive approach with the doctor, which prompted him to think outside of the box [of medication]. Doctors know all about diet and exercise, and do bring it up to patients. They do. But it’s usually as “an aside,” rather than part of a plan to eliminate the need for medication. Granted, there are conditions that require medication – but not all conditions truly do, at least not for the long term if diet and exercise are involved.
Before I go on, I want to emphasize that it is never a good idea to simply stop taking a medication without a doctor’s blessing.
There can be serious consequences when some drugs are stopped abruptly. The key is to work with the doctor, allowing him or her to progressively reduce the dosage and/or stop it when your signs and symptoms have been reduced via diet and exercise.
Another thing that occurred during my second conversation with the doctor was my willingness to take an active role in the healing of my high blood pressure. The doctor and I became a team to fight it together. He would do his part. I would do mine. My blood pressure could be brought down, and my brain could remain safe from a stroke and/or drug reactions.
This route was one that would hold me highly accountable. If I did not keep up my end of the bargain, the only thing left was to go on the brain-robbing medication he prescribed in the first place, or have a stroke. But it gave me a choice – albeit some personal responsibility for that choice.
The second example conversation was purely fictional in my case. I did not have that conversation. Instead, I stopped at the first example conversation. And my brain was greatly affected, as a result.
Dementia is so much more widespread today than it was when I was growing up. That’s not my opinion. It’s a fact. Medication side effects play a huge part in that, as does not questioning doctors as they continue to prescribe brain-frying drugs.
Coming Soon: Rx Database
Janet is starting work on another database report that will list as many of the drugs she can find that have brain-related side effects, and whether or not the effects can lead to dementia. The data will be from RxList.com.
You’ll be able to search the database for medications you take. If they’re included, you may want to have an assertive and proactive conversation with your doctor, or your loved one’s doctor.
She’s just getting started, as I said. Have a look at what she found for Ambien and Xanax.
Mind blowing! (in more than one way.) Those side effects look like dementia. That’s not good. No wonder there seems to be a dementia epidemic.
Simply “coping” is not the best answer.
Janet then found something interesting at Mayo Clinic’s website which just knocked her respect for them down a notch. It includes tips for how to cope with antidepressant side effects. Just so you know – antidepressant drugs have been determined to be directly tied to the development of dementia. And Mayo Clinic is suggesting ways to cope? The way to cope is to get counseling or therapy – not to end up with a worse problem, dementia.
Articles like the one above serve to condition us to accept those side effects.
How about forget the antidepressant pills, and get counseling or therapy? Drugs do not cure depression – they only mask the underlying cause.
Or check your other pills to see which ones can cause depression – like Ambien, for example? Drugs often cause side effect symptoms which call for another drug, which calls for another, and so on.
We’ve got a real drug problem today, which may be far worse than the illegal street drug problem.
And it is sending us to nursing homes in droves – and that is where they simply knock us into oblivion with antipsychotic drugs (which is an awful story for another day).
Hands Off My Brain!
If I could come back and do it all again, I would certainly take back my brain by standing up to my doctors. I’d put my hand out like a stop sign, and say,
“Hands off my brain! Let’s examine my options.”
Janet would have said that, too, if she had known. But now you know. And my advice to you: Stand up for yourself or your loved one. It cannot hurt, and it may very well help.
Final thoughts . . .
If you’re concerned about repercussions from your doctor, get a new doctor. Or you may be a loved one with no power to advocate or stand up, plead with those who do. I know there are certain situations where your voice may not count or be heard – in that case, there is the option to take it to God, or whomever your higher power is – and never underestimate that power.
As long as you still have a choice, choose to maintain the most critical part of you that governs all other parts – your brain.