Medication: Remember to Ask Questions

This weekend I had a rather harrowing experience. I woke up on Saturday morning…well that’s not quite correct. I tried to wake up about five times on Saturday morning, couldn’t open my eyes, sort of fell out of bed and dragged myself into the living room and realized that I felt like absolute poo (still mostly asleep). I tried to stand up and found myself dizzy, light headed, weak in the legs. I nearly fell over. Everything was too bright, my head hurt. I felt on the verge of tears for no reason. At some point I realized I was deeply nauseous and shaking all over. My boyfriend told me I looked like I was about to hurl and told me I should probably go to urgent care. Of course being the brilliant person that I am I refused and continued about my day.

At first, none of this made any sense. Then it slowly dawned on me that I had missed the does of my medication, Effexor, the day previous. It seemed odd that it would have such an intense effect, but I asked my boyfriend to give me a ride to my pharmacy to pick up my new prescription, took the pills and rested the rest of the day. 14 hours of sleep later I woke up feeling normal and proceeded on to the internet where a quick google search of “missed dose Effexor” elicited a number of horror stories similar to my own.

What was odd to me was that when I was prescribed this medication, my doctor hadn’t mentioned this. Of course I had browsed over the side effects in the packet that comes with the pills, and I knew that my weird dreams, occasional light-headedness, and general sleepiness were normal, but nowhere had it mentioned that missing a dose could have such a serious effect.And this is where my skeptic powers could have and should have been far more useful.

As a young adult, I’m just starting to learn how to navigate the medical and health care systems independently. It is not an easy task, but incidents like this remind me of the importance of doing your research, both with your doctor and independently. For all of you other young adults out there, this is important. It’s easy to feel like you can just trust the doctor to get things right. It’s easy to feel as if there’s nothing particularly wrong with you so you’ll just go along with whatever your doctor says.Unfortunately this is a good way to put yourself in a very bad situation.

Especially as young people it can be a little intimidating to speak up and question an adult who clearly has power over you and clearly is more knowledgeable than you are. But it is your health that is on the line when a doctor makes a decision.It’s incredibly important to be an active participant in your own health care, as difficult as that is. It starts with asking questions. If a doctor prescribes you a new medication, insist that you know the potential side effects. Insist that you know how you would get off the medication if that were necessary, what other options are, and why your doctor has chosen this particular one. It can be easy to forget to do these things, to just not feel motivated, or to let it slide.

I’m here to tell you that I’ve had a good strong reminder of why we need to exercise our brains and do the research. We have the ability to find out information about medications, about our conditions, about treatments, and to bring that information to our doctors. Make sure you use your brains, not just when thinking about alt med, but when thinking about all meds. It’s good to be prepared.

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

1 Comment

  1. February 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm —

    Oh holy shit Olivia, I took Effexor(Venlaxafine) too. Which is why, holy shit. Withdrawal is SCARY and I had a similar experience with it (I’m cold turkeying it right now because I’m so tired of withdrawal.)

    The negligence of doctors in not mentioning it before you start on these meds is downright awful. I’m sorry you had to experience this shit.

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