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Does Medicine Actually Make Us Sick?

Updated on April 23, 2014
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Liz is not in the medical field, but is fascinated by the subject. She urges people with health issues to see their doctor for diagnosis.

Say What?

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.

Drug Cocktails

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?

Our Experience

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?

See results

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.


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  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, justmesuzanne,

    Oh, I believe I saw that documentary. It does sound familiar. Too bad there are not more doctors willing to divorce themselves from the pill pushers of Big Pharma!

    Just the other day, I saw a "meme" on Face Book featuring a 'death mask' person holding a banner that read, "Big Pharma doesn't create cures, they create customers!" So sadly true.

  • justmesuzanne profile image

    justmesuzanne 2 years ago from Texas

    I watched a marvelous documentary recently called Alive Inside. It's about miraculous music therapy for seniors with Alzheimer's. The documentary itself is simply wonderful, and if you watch it on DVD be sure to watch the special features. There's an interview with a doctor who runs an Alzheimer's facility. He recounts a situation in which he admitted a patient who was on hospice and was expected to die within a few days. The patient was on 40 medications, and the doctor decided to simply take him off the medications so that he could die in peace. Lo and behold, after three days with no medications the patient woke up from his coma. Within a week he was discharged.

    Can medications poison you? Yes indeed!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, nextstopjupiter (neat name!)

    Thanks for sharing your scary story! I believe you 100%! A similar thing happened to my mother-in-law a couple of years ago--she was in the hospital, and they gave her sulfa drugs--despite the fact that it was listed in her records that she was allergic and could not take these types of drugs. It made her very, very sick, and could have had a disastrous outcome!

  • nextstopjupiter profile image

    nextstopjupiter 5 years ago from here, there and everywhere

    Some months ago I spent two weeks in hospital after an operation. The operation was not the problem but the drugs they gave me. It took about six months to recover from the poisoning of these drugs.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, cloverleaffarm--

    Thank you very much. I'm not sure I recall about statins causing heart attacks, but I can't say I'm surprised. I'm sure if I went back to my file of the "drug scare sheets" that they hand you with your 'scrip, I'd find it--or find it on the web at least.

    You are right, about the docs just throwing pills at everything..and there seems to be no cross-checking between drug stores and doctors. My husband's sister died at only 40-something, because of dependence on pain killers from a surgery that was not healing. She ended up going to several different doctors, getting prescriptions from each, and having them filled at different pharmacies. In the end, she was having trouble sleeping as well, and started "cutting" NyQuil with vodka! She basically died of an overdose of assorted pain and sleeping meds. A very sad state of affairs, indeed.

    We need many, many more people such as yourself, and we need to have insurance and government at ALL levels recognize herbalists as valid and educated treatment professional, so their services would be covered.

    In our situation--hubby on Medicare/Medi-Cal, and myself on free county medical "care," only traditional western medicine is covered, and herbals and drugs don't mix well. Besides, sadly, herbal concoctions are usually very expensive--probably a factor of small-scale production. It sucks being denied better care and medicines based on the size of your budget.

    I appreciate your valuable input and information, and I applaud you on your new path.

  • cloverleaffarm profile image

    Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

    Great hub. Did you know that statins can also cause a heart attack? Most doctors don't weigh the options between the high cholesterol and the drug, and they just toss a pill at you. Scary.

    You are right, big pharma has taken control, and we have to take it back. There are ways to lower cholesterol without any drugs. I wrote a hub about it, if you care to read it.

    It infuriates me that doctors have become more of an assembly line, than actually caring for their patients. Doctors are why I became an herbalist.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello there, cclitgirl--

    Thank you so very much for the high praise! You are so right. All things have their place--but the boundaries need to be respected, and alternatives need to be trusted.

    The biggest trust gap is actually between doctors and their patients, with the doctors thinking they are practically infallible, and not trusting the patient to know his or her own body. Just because the patient hasn't gone to medical school does not mean that they are unfamiliar with what is normal for them.

    You make excellent points, and I agree--nature is the first pharmacy--and there is one very helpful herb that needs to be made fully legal at the federal level......

    Thanks much for sharing in the conversation.

