Today, medicine is geared toward PREVENTATIVE medicine. This means that we are trying to prevent serious, debilitating and even fatal diseases and illnesses. Medications are prescribed to prevent further progression of illnesses to more serious illnesses. For example, anti-hypertensive medications (blood pressure medication) is prescribed to keep your blood pressure controlled to prevent stroke, peripheral vascular disease, cardiac disease and eye disease. It is essential that you have a good understanding of why a provider orders a medication for you, what the side effects are, and know how long you should take this medication.
Please do NOT just stop medications. Some medications have rebound effects. For example stopping a beta-blocker that is meant to lower heart rate and blood pressure, may actually result in a very high heart rate and blood pressure. Other medications can cause withdraw symptoms. For example, gabapentin is often prescribed for neurological pain, but when stopped suddenly, it can cause confusion, agitation, headache, nausea, tremors and anxiety. If you are not happy with how you feel on a medication, please talk to your provider about how to safely stop it and alternative treatment options.
Even worse, many people stop taking their antibiotics before they are finished because their infection looks better or they feel better. Not completing the entire course of antibiotics may not only cause the infection to come back, but it may also an antibiotic resistance that may be difficult to treat. This often requires hospital admission for IV antibiotics and specialist to treat a now very complex infection.
All medications should be taken very seriously. You should sit down with your provider and discuss all medications that you are on, both over-the-counter and prescribed. You should know why you are taking it, when to take it and how long to take it. You should also see if there are any testing that needs to be done while you are on that medication (blood tests to see if doses are appropriate). You should know common side effects of the medications you are on. You should keep an accurate list of your medications with their doses and timing in your wallet for medical providers to review at all appointments and emergency visits. If you feel you no longer need a medication, have a discussion with your provider.