Talk About Your Medicines

Doctors and lawyers don’t mix. Well, maybe they do—but they hide their feelings about each other well, which is why I can’t mix with lawyers.  I possess this strange connection between my brain and my face.  Think thought.  Thought plastered on face.  So I have all kinds of friends, but no lawyer friends.  Oops.  Take that back.  My first boyfriend from elementary school is now a lawyer, but he’s a good-guy lawyer.  His last name is a first name.  Don’t you hate that?  So confusing.  “Excuse me.  I can never remember.  Is your name Thomas Todd?  Or Todd Thomas?”

I’m talking about lawyers because American Recall Center asked me if I would run a post with the theme “Talk About Your Medicines.” After checking it out, I saw the site, which seems fair and unbiased, was sponsored by a law firm.  “Dang.  I’m shot if I do and will be looking over my shoulder forever if I don’t.”  So I will.  No strings were attached to this post.  They simply asked if I would write a post on medication safety, approaching it based on my experience.  (They did give me a little picture I could use, but I decided I shouldn’t take anything.  Just to be safe, you know.)  I don’t have one of those wordy disclaimers (yet).  But let me say, which I know you all know:  Don’t use anything on my site for medical advice.  It is not intended for that.

Without further ado—three important questions to ask your healthcare providers:

What does this medicine do? Ask them to write what the medicine is for on the prescription. 

The “sig” of a prescription is the line which tells how the medicine is to be taken. It is written in language your doctor and pharmacist understand.  Some alien code derived from Latin.  Example:   ii gtts OD QD.  Translation:  Instill 2 drops in the right eye daily.

I want to ask you to do something for me. When your doctor writes a prescription (or types it to be sent to the pharmacy via computer), please ask him or her to please write what the prescription is for in the sig.  The new sig for the above Martian talk would look something like this:  ii gtts OD QD for glaucoma.  Your bottle would then read:  Instill two drops in the right eye daily for glaucoma.  That way you’ll know that it is not your dry-eye eye drop or an antibiotic eye drop.

Here are a couple more examples:

i po qd for HTN= Take one tablet by mouth daily for hypertension i po bid for depression=  Take one tablet by mouth daily for depression.

Having worked as both a pharmacist and doctor, I have seen first-hand how confusing all those bottles are for people. It gets even more confusing when one medicine can be used for different conditions.  Help keep organized by asking the doctor to add the indication at the end of the directions.  Your pharmacist can usually do this for you as well if you ask them at the time you drop off your prescription.  If the prescription was called in ahead of time for you, then call the pharmacy before you go to pick it up and have them do this for you if they can.  (Laws vary by state)  Alternatively, you can write it on the label yourself, but you’ll have to do it every time.


Is this addictive? Ask your doctor if the medicine has potential to be a habit-forming drug.

Our whole pharmacy staff knew “the seekers.” People who had gotten themselves mired down with addictive prescription medicines.  They’d call in for their medicines way too early.  They’d doctor shop.  They’d feign new health conditions.  Medical doctors get dinged and criticized for not controlling people’s pain nowadays, but let me tell you, I’ve seen “the seekers” and their desperation.  It’s not usually physical pain they try to calm.  It is heart-wrenching the anguish that prescription drug dependence can cause.

It starts simply. Some Xanax for insomnia or wedding jitters.  Some Tussionex for a cough.  Some Vicodin for dental pain.  Some people soar on those drugs and crave more and more and more.  They just can’t stop no matter how much they lose.  Nobody really wants to end up an addict.  But who knows exactly where our Achilles’ heel is?  Having been behind the counter handing out Vicodin and Darvocet right and left, I feel controlled substances are dished out too easily.  (Don’t take offense.  I well-know that they are also needed by many and used responsibly.)  Ask your doctor when he or she prescribes you something, “Could this be addictive?” If so, consider asking if there is an alternative.  There often is.  Or ask him or her to prescribe only a few so there is no temptation if you end up being someone who thirsts for the substance.  And for goodness sake, never use the medicine beyond what it was intended for or share it with somebody else.

Addictive prescriptions are called “scheduled” drugs in the United States. They have specific rules and regulations.  Commonly scheduled drugs are those used for anxiety, pain, cough, and ADHD.  I don’t like people to be in acute pain, but neither do I want them to live a lifelong nightmare with prescription drug abuse.

How can I get off of this medicine? Ask your doctor if there are ways to get off of medicines.

I started blogging when I realized how important nutrition was in my family’s health. We have shed numerous medicines by overhauling our diet (and not in the way I was trained to overhaul a diet which talked about very low fat, calories, and lots of grains).  We have ditched Prilosec (GERD), Flonase (allergies), Miralax (constipation),  Flovent (asthma-type symptoms), albuterol (asthma-type symptoms), and Aleve (for headaches).  As I continue to read and learn, I see more and more that our prescription drugs can be detrimental–drugs that I dispensed and prescribed thousands of times.  Sure, there are times you need them, but often they are just a crutch and excuse to not take the bull by the horns and eat for the body instead of the tongue.

Prilosec and other proton pump inhibitors block acid production and the factor (intrinsic factor) needed for you to absorb vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin). They also change the acid balance being made by the stomach, which in turn decreases the amount of pancreatic enzymes needed to absorb your food, so you’re not absorbing food nutrients as much as you should.  Lipitor and other statin medicines block the formation of not only cholesterol, but also coenzyme Q 10.  Coenzyme Q 10 is necessary for your cells’ production of energy for themselves to function.  I could go on about SSRIs, steroids, NSAIDS, and antibiotics.  All these medicines have downstream effects in the body, and if you can get off of them by changing your diet, THEN DO IT.  Dang it.  Do it.

Ask your doctor what it would take to get off of the medicine. It is true.  There are some medicines that will be required forever.  However, if he mentions diet and exercise, then I encourage you to check out different kinds of nutritional changes such as Wahls’ Protocol, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal, SCD, GAPS, Wheat Belly, or another REAL FOOD type of plan.  If he doesn’t mention diet and exercise (like for headaches, irritable bowel, depression, GERD, respiratory issues, sinus issues, acne), I still encourage you to do a bit of searching and start asking questions.

One medicine leads to another, and soon you’re on 10 drugs. Investigate the role of nutrition and lifestyle in your health, and don’t take the answer, “Oh, it’s fine to take it as long as you need it.” as the end of the conversation.

Multiple flowersI wish you health. Be safe taking medicines.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.


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