Six Myths about Prescriptions Drugs that Can Kill You

Posted on March 17th, 2010

Can you imagine the world without antibiotics? It is not an exaggeration to say that the development of penicillin changed the course of history. Drugs and vaccines have made it possible to treat intractable diseases and even eradicate some of the most devastating diseases. Then there are pain medications. One of the earliest pharmaceutical grade pain medications was heroin, named that because it was considered almost heroic in its ability to control pain.

Drugs like heroin that make you feel better have been around for millennia. Research indicates opium was being cultivated in the Neolithic era. But drugs that make you feel better can carry a heavy price tag for those who do not appreciate their power, and for those who are predisposed to become addicted. Let’s look at the five biggest myths about prescription drugs that, if believed, could kill you.

1.Prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs because a doctor prescribed them.

Truth: While there are more controls in the development of pharmaceutical grade drugs to ensure they contain what they say they contain, many prescription drugs are as powerful, and maybe even more powerful, than their illegal counterparts. Some have advocated making heroin a prescription drug again because it controls pain without making the patient unable to function. So in fact, heroin, if controlled for quality, may be better than morphine in helping terminal cancer patients with breakthrough pain.

2. My doctor would never prescribe me drugs that would interact negatively with other drugs I’m taking

Truth: We have read enough stories about celebrities with multiple prescriptions to know this isn’t true. In those cases, maybe the doctor warned them not to take the drugs together, but how often do we forget our doctor’s exact instructions, and have you ever just said it can’t hurt to take one more? If you go to more than one doctor because you have different medical issues, they only know what you are taking if you tell them. What if they forget to review your current medications? Make sure you discuss the interactions with your doctor – specifically addressing each drug you are taking. The best policy is to have a single pharmacy fill your prescriptions, and when you are given a new prescription ask your pharmacist to review the drugs for interactions.

3. It’s okay if my friend gives me one of her prescription pills because it was prescribed by a doctor for the same problem

Truth: So your friend now has a medical license? Even if you don’t care about the fact that it is illegal to share your prescription medication with another person, by taking someone else’s prescription drugs you are basically saying you know what’s wrong with you and you are going to treat it. This is risky not only for pain medications, but for antibiotics. If you take the wrong antibiotic for an infection, you can make the situation even worse.

If you share your prescription drug with another person you are a drug dealer. Let’s say that person turns out to have an allergy to that drug, or is taking another drug you don’t know about – a drug with bad interactions with your medication. Do you want to be responsible for that person’s reaction to your ill-conceived generosity?

4. You can’t get addicted to pain killers if you’re treating real pain.

Truth: You certainly can. Many people who become addicted to pain killers had legitimate pain when they started taking oxycodone or other pain medications. At some point, they lost control of it. One of the issues with pain management is that some people believe the goal is 100% relief from pain. In truth, that is often impossible. You would need to be in an opiate stupor to remove pain completely in some situations. The true goal of pain management is to make the pain manageable. Obviously a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 is not manageable, but if that can be brought down to a 2 or a 3 that can be manageable. Any pain management plan should include other modalities, such as neurofeedback, meditation, exercise, and physical therapy.

5. My doctor prescribed it for me, so I must need it.

Truth: Patients should never blindly defer to their doctor. This does not mean you fight with your doctor on every diagnosis, but it does mean you do not have to passively accept a treatment plan that doesn’t feel right to you. The best doctors do not pull out the prescription pad the moment you say you are having trouble sleeping or feeling a bit of anxiety. They first go to healthier options – exercise more, change your diet, and develop better sleep habits. You should be impressed by the doctor who does not prescribe a pill the moment you describe a problem. If you find yourself gravitating toward doctors who love filling out that little white form, that’s something to think about.

6. Prescription drugs you buy online or in a store-front in Tijuana are exactly the same as the prescription drugs you get at the pharmacy

Truth: Online pharmacies are absolutely the last people anyone should trust with their life, and that’s what they’re doing when they accept a supposedly genuine bottle of pills from an anonymous website operator. You could be treating an infection with sugar as far as you know. The medication could be expired, or worse, have harmful fillers. The profit motive will lead those pharmacies to send something, anything as long as they continue to get your money. They are illegal. They are not concerned about ethics in treatment. Even with the stringent rules of the FDA, problems with legitimate drugs occur – so imagine a scenario with absolutely no control over quality and efficacy.
 

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