As a doctor, many of my patients have shared that they are uncomfortable with taking medications.  Some think that the medication does not work; some are unable to afford the medication; others do not like taking more than one medication at a time.  It is often difficult to stay on a medication if you do not recognize the true benefit that it is providing. That is why the initial conversation with your doctor when you start the medication is crucial.    However, if you are started on a medication, it is very important that you talk with your doctor in detail and with full honesty about why you want to stop taking the medication.  Although you might not feel better, many times the medication does not take effect immediately.   More often, certain medical problems (i.e. high cholesterol) do not “hurt” or even cause inconvenience, so you wonder why you need the medication in the first place.  However, these very medical problems could cause you serious illness in the future – so it is important to do what you can right now to prevent such happenings. I’ll briefly present an overview of medications.

Medications are prescribed in order to address a wide range of medical problems. From pain control, to acid reflux, to elevated blood pressure, medications are one form of treatment that should be considered most seriously due to both positive and negative effects. 
In the United States, there are both prescriptive drugs (i.e. requiring a doctor’s signature) and over-the-counter drugs.  All prescriptive and most over-the-counter drugs are tested for safety by the federal government.  Be aware that these drugs can still have side effects.  The possible side effects will be listed on the information that comes with the drug or on the manufacturer’s website.  However, just because the medications might have a side effect does not mean that you will definitely experience that symptom.  You will need to talk with your doctor about how comfortable you are with the possibility of that symptom.  In addition to side effects, medications can interact with other medications that you might be taking.  It is important to go over each of your medications with your doctor in order to be sure that such interactions do not happen.  It is also important that you learn when and how the medication should be taken so that it will work correctly.  Lastly, when you start a medication, do not be afraid to specifically ask your doctor questions such as “how does the drug work?” “how long do I need to stay on this medication?” and “how much does this medication cost?”
I encourage each of you to have talk with your doctor about each pill you take – so that you can be an active participant in your own health care!

Kameron Leigh Matthews, MD, Esq. completes her Chief Residency in Family Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago in June 2010, and will be subsequently joining the medical staff at Cermak Health Services of Cook County with the Cook County Department of Corrections.  She received her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University, and her law degree from University of Chicago.  Her career interests lie in patient education, the elimination of health care disparities, and mentoring of future young physicians and professionals.

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