On Medications (good advice for everyone)

I recently read a story about someone with occipital neuralgia (a chronic pain condition that has to do with an irritation of or damage to the greater or lesser occipital nerve) whose previous neurologist prescribed them Cymbalta, which is a seratonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).  This person took the medication for two years before seeing another doctor who informed them that Cymbalta generally treats depression.  She then proceeded to go off the medication without researching the withdrawal problems.  I did some research and found that Cymbalta has been approved very recently by the FDA for treatment of musculoskeletal pain so I suppose the neurologist may have been at the bottom of the barrel, trying anything.  It’s possible.  Nonetheless, it seems like a slightly irresponsible medication to prescribe to someone without depression problems or arthritis.  I have to say, however, that I wasn’t surprised–doctors prescribe medications inappropriately all the time.  The shock on my end came from the ON sufferer’s fury at the doctor–she never bothered to look up what this medication was for.  Two years of shoving pills into her face, and she had no idea what she was taking.

There may have been a time long ago when doctors were to be uncompromisingly trusted but we no longer live in that world.  We live in a world where there are a few exceptional doctors whose strength allows them to navigate through the nightmare of health insurance dodging payments (which hurts them just as it hurts us…well not just as it hurts is, but it isn’t a great situation for them), and watching people suffer while trying to do their job, working exceptionally long hours in many cases, while still maintaining a sense of determination and sympathy for their patients.  Others are worn down by the present system, which punishes the weak.  Still others never cared to begin with and are only doctors because mommy and daddy told them to do it because they’d make lots of money.

A precious few of us manage to find the good doctors.  I have found a couple after years and years of searching.  Regardless, any time one of them thinks I should try a new medication or go off a previous one I ask a lot of questions.  I don’t give a shit if they’re rushed or irritated by my questions.  This is MY FUCKING BODY.  I’m not going to just eat pills because a doctor tells me so, I’m going to take them if and when I feel satisfied that it is a good idea.  This is in no way insinuating that I think I know better than any doctor about pharmaceuticals–I don’t.  However, I am an intelligent, proactive person and know I am capable of understanding what words like “contraindication” and “side effects” mean.  Frankly I don’t know anyone with a chronic illness or pain condition who isn’t intimately familiar with the various pharmaceutical terminology well enough to posit informed questions regarding medications they’re taking.

I think you’ve figured out where I’m going with this.  Be informed about what’s going into your body, whether that be another person’s phallus, food that you’d prefer not be covered in pesticides, or potentially life-altering medications.  Nobody–including your doctor–cares more about your body’s well-being than you do. Be. Your. Own. Advocate.

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3 responses

  1. Pingback: Cervical plexus | Epsom tissue techniques

  2. A few years ago I was on around twenty different medications prescribed by half a dozen different doctors. When I sat down and worked it out I realised that only about four of the drugs were treating my underlying condition. The rest were treating the side effects of drugs that were treating the side effects of other drugs. I immediately asked for a review of my medication, came off the excess drugs and felt a hundred times better for it. Now I am so careful about any drug I put into my system and whether the benefits outweigh the side effects. I can’t believe I was putting so much rubbish unnecessarily into my system for so long.

    • …TWENTY? That is incredible, it’s a wonder you were able to work out anything for yourself at all. I feel brain-dead enough on the medications I’m taking now… which amount to less than 10 including “as needed” medications (I say “less than 10” as if that’s a super low number or something). I think you were very smart and took care of yourself when your doctors weren’t really paying enough attention!!!

      This makes me think about my situation now, because I have this one doctor who is so careful and thorough about medications, I’ve never seen anything like it before. He’s a pain management specialist. Presumably he is watched like a hawk by the NY medical board to make certain he isn’t over-prescribing opiates given his medical specialization; it is a necessary field, but one does have to be careful with contraindications because a lot of people who need pain management specialists require many other medications, plus, many pain medications are addictive and that can either create or attract addicts. His response to this situation is to monitor me and the rest of his patients very thoroughly. When I first met him, I had to tell him every medication I was on and who prescribed each. He took a urine test to confirm that a) I was taking my medications, b) I was taking them in the amounts prescribed, and c) I wasn’t taking anything I hadn’t mentioned. He then procured documents from the doctors I’d mentioned proving they’d prescribed the various medications. He also wanted to know precisely what they’d found in their various exams so he could treat me best. Point is he’s the only doctor I’ve ever had who cared so much about the medications I was already taking. I don’t mean that he simply asked me and sort of scribbled for a moment and then forgot; he got hard evidence of it, he documented it.

      It’s been my experience that not many doctors are like my pain management specialist, unfortunately. And of course it’s easy for me to say, “be your own advocate!” but it isn’t so simple when you’re going through chronic pain/illness and the various other issues that come with it. It feels impossible to take care of yourself sometimes. But sometimes impossible is necessary. Whoever said, “nobody ever said life was easy” kind of nailed that one on the head, didn’t they?

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