This is an important question to ask ourselves, regularly. Medicines are powerful and have many different effects on our body, and may change over time.
My first time, asking this question, was when I visited my mother in England.
“Mum, why are you taking these pills?”
“Oh, these are lovely dear, I’ve been taking them for a long time”
My mum was a lovely lady and very respectful of doctors, but it was an opportunity to visit with her to her local doctor, as it’s many years between my trips back home to England.
What happened next, was shocking and may have really impacted on her health.
Fortunately, as it turned out, we saw a locum, filling in for two weeks. As he knew nothing of my mother’s case he took time to look at her history of the pills.
“How is your arthritis, Mrs Jordan?” asked the doctor.
“Oh, that’s good” replied my mother.
Here I had to interrupt.
“She’s never had arthritis, doesn’t happen in our family”
This prompted much discussion and file searching until the locum found more information. Over three years previously mum had fallen when our walking with her dog and broken her wrist. At this time she was given opioid medication for her pain. Within a few months the wrist had healed, but she was continually given scripts for more painkillers.
As I write this tale it’s still a shock, hard to take, that a perfectly healthy 80-something year old fit lady, living alone and taking care of herself had been taking opioid medication for three years for absolutely no reason.
But the saddest part of my story, that in my brief visit I didn’t know what type of drug she had been taking, just for the long ago healed wrist. Not until we stopped the medication that I now realise she had been addicted, as she found an old prescription in the cupboard went to her local chemist for her regular medication and then hid them, taking one when I was not around.
I’m glad that we had a locum who asked questions, checking the strength of the medication she was taking and removing arthritis from her file. Working with and monitoring older people is a special skill and geriatric medicine needs a lot of specially trained people. Older bodies certainly look different on the outside and certainly process drug and nutrients very differently from younger people.
I found this relevant suggestion on an American drug rehab clinic website.
“Protect yourself or your loved one by taking an in-depth look at what medication you’re taking, how much and why?”
This article is the experience of the author and all medication should be discussed with your doctor.
One reason that prompted me to write this article was the number of people coming to my clinic with chronic pain, movement problems and neurological issues, who are taking medicines, especially those over 50, and it's not just one pill but often three or four.
This article written by Jean Jordan, kinesiologist and naturopathic medicine practitioner in Christchurch who wants people to look first for lifestyle changes.