HEALTHY LIVING — Is your medicine making you sick?

Published 12:04 am Saturday, October 21, 2023

Medication is a wonderful thing; it saves lives and improves chronic conditions.

In most cases, it is the difference between living and existing. However, there are well documented cases where the very medications that are meant to help, end up causing very bad problems.

I am not speaking of just allergic reactions to some drugs. The term being addressed in this column is medication toxicity.

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Most drugs are eliminated from the body through the kidneys and liver, but starting around the fourth decade of life we start accumulating fat and lose muscle mass, accompanied by a progressive decline in the ability of our kidneys and liver to process and clear medications.

All of this makes us more prone to drug toxicity. For this reason, bloodwork to measure the function of various organs is done yearly at a minimum and often done before making medication changes.

Despite the well-established connection between aging and drug toxicity, prescribers sometimes fail to equate patients’ symptoms with an adverse drug reaction, attributing them instead to a new medical condition.

Doctors see a lot of patients who come in with a general “I don’t feel well’ complaint, or maybe they’re confused and dehydrated, and they attribute it to a viral illness, when in reality it’s caused at least in part by the medication they’re taking.

There is a tendency for some physicians to prescribe a medication for even mild symptoms, and not every symptom requires a medication. The more medications a patient takes, the more likely one of them will build up to toxic levels, experts report.

Finally, patients often see multiple doctors and often do not disclose all the meds they are on to all the doctors that they see and end up getting prescribed similar drugs — which, when combined, can reach toxic levels.

This is being addressed in the medical community by having you bring in ALL the medications you are taking, each time you visit every doctor. It is not at all uncommon to see an older person come in to the medical office with a tote bag full of prescription bottles and let’s not forget the over-the-counter meds, vitamins and supplements that you take.

You must remember to bring everything you ingest, this way, your doctor or NP can monitor your intake and make sure everything you are taking is compatible.

As a consumer and caretaker of your body, it is your responsibility to read and learn BEFORE putting a new drug into your system. When your medical provider wants to start you on a new medication, ask questions.

What are the expected side effects?

When should I see improvement of the treated condition?

Side effects always sound scary and in most cases are very mild and the body adjusts after a few doses. But there many medications that have side effects that can get worse in a matter of days, to the point they adversely affect your life.

Read everything, there is so much good information on the internet. Remember though, the drug companies put out much of the information on their products.

Do a search on the internet for PATIENT reviews. That is where you will get the practical information. Read many, not a few. Get a good sampling and if you see complications that mirror what you are experiencing, go to your doctor immediately and discuss your concerns.

If you are close to someone who maybe experiencing issues, speak to them or their caretaker about what you have noticed. They may not realize what is happening to them.

Be aware, read and learn, speak up, and take care.

Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com.