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Medications: When more is NOT Merrier!

I believe in living simply.  And when it comes to medications, it appears that this is a good philosophy. Apparently, the folks at agree with me. This agency is an advocate for consumers--it provides informations about drugs, devices and the pros and cons of using these things.

Getting back to why they agree with me (or vice versa):

When a person takes a medication, it is important for them to know as much about it as possible

What is the name of this medication?
What is this medication used for?
What are the directions for use?
What are the possible side effects of this medication?
and lastly,
What are the potential drug interactions of this medication?

This last point may not seem any different than the others at first glance, but it is in fact, a very important point.  Drug interactions can occur in several different ways, so let's take a look at some possibilities.

Drugs can interact with other drugs.

Most pharmacies will run a drug interaction checker listing all the prescriptions a patient is taking.
The more medications a person takes, the more likely a drug-drug interaction will occur.

Drugs can interact with over-the counter drugs, and nutritional supplements as well.

Many people take supplements in addition to prescription drugs. Many people also use over-the counter drugs in addition to the drugs they are prescribed.

Supplements and over the counter drugs can interact with prescription drugs too!  But the pharmacist or health care provider may not be aware that a patient is using these products.

Drugs can interact with the food we eat.

When a drug is taken orally, food can affect its absorption.  In some cases taking a drug with a meal has no effect on absorption. Other drugs are best taken on an empty stomach, while still others are more readily absorbed if taken with food.

Some drugs can deplete our bodies of nutrients such as potassium or vitamin B12 over time.

There are a few drugs that react with alcohol ingestion.  This can be a most uncomfortable experience; it could even be lethal in certain situations.

Many drugs that we use in modern day interact with grapefruit.  The "statin" drugs, used for high cholesterol, are a good example of this.  Do you know if the medications you are taking are subject to this interaction???

It's important to know the specifics for each and every drug in your regimen in order to maximize effectiveness and reduce the possibility of an adverse reaction.

Drugs can interact with nutritional supplements.

Many people do not take this point seriously, but some nutritional supplements are relatively harmless because "they're just vitamins." This is NOT the case.  Ginseng, gingko Biloba, St. John's Wort and vitamin E are prime examples of this point.

Some of these drug-supplement interactions have been lethal.

The main reason I am bringing this up is this: 

There are so many alternatives in the treatment of chronic pain.  In some cases medication is important, but in may cases pain can be managed without medication.  I have to wonder if the benefit of medication is really worth the risk.



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