In the UK the cost of a legitimate legal prescription is £8.05. With a population of over 63 million of which only a portion get free prescriptions it is certainly a growing business. Yet the NHS System is floundering and we as the general public have started to pay for much more than our prescriptions. So what has happened to medicine in the UK? Why did treatment change from the usual antibiotic or a good talking that we had in 1980’s? I remember a doctor back then that never prescribed anything, he just told you not to be so melancholic. But now I wonder, what is the average GP’s motivation? Where is all that prescription money going? Is it time to uncover the truth about what we are medicated with. Could it be time to take control of our medications ourselves? Do we even trust medicine anymore? Using my insider information on this (I am a prolific drug taker,) I am going to try to answer these questions and find out how often we are taking drugs that we don’t really need.
I am actually taking 7 prescription medications per day. I have anti epilepsy medication to help the symptoms of a neurological pain condition. I have codeine at two strengths to help with the pain. I take anti-depressants to help with depression caused by a personality disorder. I take diazepam at night to help me sleep and I also take anti-psychotics that were first prescribed to combat the symptoms of postnatal psychosis that I had seven years ago. Oh and of course during the Summer I am also dependant on the antihistamine, though I am not sure if it actually works. Now I know you are probably all thinking ‘How does she stand up every day?’ Well the body and mind are very tolerant mechanisms and over the years I have become tolerant physically and blasé in attitude toward my medication. That is until lately when I started to wonder what I would be like without them and how I would cope.
Apart from the codeine and diazepam, none of my medications are labelled as addictive. This is ironic as these two drugs are the only medications that don’t play with my brain chemistry. But apparently, I should be able to take all my anti’s (as I call them) with little change in my everyday life. In fact because of these drugs, my everyday life is very changed. My sleep is either excessive or non-existent. My appetite can be uncontrollable. I am frequently dizzy. I constantly phase out of conversations. I am anxious, moody and very intolerant to others. I have horrendous irritable bowel syndrome. I have days at a time when I just don’t leave the house and I also don’t like to wear pants. But this may just be a quirk and not a side effect of my medication.
I am a minority, but I very rarely worry about my daily drug habit. I just don’t consider it to be an issue in my life. Yet I have been told that my very life depends on me maintaining my habit. So what am I going to do? Accept that and stay on them forever thus limiting my activities day to day? Or should I self-medicate to find the level that is socially acceptable and also treats my symptoms? When I take these questions to my medical professionals I often get told not to worry about it and to be thankful the best combination has been found. But I often come away from these meetings thinking the best combination for whom? Is it for you dear doctor, I mean you are a commission based legal drug pusher. Or is it for me, the unwilling addict that just needs to feel better? I also often think that I am not being treated subjectively but more as a part of a group of mass moaners. I could be wrong, but let’s take a look shall we? I am going to focus on the two most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK, the happy pill (Anti-Depressant) and the prescription heroin (Painkillers.)
Case One – The Anti-depressant
There is a town in Wales where 1 in 6 of the people living there have been prescribed regular anti-depressants. Apparently this is not uncommon and it is the same in and around every town in the UK. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but for me who lives in a built up area, it’s really hard for me to grasp that in every other house there is someone suffering from depression that needs medication. I might be naïve, but I see comings and goings all day every day. I see people laugh, I even hear people singing and in my experience these actions don’t equal depression. So I am left with a wondering, is that ratio specific to that particular town or are all the people on my street taking Anti-Depressants thus enabling them to sing and smile. I can’t decide what I believe, but statistics are statistics, so the latter must be true. I am also wondering what this means in terms of daily life. Has the average person given up on thinking they are happy without their chemical enhancements? Maybe that first time that they went to the doctor after that particularly bad month they found a gateway into not having to make an effort anymore. Imagine being told that if you take 10mg of citalopram you will never feel sad again, it must feel like a god send for them. Oh and the GP who has just got another regular customer.
I would like to say that it felt that way for me, but I was so depressed, I actually didn’t know what I was taking. I just accepted a cup of tablets from the nurse on my hospital ward every day. But that is what Anti-Depressants are made for, so I was happy to do it. Although, discovering the side effects I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have taken had I not been excessively depressed. I am also pretty sure I wouldn’t take them as an easy way to make myself happy.
