Does Medicine Actually Make Us Sick?
Can the medicines we are prescribed actually make us sick? Yes, actually, they can; sometimes very seriously ill.
There is a saying:
"If you give drugs to a healthy person, they will become ill, so why do we give drugs to sick people?"
Serious Side Effects
These days, we are bombarded several times a day by advertisements on TV and radio for any number of drugs for a wide range of health problems or concerns.
If you have spent any time at all in front of the TV, watching actor portrayals of "patients," they all seem to be 'experts' on the drug being advertised. There follows a string of dire warnings about possible side effects that may be encountered. Granted, lawyers have become involved, and they are required to list everything, no matter how infrequently it might happen. That said, there is always a final disclaimer that the list of possible side effects is not complete. They direct you both to their website and your doctor for "further information."
When you listen to the side effects they rattle off in such a nonchalant voice, you'd be justified in thinking, "Never mind--I'll just keep the original problem!" These run the gamut from the embarrassing (such as bladder control issues) to the deadly serious such as heart disease.
Interestingly, only two countries worldwide even allow television advertising for prescription drugs: the U.S.A. and New Zeland.
- Medscape: Medscape Access
Do a quick search and check here for drugs your doctor may have prescribed in combination.
Even more dangerous than any single drug is the possible ill effects from mixing various types together. Even though your doctor is trained in the proper doses and safe combinations of various drugs, he or she is only human, not a computer. There are literally thousands of drugs available in today's pharmacopoeia. Surely, no one person can recall all of that information at any given moment.
What am I saying? Your doctor is fallible and can make errors? You bet! Even though we may not, ourselves be doctors, we are the only ones living inside our bodies, and able to recognize when something has changed or does not feel right. If you have been prescribed multiple drugs, do not hesitate to tell your doctor immediately if you suddenly feel worse.
Then vs. Now
Back in the days of our grandparents or great-grandparents, medicine was not as sophisticated as it has become today. The doctors were all general practitioners; there were no specialists. If you needed major surgery or an ingrown toenail fixed, it was all the same doctor.
People developed personal relationships with their doctors; they knew the family. Often, the next generation was cared for the the same doctor. The patients' and doctors' kids probably went to school together. The doctor's child maybe grew up to be the next generation of doctor to the town. It was a very close-knit society, in which everyone looked out for everyone else. Insurance was unheard of--if you couldn't afford to pay the doctor, he'd let you pay over time, or not charge at all. Or maybe accept a laying hen as payment. Things were simpler.
That said, things were not necessarily safer. People died of conditions that can now be treated. Diagnoses requiring x-rays were impossible, as that technology had not been invented.
Prescriptions for remedies were often very unsafe, including such things laudanum--which is really a form of opium and such things as as small doses of arsenic! People got very seriously addicted to these pain killers, or were sometimes killed by them.
Diagnoses were largely guesswork, and were often wrong. There was a strong public feeling that if you were sent to the hospital, it was a death sentence. "You go to the hospital to die," was the popular opinion. (A belief I find very strange--since we are not immortal, we'll all die, regardless of hospital admission or not; plenty of people died at home as well.)
What has not changed overmuch, is that there is still a lot of guesswork in the medical field. That is why we are responsible for our own health, and for demanding full explanations of all drugs and their effects from our doctors. It is up to us to weigh the relative advantages and we are free to tell the doctor, "No, I don't like those risks; is there a different medication available?"
Information At Our Fingertips
With the advent of the Internet, all of that has changed. No longer are doctors the percieved infallible authority figure they were in the past. Each of us has virtually unlimited access to information on each and every drug a doctor might prescribe.
Additionally, despite the so-called "paper reduction act," mountains of paper are still generated, and you are usually given a 2 or 3 page informational handout on each drug your doctor prescribes. Read it! Read it all the way through! It will tell you about all of the possible side effects, and it may even state that the list is incomplete. If that is the case, hasten to your computer and look it up online.
Drugs and Foods
As if all this were not bad enough, there are entire classes of drugs that caution you not to take them with certain foods. This list of food/drug incompatibility can include (but is not limited to):
- grapefruit or its juice
- cranberry juice
- milk or other dairy products
- dark green leafy vegetables
Still Much Danger
There are still some extremely dangerous drugs out there, and it dismays me that safer alternatives have not been found. One of these is known as Coumadin. It is prescribed for people with heart problems, to prevent clots from forming.
You may know someone taking this drug. You may also know it by its original use: rat poison. That's right. The generic name of Coumadin is Warfarin. You'll see it on boxes of rat poison, giving the antidote for accidental ingestion as "blood transfusion and Vitamin K infusion." That's because the way it kills rats is to thin the blood to such an extent that it able to pass through the walls of the blood vessels, causing the rodents to hemmorhage internally, leading to death.
Vitamin K is an antidote to the Warfarin because it acts to "thicken" the blood, or encourage coagulation. For this reason, people on this therapy are denied many healthy foods that are high in this vitamin. It's a long list, but it contains most of the dark green leafy vegetables that we are encouraged to eat for good health. How ironic is that?
- WebMD - Better information. Better health.
This is the site at which I found the information on the particular 'statin' that caused my husband's memory issues--it is a very good general reference site.
- Drug Information, Side Effects and Interactions | DrugWatch.com
This is a very comprehensive site telling the back-story behind the Big Business of prescription drugs. There are many links to related articles, and I highly recommend reading them. You'll be a more informed patient.
There is a class of drugs known as "statins." They are prescribed for lowering cholesterol, and they can have some very serious side effects, including memory loss. That is discussed in another article I've written.
Despite their years of education, a lot of what doctors do is still guesswork, just like in the old days. Is it any wonder that they refer to their profession as "practicing medicine?" I hope someone will let me know when they are done practicing (on all of us!) and have it mastered.
What's Your Experience?
Have you, or anyone you know, ever had a reaction or problem with a medication?
The dividers used in this hub are used with permission granted on hub, Creating Dividers to Use on Your Hubs.
The information in this article is based upon my own research and experiences.
I am not a doctor or health-care professional, and the information in this article should not be used as a substitute for medical care.
Please consult your doctor for any health problems you may have, or with questions about your medications.