I’m fortunate – for now. I take very few medications, in as tiny dosages as possible, and even my Over-The-Counter drugs are limited in scope and even more so, lately.
Exit Stage Right, Motrin which did wonders for my back.
Yes, I take vitamins. Yes, I do everything I can to eat right. But I sure would like to think that “polypharmacy” means a convenient drugstore on every corner, complete with an old-style soda fountain for a little charm.
But not so lucky!
Apparently, we’re talking about the potentially confusing cocktail of both prescription and OTC drugs – generally used at the recommendation of our physicians – and the way they may work in concert (to our detriment), and without our knowledge. Yikes, indeed!
A recent article in the New York Times Well Blog mentions the term “polypharmacy” and I admit, while applicable, it sends chills up and down my spine. Huh… Will I need a medication for that?
In its mention of drugs which may compromise cognitive function, the author writes:
… dozens of painkillers, antihistamines and psychiatric medications — from drugstore staples to popular antidepressants — can adversely affect brain function, mostly in the elderly.
Research Into Common Drug Interactions
The article goes on to list the category of drugs (anticholinergics) which produce side effects negatively affecting memory, and with cumulative impacts.
Citing a variety of compelling studies, the article continues:
“There’s not much doubt about this,” said Dr. William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, adding that studies from large clinics that treat people with memory disorders have shown that up to 25 percent of the patients who seek help have reversible disorders, including those caused by polypharmacy — taking a combination of medications, some of which may have anticholinergic activity.
Personally, I’m glad that research is taking place, and who knows what links (if any) may be made between these cognitive effects and the onset of dementia.
Still, I worry about our overarching dependency on medication, or expectancy that there is a pill for every ill. It’s bad enough that women are routinely prescribed antidepressants as a quick-fix to whatever ails us. (And men as well – in an effort to dull the collective consciousness into submission?)
And the way generic medications are switched in and out – sometimes without our awareness and impacting their effectiveness? Another worrisome reality. Personally, I’m a little “over” it.
Polypharmacy does seem like an apt term for the use of multiple drugs and spotlighting their potential interactions. I fully understand that meds help save lives, and often, physicians are doing the only thing they can in prescribing them.
Still, the article reminds us that researchers are discovering alarming side effects, and in so doing, perhaps we will develop or consider additional options.
Scare Tactics in Advertising
Believe me – I’m all for pain medications when required, and OTC drugs that make sense. And no, I’m certainly not looking to say what makes sense for you – anymore than I want you to say what makes sense for me.
But I resent the scare tactics used in advertising, particularly pertaining to potential health conditions. Do we even realize how many times a day pharmaceutical ads are bombarding our eyes and ears?
Sometimes our bodies hurt, don’t work the way we think they should, or refuse to sleep. Isn’t that the body telling us something is wrong, and we ought to listen?
Sometimes, our minds (or “hearts”) ache. The emotions are real, and the potential physical damage may be as well. We’re sad, we’re angry, we’re lethargic, we’re depressed. We have emotions to process and likely – changes to make – if we can.
And no, I’m not including the clinically depressed or chemically imbalanced, any more than I would ever say “never” to taking a medication for any diagnosed condition.
But I will vehemently express the following opinion: Anesthetizing our awareness is not a solution to the challenges of a social, political, and economic landscape which should be looking to cure its systemic diseases – rather than band-aid the symptoms.