In the U.S., 131 million people take some form of medication daily. That’s 66% of the adult population of the country. It’s highly common for some of those 131 million to take up to four prescription medications regularly.
Some of these medications can ease pain, eradicate illness, and help people manage their daily lives. They can also sometimes cause cancer, increase depression, and lead to addiction.
Not every medication has side effects associated with it. There are plenty that can be taken regularly with no adverse effects at all. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use caution when starting a new prescription.
There are five questions you need to be answered if you’re starting a new medication and we’re going to look at them below:
1. What Are The Risks And Benefits
Anytime a doctor prescribes you a new medication your first question should be what the risks and benefits are. While your doctor obviously won’t give you something they know will hurt you, they can’t make decisions for you about what amount of risk you’re willing to take.
Some follow-up questions you can ask if the answer to this one doesn’t ease your mind include what are the long-term effects, could it worsen your symptoms, or what are the common side effects. When you have all of the information, you’re better prepared to make a decision.
2. Are There Currently Any Lawsuits Against The Manufacturer
Your doctor won’t purposely give you a drug that’s known to be dangerous, or that’s been recalled. That doesn’t mean that they won’t give you a medication that’s been manufactured by a company that’s been in trouble for one of its other drugs.
For example, let’s talk about Zantac. Zantac is a medication that’s usually given out for heartburn. In the last few years, news broke that it contained a carcinogen called NDMA. NDMA can cause cancer, and it’s believed that its presence in Zantac led people to develop the disease. The drug has been recalled and there are ongoing lawsuits you can join if you believe Zantac caused you to develop cancer.
Despite these findings, and the legal consequences, the manufacturer is still making other drugs. They’re called Sanofi, and they have over a dozen products still available on the market.
While a history of recalls with one drug doesn’t mean there will be any issues with their other drugs, it’s still information that’s valuable to have. You can ask your doctor if they’re aware of any cases like this with manufacturers of your medications, or go online and do some research yourself.
3. Is There Anything That Should Be Avoided While Taking This Medication
Usually, your doctor or pharmacist will let you know if there are any substances or activities you should avoid while taking a medication. That being said, they’re busy people who see a lot of patients, so it doesn’t hurt to double-check.
Bring a list of your other medications or supplements with you, and let your doctor know if you use drugs, drink regularly, or smoke tobacco.
You should also ask if there are any odd foods or drinks you need to avoid. Grapefruit and its juice, for example, are known to reduce the effectiveness of many drugs, including anti-depressants. Unusual interactions like that will be mentioned on the paperwork you’re given with your medication, but again, it doesn’t hurt to confirm with your doctor.
4. Is There A Known Risk Of Addiction With This Product
Over 5,000 Americans misuse a prescribed medication every day, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Most of these people just want relief from the symptoms they were experiencing in the first place. As your body becomes used to a medication, it can feel like you need to take more to get the relief you felt initially.
That pattern can lead to further drug abuse and addiction, so it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about whether or not that’s a concern with the medications you take.
You should never change your dosage without consulting your doctor and getting approval.
5. How Long Will The Medication Be Necessary
When you’re prescribed a new medication, don’t forget to ask how long you can expect to be taking it. Sometimes you’ll be given a specific time frame, and other times, you’ll take it until your symptoms have resolved.
If it’s a medication you’ll be coming back off of, it’s important to understand what the process will be when you stop taking it.
Will you need to be taken off of it slowly, or is it a medication that can just be stopped? Will you experience side effects when you stop taking it? Can you go back on the medication if the progress you made is lost?
These are all important factors to consider when planning a new medication regime with your doctor.
Asking these five questions right away when you’re prescribed a new medication will help you know what to expect. Have a consultation with your doctor so you can begin taking an active role in your treatment.