I get it, okay? The lists of possible side effects on most of the prescription medicines we take are pretty scary. But it’s a shame when I see people posting in chat rooms and message boards for their condition saying ‘I’ve been prescribed XYZ, but the side effects look so awful I don’t want to take it…’
By all means if you ARE experiencing side effects, see your doctor, but to simply be scared of what’s statistically possible but very unlikely seems a bit of a shame to me – you might be missing out on something that would really improve your quality of life!
All the choices we make in life have risks and benefits, they just aren’t usually as clearly spelled out for us as they are with medicines. Imagine if getting to uni/work by train came with a warning label – it might look something like this:
“Commuterex © has been prescribed by your doctor as your method of transportation. When starting treatment you may experience the following side effects: tiredness from early starts, anxiety from missed connections, and mild claustrophobia from crowded train carriages. These side effects are mild and usually clear up after the first few weeks on Commuterex©.
The following side effects, although rare, are more serious. You should discontinue Commuterex© immediately and seek medical attention if you experience the following:
• Falling off the train platform
• Being hit by a train
• Being held up at knife-point.
Extensive human trials have shown that overall, Commuterex© is well tolerated, and has allowed thousands of people to attend their schools and workplaces.”
So if you’re thinking ‘Pffft, I’ve NEVER fallen off a train platform’, that’s exactly my point: serious side effects are rare, but the drug companies have to put them in the warnings. And perhaps you’re thinking ‘Well, anyone who WAS hit by a train probably had bad eyesight or hearing or something’; we can kind of extend this example too – some of these side effects are perhaps more common in older people, people whose organs and bodies are a bit worn out already, so if you’re a young, relatively healthy person, the odds are probably in your favour.
Another thing to keep in mind if you’re reading other people’s experiences of a drug online is that people rarely write a post to say ‘This medicine did nothing except what it was supposed to do…’ It’s a bit like how we’re much more likely to get on social media to give a bad review of a restaurant rather than a good one! So if you feel you’re reading a lot of negative experiences of a particular drug, keep in mind they still might be a small proportion of all the people who are taking it.
While it’s definitely a good idea to keep an eye on how a new medication affects you and to discuss anything you’re worried about with your doctor or pharmacist; try not to let the potential side effects put you off even STARTING a medication you’ve been prescribed – it just might be the ‘miracle drug’ you’ve been waiting for!
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(Any opinions expressed in Hannah’s blog are not necessarily shared by Arthur’s Place. Nothing that you read in Hannah’s blog constitutes medical advice.)