While watching TV one evening I noticed the number of commercials that pushed medications for acid reflux, insomnia, depression, restless leg syndrome and other maladies. It seemed that drugs were actually getting more air time than food. Could that really be possible? Are those wonderful Kraft goodies taking second place to the butterflies promoting a good nights sleep with the latest hypnotic medication?
There was one commercial that really troubled me. It promoted a medication for depression. It reminds the viewer..."If you have trouble with this medication, see your doctor." Chances are you will get an increase in dosage or a different pill. There is no information about accompanying this medication with counseling or exercise. So it appears that depression is resolved with a pill. Are doctors really prescribing anti-depressants without telling people that it MUST be accompanied by therapy and life changes.
Are we possibly ingesting chemicals that we really don’t need? I recently talked with a female client who produced a list of 23 daily medications prescribed by five different doctors. I encouraged her to review the list with her new primary care physician and hopefully a drug or two (or three) could be eliminated. It is not a rare occurrence to talk to people who take 10, 15, 20 or more pills per day. When they describe symptoms ranging from headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc. it is difficult to know which medication is the culprit.
Recently, while speaking to a group of people in an out patient treatment program, I was approached by a female who wanted my opinion on her medications. She said she had not been feeling well and wondered if one of her medications was the problem. She handed me a legal size sheet of paper with 17 different medications. She was overwhelmed taking so many medications and frustrated that with all of these pills she still did not feel good. I encouraged her to talk to her doctor as soon as possible. When I say, "talk to your doctor," it is with some caution. Many of you have wonderful doctors like mine who didn’t prescribe medication at all, but instead created a behavioral program and encouraged therapy. But some people find doctors who will reach for the prescription pad because it is easier, less time consuming and possibly not the best treatment.
Don’t count on doctors to solve all of your problems. Take responsibility for being proactive with your own health care. Before making a doctor’s appointment or thinking which medication would solve the problem, take inventory about how you have tried to eliminate the problem in other ways. Believe it or not, medication may not always be the answer. If you hate your job, feel empty in your marriage or mismanage your finances a pill will not change these situations. It’s just not that easy. Exercise cannot be put in a capsule. Complete nutrition is not in a tablet. Stress relief is more than a glass of wine at happy hour. If insomnia is your problem here are a few suggestions before you take that pill:
1. Exercise at least 3-5 times for 30 minutes - 1 hr. and not before bed.
2. Avoid watching the news.
3. Stop household chores at least 1 hr. before bed.
4. Don’t eat a late meal.
5. Take a long shower or bubble bath.
6. Lower the thermostat.
7. A few dishes will deep overnight in the sink. (So will towels in the dryer).
8. Slow your mind and body by journaling.
If none of the above induce sleep, maybe its time for therapy to discuss what is going on in your life. If you have tried all of the above (more than once) and you still can’t sleep - OK call your doctor. I doubt that you have tried them all because they more motivation than taking a pill. The next time you see a commercial for medication, first listen to the side effects. Second, think about how you really want to spend your time and money. Music vs. Doctors. Exercise vs. Medication. Therapy vs.Loneliness. Its your choice. Oh yeah - the mute button can also be used during commercials.
Vicki L. Mayfield, M.Ed., RN, LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Registered Nurse. She has a private practice. She can be reached through her email at VMFIELD@GMAIL.COM or by phone at 405-620-4597/