Over the years of my Anti-Depressant usage and subsequent research, I have uncovered a startling piece of information. Taking a low dose of a weak Anti-Depressant is not going to help anyone with depressive illness. It is simply a placebo. I know it is a bold statement coming from a person with no medical training, but I believe it to be true. So again, I can only come to the conclusion that the ones to benefit from such prescribing are the people who are receiving commission and payment from your £8.05 prescription charge. Sadly for the user themselves, you are duped into thinking you need the drugs and you slowly lose the confidence of knowing you are happy naturally. I am interested in knowing. If you were all armed with this information, would you continue to take the drugs that you don’t really need? Or do you like the placebo feeling too much? I know what I would do, but unfortunately I have no choice. I do need the darn things and I will need them forever until I slip away. But I will happy in death at least, because of my Anti-Depressants.
Case two – The Painkiller
Oh the painkillers. What lovely things they are. Ranging from the generic paracetomol (which a recent study in Australia found was no better than compressed dust for pain) to luscious Morphine (my painkiller of choice, if I had a choice.) We have all had a taste of the painkiller, haven’t we, but how well do they actually work? Could we be prescribed them just to get us out of the doctor’s chair? Or are our GP’s sympathetic to our troubles and have are pains best interest at heart.
My own painkiller usage has taught me that there is merit to the painkiller though you do have to play around with the dosage. Until recently and over the last two years, I was taking 30mg of codeine eight times per day.After my own overhaul of my medication, I went along to the doctor and had to convince them to lower my dosage. Incredibly they were more reluctant to prescribe me 15mg and seriously urged me to stay at the 30mg level. I was adamant though. I wanted some progression in in my natural pain management, so I eventually got the 15mg I was asking for. Not surprising, my neurological pain has been no worse with the 15mg which therefore concludes that I have polluting my body with excess codeine for 2 years and nobody seems to care.
I have also been party to the worry of painkiller addiction. I know somebody that worries constantly, after taking a couple of Nurofen every day, whether she is addicted to painkillers. In fact she is more addicted to the red wine she guzzles, but, that’s apparently more acceptable in her way of life. To her Nurofen is like middle class heroin. It is odd though, obviously my own painkiller prescription should make me be mindful of an addiction, but I really don’t worry. I know myself that if I don’t need them, I don’t take them, and I can also testify that lowering my dose by half in a one day time span gave me no side effects what so ever. Therefore I am not physically addicted and I need them a lot less than my friend needs her red wine.
So what can we conclude about prescription painkillers. Are they neccessary or are they a pacifier. Yes a tooth abscess may benefit from a dose of strong painkillers until the antibiotic kicks in. But a permanent prescription for migraines because you work on a computer all day seems like a pretty extreme way to deal with the fact that you need a ten minute break from the screen every hour. Worryingly the more prescription painkillers that are handed out will ultimately lead to a general decline in our tolerance of pain. Quite simply if this isn’t managed and controlled soon, the paracetomol will be wiped out and we all be going for codeine as a first port of call for pain management. This is a concern because painkillers don’t only give you nasty side effects. They also albeit inadvertently make you less aware of danger. I know myself that a tattoo (that would cause most people a high level of pain) doesn’t even make me flinch because of the codeine. So what other dangerous situations will I find myself in on the back of my codeine induced pain tolerance? And if we all start experiencing this, how long will it be before we are all turning to morphine to get us through that migraine filled day.
I try very hard to not obsess about my medications, but because of the codeine, I am at my tablet cupboard at least six times a day. Oh yes, I have a tablet cupboard and when you open it, it is like a branch of Boots Chemist. I am not ashamed of needing these drugs, but I don’t like to focus on them and try my best to fit them around my daily routine. I am grateful for the doctors that have helped me with my physical and mental ill health, but at the same time I am fearful for the people that are being treated with similar drugs for less serious conditions. I have a theory that medicine in the UK has become a commodity like everything else in the 21st century. As I said earlier, we are all part of the mass moaners and we keep our local privately run affiliated NHS practices in business with our health complaints. All I am saying is the next time you visit your GP and walk away with a little green slip full of oddly named tablets, ask yourself if you do need them. Make sure that you read the instructions inside the box. Lastly don’t for get to pay your £8.05 prescription charge. The future of the placebo depends on it.
Love Keels xx