- Taking responsibility
- Symptoms that persist
- Know more about what you are taking
- Understanding Expertise
- Further Reading
When you take into account that nearly 7 in 10 Americans are on prescription drugs, many of them taking a cocktail of many different types of medication, and then add to this that the third leading cause of death in America is medical error, we need to be aware of the role we play in our own health care.
In Britain, 10,000 people die each year from reactions to drugs, and 1 in every 16 patients are hospitalised because of adverse reactions to everyday medications – including aspirin.
Most people living with the outcomes of brain injury are aware that they are more susceptible to risk and more vulnerable to toxicity. However, many people have no idea that following the advice of their doctor could be making them worse, not better.
Prescription medications are intended only for short-term use, and while many are life-saving, many are simply adding to the symptoms people are experiencing while not even alleviating the original complaint.
Many patients are not informed of the risks or possible side-effects of prescribed medication, and even though the drug should have an accompanying warning leaflet with it, many people do not read these, trusting that their doctor knows best.
Many people turn to their doctor for help following a brain injury because they want something that will quickly alleviate their symptoms. Others, who have tried this and found that something worked, become dependent on medications that are often only designed for short-term use.
For many people, there is a worsening of symptoms, and over time they try many different methods of alleviating symptoms, such as headaches or depression, and eventually find something that works for them. Dependency on prescription medications is common and can stand in the way of people working through their issues, missing opportunities to rewire the brain or otherwise improving or understanding their health.
Cost is another factor that people take into account. While pharmacological medications are usually available by prescription and paid for through insurance or health services, many alternative treatments or supplements are not covered.
It is essential to be aware of the risks associated with medications, and while many doctors do not discuss these, probably due to the nocebo effect, many others will undertake more stringent evaluations and testing to make sure that you are getting what is best for you.
Functional doctors take a ‘whole body’ approach and will recommend alternatives that empower you to make informed choices.
Without a doubt, nobody knows your body as you do and ‘listening’ to and observing its’ reactions can tell you a lot about what will work best for you. It is important to listen to your instincts and to ask questions.
Do not stop taking any medication prescribed by your doctor without speaking to them first. Talk to them about how to treat your symptoms with lifestyle changes, and if you have to use medication, learn how to use the lowest dose. Ask your doctor if you can use nutrition to compensate for side effects. If you can stop medications, you should only do so under the supervision of your doctor.
Symptoms that persist
Most people understand that they should never stop taking a prescribed medication without the help and confirmation from their doctor. The advice given will take into account many complex variables that we are not aware of or may not consider.
Work with your doctor and talk about wanting to take more responsibility for your own health – let your doctor know that you are willing to listen to advice about your diet and lifestyle.
The more information we have, the more we can make informed choices. When we base our choices on improved knowledge, we can make changes that we will want to stick with over the long-term.
The longer symptoms persist and remain unaddressed at a causal level, the more we increase our risk of developing other diseases. Also, the longer it takes us to act is the further we are pushing away the possibility of a return of good health.
For example, a study carried out by the University of Washington about common anticholinergic drugs prompted Dr Sarah Berry, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, to say, “This study is another reminder to periodically evaluate all of the drugs you’re taking. Look at each one to determine if it’s really helping. For instance, I’ve seen people who have been on anticholinergic medications for bladder control for years and they are completely incontinent. These drugs obviously aren’t helping.”
Know more about what you are taking
Some of these studies have only looked at older age groups and can be specific to finding causes of dementia, however, if these medications have adverse effects in an older but healthy generation then it is very likely that people who have experienced brain injury will also be at increased risk. Risks increase when medication is taken for longer than intended by the manufacturers. The following are examples of medicines that are still prescribed despite known risks and cause brain damage:
- Anticholinergics, which can be found in medications like Benadryl and Tylenol PM, Unisom, Paxil, Phenergan, and so many more, increase the risk for cognitive decline and dementia.
- Benzodiazepines found in common medications like Ativan, Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin are difficult to stop usage after a few weeks and have been suspected of causing brain damage for decades
- “Antidepressants disrupt the functioning of the homeostatic mechanisms that regulate serotonin throughout the body, and our review shows that antidepressants have adverse effects on every major system regulated by serotonin.” Authors: Paul W. Andrews, J. Anderson Thomson Jr., Ananda Amstadter and Michael C. Neal
- Acid-blocking drugs such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex, and Nexium can lower your stores of vitamin B which is harmful to the brain and can affect mood, memory and attention
According to Richard C. Mohs, the former vice-chairman of the Department of Psychiatry from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, these are the 20 prescribed drugs that are known to cause memory loss.* (see below)
It is best to discuss advice given by your doctor with them before taking any drug with a view to making informed considerations for yourself. If possible, see a functional doctor who specialises in brain injury.
Following a brain injury, it may be better to try supplements, eating for nutrition, and natural ingredients and remedies – all things that you can discuss with a neurological specialist experienced in treating the sequelae of brain injury.
At a quantum level, your body will recognise that medications are synthesised molecules and will reject them. Some people are more tolerant than others. The degree of rejection is called ‘side effects.’
*20 drugs listed by Richard C. Mohs, former vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- High blood pressure drugs
- Painkillers like codeine heroin, morphine
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Antipsychotics like Haldol or Mellaril
- Epilepsy like phenytoin or Dilantin
- Barbiturates like Seconal, Phenobarbital , Amytal, Nembutal
- Beta blockers especially for glaucoma
- Sleeping pills like Sonata, Ambien, Lunesta
- Parkinson’s disease like glycopyrrolate, scopolamine, atropine
- Benzodiazepines like Ativan, Dalmane, Valium, Xanax
Independent – Glaxo Chief: Our drugs do not work on most people
Science Daily – Nearly 7 in 10 Americans are on prescription drugs
CNBC – The third-leading cause of death in US most doctors don’t want you to know about
JAMA Network – Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia
Science Daily – Nearly 7 in 10 Americans are on prescription drugs
Harvard Health Publishing – Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk
NCBI – Drugs with anticholinergic properties, cognitive decline, and dementia in an elderly general population: the 3-city study
Cochrane – Medications for discontinuation of long-term benzodiazepine use
Independent – Drugs linked to brain damage 30 years ago
Frontiers in Psychology – Primum non nocere: an evolutionary analysis of whether antidepressants do more harm than good