For people living with long-term pain or other health issues, the everyday reality is one which involves taking pharmaceutical medication. There’s no doubting the efficacy of a lot of medicines – for many people, they represent the ability to live a life that would be denied them otherwise.
However, we know also that there are complications involved in using medication long-term. We have seen in recent years a rise in the use of non-drug treatment methods. Below, we’ll look into whether this may be an option for you, and what questions you need to ask even before considering it.
Should you go medication-free?
Firstly, are your meds essential?
Remembering to take your meds, and dealing with the potential side-effects, can be a tiring and frustrating proposition. Sometimes, however, it will be the only option. If you’re fitted with a pacemaker, have a transplant organ, or are dealing with cancer among other issues, then going drug-free may very well have fatal consequences. Whatever your issue, and whatever your reason for going without meds, always consult with a physician first. Ditching a prescription is never an uncomplicated move.
What are your concerns?
In the majority of cases, concerns over a medication-centered recovery fall into two categories. Fear of dependency on the one hand, and side effects on the other. Strong opioid pain medication is effective in reducing pain, but it can be very difficult to come off. Side effects from any number of medications can involve nausea, hypertension, mood swings and lack of energy. It’s important to tally the benefits of any medication against the difficulties that result from using it.
What are the alternatives?
It’s essential to recognize that giving up medication “just like that” is rarely a wise idea – quite aside from the complications mentioned above, you need to have a realistic replacement on hand. If you’ve been using medication to deal with depression, you’ll most likely need to lean more heavily on talking therapies. If yours is a chronic pain condition, the solution may be in chiropractic approaches. Whatever you’re looking to handle, discuss it with a specialist first.
What does “stopping” look like?
If your medication has been doing some heavy-duty work, then your body is going to notice when you take it away. Even if the reason you initially needed the meds has ceased to be an issue, you will have become physiologically used to the drug. There may be – and in the case of strong pain meds, will be – some adjustment to go through. It may even be dangerous to stop immediately.
Although tapering – the process of progressively lowering a dosage – may seem like a delay you don’t want, it’s one you might need. If you quit “cold turkey”, you risk a response that is so unpleasant it sends you back to the medication – and if you’ve managed some time drug-free, your lowered tolerance may be a danger.
What are the benefits?
The key question in going without medication is what your world is going to look like without the drug in your system. The likely answer is “better”, of course, but it’s good to have a realistic picture and to have some clear benefits to look forward to. Being free of medication may mean you experience the world more vividly, spend more of your time awake, and laugh more. There will be some sticking points, but if you can cling to the positives, it makes things a lot easier.
Going off of medications is not an easy decision, nor one that everyone can wisely do. But if you are concerned with your medications, it is best to consult your doctor about it. Do not make any decisions on your own, from friend’s advice or Google research. You and your doctor need to work together to get the optimal results for your health.