The internet is full of information, good and bad, about the benefits and problems of taking medications. Some see medication as a panacea, a cure all, that every problem needs a medication. Some people are convinced that any medication at all is a bad idea. You can find articles about the giant “pharma” conspiracy to get our money and make us pay for useless medications. You can find information about the newest “miracle” drug created by this or that company. You can hear Dr. Oz, the world’s biggest snake-oil salesman, tout the efficacy of garlic, or dried raspberry, or turmeric, or whatever supplement he is trying to sell you this episode. The truth is that many of us can find evidence online to support whatever decision we already want to make, and this has made life even more difficult for doctors who are already being hamstrung by regulations.
The truth about medications is that the real answer is somewhere in the middle. Are some medications overprescribed? Absolutely! We wouldn’t have the opiate epidemic in this country if it weren’t for the overprescription of narcotics. One of the biggest contributors to these problems, besides the doctors themselves, is the patients themselves. My brother is a naval doctor, and he has told me about some of the things that patients have told him, from coming in convinced that they have cancer and need chemo, to walking in his office and asking for a specific sleep aid that they saw on a commercial last night. Patients who want narcotics can also look up diseases on WebMD and find out which ones will get a doctor to prescribe pain meds, and they can fake symptoms and pain to simulate that issue.
On the other hand, some people are not taking medications that they need because of bad information they have gotten from online sources that has convinced them it is bad. The anti-vaccination movement was started off of a single published journal article full of bad science, that was later repudiated and the author lost his license. Working in mental health, we get clients all the time that don’t want to take a particular medication that they need, say a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder, because they are afraid of some side effect of the medication that happens one time out of ten thousand. We also get clients that are afraid medication will change who they are as a person, and so choose not to take medications that could make their lives significantly better out of fear and misinformation.
There is a solution to this problem, but it is a hard one many people to accept. Find a doctor you can trust, and do what they say, even if you don’t like it, or change doctors. The truth of the matter is that most doctors, like most mental health professionals, got into a helping profession to help people. The ones like Dr. Oz, who only care about the next product they are selling you, are few and far between. They have gone through a minimum of four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, and two years of residency (usually three or more), just to be able to write that prescription they handed you in the office. They know what they are doing, and are trying to do the right thing. So find the one who you trust and listen to them.
A couple years ago I was struggling with the decision of whether or not to take medication to help me with a consistent low-grade depression I have had my entire life. I literally tried everything else first. I exercised consistently, I changed my eating habits, I went to therapy, I got involved in charitable projects, and no matter what I did, this low grade depression persisted. I had been recommended by two separate doctors that maybe it was time to look into some kind of psychiatric medication. I didn’t want to. I wrestled with the idea for six months, talking to my brother, my therapist, my doctor, and even a psychiatrist who I went to a few times. None of them tried to force me to take the medication, they listened to my concerns and let me make the decision.
Eventually I decided to listen to the multitude of better educated people in my life that were telling me to try it out. After a couple of medication adjustments, and a false start, within a few months, the medication I started taking had lifted that depression that had clouded me for as long as I can remember. I didn’t feel like a different person, I didn’t feel like the medication had changed who I was, I simply felt like I was finally able to be the person I was supposed to be. I learned a valuable lesson from this process: “Find a doctor you trust, that isn’t you, and shut up and listen!” Nowadays, when I go to the doctor, I tell what I am experiencing, I ask questions, and I listen to what they recommend, not because they are always right, but because they know more than I do about their job, just like I know more than they do about mine.
I know it can be hard to trust a doctor, with all of the media attention on “big pharma” and all of the conspiracy theories you will find on social media. I ask you to remember one simple thing-- the majority of doctors are people like you and me, with education in being a doctor, that are trying to help you fix what is wrong with you. They know more than the rest of us, and that is OK to admit. Find the one you trust and shut up and listen, I promise you won’t regret it.
At Coherence Associates Inc. we do not prescribe medication, we are outpatient counseling. We do however have some excellent psychiatrists and doctors that we trust with our clients, and we are happy to help people find the right one. If you think you may be struggling with something psychological, or just have questions, please give us a call at (760) 942-8663.
If you have other experiences, ideas, comments, or questions, I would love to hear them, comment below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jeremy Larsen
Business Development and Practice Manager
Coherence Associates Inc.