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

    FABULOUS hub. Couldn't agree more. Yes, I think Western medicine has it place - like when you are in a car accident and need emergency care - but, I'm such a proponent of simple and herbal first. THEN maybe I'll check with a doctor, but even then I just can't trust them that much. I MUCH prefer to take charge of my own health, researching, trying herbs, eating right, exercising, and meditating. I still get sick sometimes, but at least I know how to not take drugs - I try to never take them.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, kittythedreamer--

    Ooops--you are right. What I meant to say was that Vitamin K is an antidote to the Warfarin. (Hey--I had the "anti" part right! :-D ) I'll fix that right now! That's what I get for writing with too many things on my mind. LOL

    Wow--what a scary ride for your Grandmother! I'm glad it got sorted out. Vertigo is areal bi***--it makes you nauseated. I've had bouts of vertigo before, but I wasn't on any meds--my neck was out of whack, and a visit to my chiropractor fixed me right up!

    The first time it happened, I went to my regular doctor, and he told me to go get Bonine or Dramamine from the drugstore--right--that doesn't fix the problem--it only knocks you out for a good sleep, so you don't notice you are feeling dizzy...when you awaken, the problem is still there!

    Good for you for having the good sense to do your own research. This garbage about just throwing pills at everything is irresponsible and dangerous. And we wonder why kids are getting into drugs? It's the example they see around them!

    Thanks very much for stopping by and sharing--and for catching that boo-boo!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

    Hey, AWESOME article and I agree fully! I did want to point out a little mistake (you can always erase my comment if need be). Vitamin K is not an anti-coagulant, it is a coagulant. ;) Coagulation is what makes your blood clots form...thereby "thickening" the blood as most people say. My grandmother was on BP medication to help in lowering her hypertension; however, when looking at the side effects of her medication (in the nurse's guide to drug book), the first side effect is Vertigo. She'd been experiencing vertigo for the past year and none of the doctors could figure out why. She even went to the Mayo clinic and they ran tests on her to find out why she was having vertigo. Scary that no one noticed that her BP meds had a side effect of Vertigo, until me! Crazy. Anyway, they switched her medication and she is having less severe vertigo now.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, brake12,

    Thank you very much for sharing your experience; I'm so sorry that happened to you. We do, indeed, need to be aware of what the pharmacists and doctors are doing "for" us, and take firm charge of our own health.

    Yes, I agree--a campaign to get drug ads off TV would be good--it is NOT impossible--despite industry lobbies, we successfully got ads for booze and cigarettes banned from the airwaves: it's time for drug ads to go away, too.

    Thanks much for the props and praise!

  • brakel2 profile image

    Audrey Selig 5 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    I just love this article, as it is close to my heart. Also, I found some info I did not know. My husband is a part of a class action law suit against a drug company. I was given the wrong medicine by a pharmacist for one month. He has since been fired. I check with my current pharmacy about anything I take for interaction. Your article is thorough, well researched and full of awesome information. I especially abhor the drug commercials on TV. We need a campaign to get them off the air. You are to be commended for such a good job. Everyone needs to see this to wake up to the problems.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Codeine used to keep me awake too. Anything that says will make you drowsy does the exact opposite to me. My step-mother always said I was backwards LOL, glad to know I'm not the only that this happens to.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Susan!

    You are smart to do your own research. We are currently fighting a battle about my husband's medications, and the docs all want to either pooh-pooh the idea that those could be the cause of his odd symptoms, or else play pass-the-buck.

    Interesting you should mention codeine--I have to take codeine-laced cough meds when I get bronchitis--which is about every couple of years if I catch a cold. The problem is, my body reacts opposite of everyone else's: the label cautions against drowsiness, and most people, it does tend to knock out, whereas I cannot take it at bedtime, or I'll lie awake tossing and turning all night! Driving? No problem! I'll be as wide awake as if I'd OD'ed on caffeine!

    Thank you for sharing your experience--it adds to the body of evidence that medicines affect everyone differently, and should not be handed out willy-nilly instead of delving into the underlying cause.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Great information! I don't trust my doctor ... when it comes to much. I'd get a new one if I could and I usually will go to a walk in clinic or emergency before I go see him. Anyways whenever I get a new medication I always look it up online and research it before I take it or talk to the pharmacist about it. I have had a bad reaction to codeine. Really strange because before my gallbladder surgery I never had a problem taking codeine. Then after the surgery they prescribed it for pain. After taking the first one I ended up back in emergency as it doubled me over in pain.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Rebecca E.--Thanks very much for the praise! You're right--we each need to earn our own medical degrees. I just LOVE the ads that say, "...tell your doctor about all your medical conditions..." Say what??? It's your DOCTOR--isn't he/she supposed to have that information ?????!!!

