Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Think Twice

I found this very interesting article on the Huffington Post today. It was interesting to me mostly because my mom is one of the millions of people who was prescribed a statin drug which she didn't need. And she got one of those horrible side effects the author listed: it messed with her memory. Since her mother developed dementia, seeing signs of it in my mother (not yet 60) was especially scary. When I googled the signs, everything came up with early onset dementia. A quick trip to a doctor however (NOT the doctor who prescribed the medication) showed that not only was this drug the problem with her memory, she didn't even have the high cholesterol this drug is supposed to treat. I can only assume that the doctor who prescribed it had received some sort of "speaking fee" or other bribe from the drug company. (A more widespread problem than most of us, myself included, would like to believe.)
About the time we were learning about this problem, I started reading more about side effects from drugs. Not just statins, but all drugs. The statistics about drug side effects and the numerous problems they cause (from rashes to death) haven't really gotten the kind of notice I feel they should. Here's another article on medicine and side effects in general. It includes plenty of those scary statistics, like how many people die because of side effects. In fact, the author points out that a lot of the time side effects are thought to be or treated like new symptoms of the original affliction and so more medicines are piled on top of the first one. Am I the only one to see problems with this? Like, major problems?
We're so programmed to trust our doctors, and to believe that they know what's best for us, that I think most people don't question their medications as thoroughly as they should. We should all become familiar not only with what ails us, but also with what we're treating ourselves and the potential downsides to treatment. If you take a medication, I really don't think it's too much to ask that it actually make you feel better, rather than bringing on new problems.
With my broken nose, I only took two Vicodin. One at the hospital, and one the next day. The second one was a mistake. It took away the dull, achy pain but replaced it with dizziness and an upset stomach that lasted the rest of the day. I don't really consider that "better", do you? Achy pain is endurable, but for me having an upset stomach is not. So what do I now do with the other 23 pills that I've got? Save them for the next time one of us is injured? I'm sure I could take them back to the pharmacy or something, and I probably will. But my instructions were "not to take more than 8 per day". If one caused all of these problems, what on earth would 8 do to me? I shudder to think of it. Granted, I've got a higher pain tolerance than most women. (And for that, I should thank my brothers for abusing me as a child.) How many people out there, though, actually take as many as they're directed to take? (In this case 4-8 per day.) And how many of them end up with worse problems than an upset stomach?
I don't know what other medications I'll have to take now (I need nose surgery today, which involves anesthesia) but it probably won't be as much as I'm prescribed. It's just not worth it.

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