A LINE ON LIFE
Making the Most of Medication *
David A. Gershaw, Ph.D.
Many people are not sure about the medications that are prescribed for them by their physicians. They take the drugs that are prescribed but they don't know the name of the drug or what it does. This doesn't mean that you need to go to medical school, but there are certain things you need to know when you are taking medications.
- The name of the medication. Medications typically have two types of names the brand name and the generic name. The brand name is simpler, but it is usually manufactured by only one company and is more expensive. For example, Benedryl (the brand name for one type of antihistamine) has the generic name of Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride. (I am familiar with this drug, because I use it rather frequently.) If your physician prescribes by brand name, you can ask him if the cheaper generic drug can be substituted. If you forget to ask your physician, when you are getting your prescription filled, ask your pharmacist. Even if you have insurance to pay for your drugs, usually your part of the payment is less for generic drugs.
Most drugs have side effects they cause others changes beyond those that are desired. Although most physicians will make you aware of important side effects, you might want to know about other side effects that are less likely. Then if they do occur you can notify you doctor to have your medication adjusted. For example, antihistamines typically have the side effect of causing drowsiness. A less likely side effect of some antihistamines is causing erection problems in some men.
- The dosage schedule. Not only do you need to know how much and when to take your medication, but you also need to know how long you need to continue to take it. Even though you might feel better after taking a few doses, you usually need to take the medication until the prescription is completely used. You also need to know other important factors, for example, whether you take it before or after meals.
Unfortunately, if the negative side effects are related to sexual, urinary or bowel functions, some patients are too embarrassed to tell their physician. This means that they either put up with the problem or quit taking the medication. Either way, they are likely to be angry with the physician. However, no physician can adequately help you, unless you provide the physician with enough information.
- The interaction with other drugs. Physicians need to know what other drugs you are taking. Many medications lose their effectiveness when combined with others drugs (aspirin, cold pills, vitamins, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine) or even foods like milk, for example. Still worse, the combination might have negative effects even deadly ones. Women taking oral contraceptives need to know that some of these pills can react negatively with several other drugs blood pressure medications, oral blood thinners or barbiturates. These drugs may still be taken together, but the dosages need to be altered to minimize any harmful effects.
"Don't be a passive patient;
become involved in your own recovery."
If you have a problem and want to feel better, you will be much more successful, if you don't play the role of the "passive patient." Before you visit your physician, write down any information that you think might be related to your problem, including any life changes that might accompany your symptoms. If you don't write it down and bring your list to the office, you are likely to forget some significant facts.
Once your physician prescribes treatment and/or medication, make sure you understand what is being said. Don't be afraid to ask questions! If the advice seems unacceptable, ask for other available options. If you need written instructions, ask for them. When the instructions are clear and suitable, make sure you follow them. Any prescription that is not followed can never be effective.
* Adapted from Turner and Rubinson's Contemporary Human Sexuality, Prentice Hall, 1993, page 116.
Go to first page of listing additional articles.
Go to second page of listing additional articles.
Go back to "A Line on Life"