Be Your Own Health Advocate: Medications

by Kelli

Woman Getting Prescription Drugs

Be very careful with medications.

Wow, where to begin?  Prescription and many over-the-counter medications are very powerful and have a profound impact on your body.  They have a lot of potential: they can be very good, but they can also be very bad for you.

First of all, beware of prescription drug misuse and abuse.  If you have any kind of addictive tendencies yourself or running through your family, you may want to avoid controlled substances and any potentially habit-forming medications altogether.  It’s easy to get hooked and it’s not a pretty path.  Unfortunately my ex-husband struggled with prescription drug abuse.  For better or worse, I now know a lot more about prescription drugs than most people my age who aren’t doctors or pharmacists.  In using any kind of medication, follow all instructions and take as directed by your doctor and pharmacist.  Following their instructions will not only keep you away from abuse but also help you avoid dangerous side effects.

 Be very careful about deciding to take a prescription drug or reach for over-the-counter medications.  Based on my experience, prescription and other medications can be great for short-term problems (big caution on antibiotic use and overuse), but in general they aren’t a good place to start for chronic health problems.  Unfortunately most doctors reach for their prescription pad to prescribe whatever medication(s) will ease your symptoms without even pausing to wonder what’s causing your symptoms in the first place.  For example, if you go to your doctor and tell her you’re depressed, chances are she’ll whip you out a prescription for Prozac before you can blink (I’m picking this prescription drug just as an example – it’s fairly well-known and I’ve been on it myself).  But is your depression really caused by a lack of Prozac?  Prozac and almost every other prescription drug are not found naturally in your body, so you are likely not suffering from a lack of these substances.  Try figuring out what is going wrong to cause your symptoms before beginning treatment with medications.  I’m writing this because I failed to do so and spent 10 years of my life adding prescription after prescription to my cabinet, not realizing that each new set of “symptoms” were actually related to conditions I was already being treated for or were actually side effects of medications I was already taking.  It’s a vicious cycle that can easily lead to a cabinet full of prescriptions and being on a first name basis with everyone at your pharmacy.  That’s not the place I wanted to “go where everybody knows my name.”  But that was me just over a year ago. 

Finally, there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a prescription or other medication.  The point of this article is to help make you aware that you don’t have to get diagnosed by your doctor and go fill and take whatever prescription he gave you.  You have every right to work with your doctor to determine what’s causing your symptoms, not just having him diagnose them.  (After my former rheumatologist refused to have a discussion with me about how foods may affect how I feel, I “fired” him and searched for another doctor who was willing to look at the whole picture.) Once you figure that out, the next step would be determining your course of treatment.  If that involves taking medication, make sure you discuss with your doctor probable and possible side effects, the length of treatment with the medication, and how to stop taking it when your treatment is over.

To summarize:

  1. Beware of prescription drug abuse and misuse
  2. Discover the root cause of your symptoms before beginning any treatment
  3. If you do take prescription or over-the-counter medications, make sure you and your doctor know the plan for your entire course of treatment with the medication up to the point of discontinuing its use

About the author...

, diagnosed with an auto-immune disease as a child, has always paid close attention to her health. But when that disease went beyond the care of traditional care medicine, she found answers, and healing, through lifestyle improvements and working with a functional medicine doctor.

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