  • Rebecca E. profile image

    Rebecca E. 5 years ago from Canada

    You've got some great info here, I find that these days you'd best be a doctor to have all your information and then tell them.... that being said, I am in no way suggesting that you shouldn't take a doctor advice, but to actually think... awesome hub!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ barbergirl28-

    Hello there--always good to see you. I'm glad you're feeing better, but sorry you had to go through all that. I know exactly what you mean--I've been at my husband's side while the doctors have "practiced" on him. I truly believe many of his current problems are a direct result of medications. That's all Western medicine wants to do--throw pills at a problem to mask the symptoms. That way, they can keep you coming back in, collect more money, (whether directly from you, or by billing Medicare), and Big Pharma gets to sell more pills. Pardon me if I sound a bit jaundiced here, but we've been through so much of this run-around in the last 4 or 5 years that is beyond ridiculous.

    Despite our seemingly huge advanced in technology, and supposed diagnostic tools, much of medicine remains as it was back in the 19th century--a lot of guesswork. It is disheartening. Thanks very much for sharing your experience, and for the votes and the share!

    @ Pamela N Red--

    Thanks very much for your contribution to the discussion. You are so right--and yet so many people are on long-term regimens of drugs--even multiple drugs. It is not good, and the fact that they know this very well is given away in the ads--"you'll need blood tests to check for kidney/liver damage..." Right. That can't be a good thing, now, can it? But they barge right on ahead without regard to the consequences.

    I am so very sorry to learn of your mother-in-law's fate at the hands of these modern, legalized drug peddlers. It is shameful, and a very sorry commentary on our medical "profession."

    I couldn't agree more. It is high time--past time--for Western medicine to accept what they now term as "alternative" medicine, and some of the Eastern practices, such as accupuncture/accupressue. Why, I even read an article many, many years ago about a woman who was deathly allergic to the drugs used for anaesthesia--and yet she underwent a C-section with an accupuncturist as the anaesthesiologist--and never felt a thing.

    Thanks very much for your input--it is appreciated and valued.

  • Pamela N Red profile image

    Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

    Long term use of most prescription drugs are unsafe. If you get enough of a medication in your system it will cause you damage later on.

    So many people are on serotonin drugs today that do not need them. They cause weight gain and low sex drive.

    My mother in law was allergic to insaids so she used steroids for her arthritis pain. She died of pancreatitis because of this.

    Most ailments can be cured by diet and exercise. Arthritis has no cure but exercising and stretching keeps the joints lubricated and working with less pain.

    There are alternatives in many cases to taking pills.

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    What a great and interesting hub. I guess I already knew the dangers of medicine and have always chuckled at the ads on TV and how sometimes the side effects seem worse than the actual ailment, but now that you laid it right out you got me thinking....

    I have been pretty sick the last few months - actually since the end of February. Since then I have been a walking pharmacist and during my last trip to the Urgent Care I was told this was it. If these didn't help I would have to see a specialist. The entire time I was going through this... the thought of these doctors "practicing" medicince kept coming to mind. After all, why couldn't they fix me. It started out as strep and progressed to walking pneumonia. While I am finally feeling better - 3 months later - it took a lot of practicing to get there. In fact, at one point - I actually got a kidney infection and ended up in the emergency room with fevers in the 103 to 104 range. Very dangerous for an adult. When I went back to my primary doctor for a follow up, I still had the kidney infection. However, instead of addressing the kidney infection, she suggested that I had issues with my blood pressure. Knowing my medical history (and that I have never had an issue with blood pressure) and knowing she still had yet to have a relationship with me - I took my health into my own hands and refused the meds and refused to go back to her. So when I got walking pneumonia, I had to go Urgent Care once again. The meds given to me to stop the coughing actually listed a side effect as causing coughing (odd) and then when they switched my meds again... they caused some insane mood swings. Let's just say I wasn't a pleasant person to be around.

    Great hub and great information. Voted up, interested and sharing!

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