Trust me, I get it. The last thing you want is to take yet ANOTHER prescription medication. And your instincts are right, there’s a very good chance you ARE overmedicated.
American’s are on far too many prescription drugs… especially our seniors. It’s gotten so bad that there’s even a name for it, polypharmacy.
At least 40 percent of seniors are on multiple medications. If you’re in your 70s, there’s a 46 percent chance you’re on FIVE or more. And that means the chances for interactions or experiencing sickening side effects skyrocket as we age.
Worst of all is, in many cases, you may not need to be taking some of them. Things like changing conditions, updated guidelines, and safer options may mean some of your meds are no longer appropriate for you.
But let’s face it, there are times when a prescription med IS the right option. And in some cases, when prescribed and used properly, drugs could help you heal or even save your life.
Choosing to start on a new prescription is a very personal choice you need to make with your doctor’s help. But to make that decision, and avoid taking any unnecessary meds, you need information.
And the best way to get it is to ask these nine crucial questions BEFORE filling any prescription.
Questions to ask about ANY new prescription
Keep in mind that YOU are in the driver’s seat. A prescription is simply an educated suggestion. It may not be your only, or even your best, option. So don’t be shy about asking your doctor questions.
If your doc doesn’t want to answer them it’s probably time to look for a new one. And even if you choose to stick with him, you can always seek out a second opinion.
Is it proven to treat my specific condition?
Some combo meds treat more than one condition such as blood pressure and blood sugar. But if you only have blood pressure concerns, for example, a combo prescription might not be the best match for you
Or certain antibiotics are better at treating certain types of infections and not others. Your doctor should run tests to determine what kind of infection you have. And the antibiotic you’re given should match the results.
What are the risks and side effects?
All meds come with some risks and side effects. You need to know what those are before you can decide if the benefits outweigh them.
The most common mild side effects include fatigue, headaches, nausea, and sleeplessness. But some drugs come with far more severe risks such as liver or kidney damage or elevated heart issues.
Could a lifestyle change or supplement work?
In some cases, making some changes to your lifestyle such as losing weight, increasing exercise, changing your diet, or reducing stress levels could help reverse certain conditions without drugs.
This may be especially true if the condition is mild, or in its earliest phases. For example, diet and exercise can put type 2 diabetes into remission for some folks. Or sometimes a supplement will give you all the support you need. Such as using curcumin to reduce inflammation and pain if you’re battling mild arthritis.
If your condition isn’t acute, your doctor should be willing for you to try a more conservative approach before turning to a heavy-duty drug.
What happens if I don’t take it?
Doctors are trained to throw prescription drugs at a problem until it goes away. But the underlying causes of your symptoms are rarely addressed. And all too often the issues those drugs can trigger aren’t even factored in.
The reality is not every health complaint is urgent. Sometimes, watchful waiting makes more sense. This is often the case with slow growing prostate cancers, for example. So make sure to ask what will happen if you don’t start on a drug right away.
Is there an older med with similar results?
Doctors are people too. So they can fall for fads just like the rest of us. Which means when a shiny new and exciting drug hits the market they’re often guilty of jumping on the bandwagon and dashing off a prescription too.
But the fact is there are some very good reasons to proceed with caution with new meds. A new drug may not be any better than an older one. It may produce similar results and cost a lot more. But even more importantly, with a new drug there may be unknown side effects that have not been discovered yet.
Will it interact with anything else I’m taking?
While we’d like to think our doctors are on top of our medical history, it isn’t always the case. Doctors can have huge caseloads and off days. And that means there’s always a potential for overlooking something when writing a prescription.
Plus, if you end up seeing a new provider, say as a walk-in or urgent care patient, the new doctor may not have access to your medical history. So be sure to tell your doctor what meds and supplements you’re taking. And ask if they will still be safe to take when you start on the new drug.
How do I take it?
Let’s face it, the directions for taking meds can be so complicated sometimes it can feel like trying to read a foreign language. Should you take it with food or is it better on an empty stomach? If it says twice a day does that mean morning and evening? Or is it every 12 hours?
Be sure you know exactly how to take the new med should you decide to fill the prescription.
Can I crush it to make it easier to swallow?
You should never crush or dissolve a drug without getting permission first. Some pills need to stay intact to work. So if you generally have trouble swallowing pills be sure to ask your doctor if you can crush it first. Also, sometimes a smaller version of the drug or liquid options may exist.
Do I need to avoid anything?
Drugs can sometimes interact with certain foods or drinks. For example, for some drugs to be effective you may need to avoid alcohol, grapefruit, or grapefruit juice.
You should always feel like you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions about your own health. No one, not even a trusted doctor, should make those choices FOR you. The next time your doctor hands you a prescription be sure to ask questions before filling it.
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