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Dangerous Drugs - The Over Medication of America (Part 3 of 3)

What drugs did you take today? This is the final installment in my series about the over medication of America. In this issue I'm covering insomnia, osteoporosis, and the 8 critical questions you should ask your doctor before you start a prescription drug program.

If you suffer from insomnia you can reach for Ambien without the worry of, "...lingering drowsiness the next day." Sleep is just a pill away. Of course you're only supposed to take these pills for short-term use and few clinical studies have bothered to document their safety beyond three months of usage. On the Ambien webpage it says, "All people taking sleep medicines have some risk of becoming dependent on the medicine." Many people keep taking them for years.

Cognitive therapy is one option for insomniacs. Five sessions with a psychologist might fix the problem by teaching relaxation techniques, using behavior modification to boost the association between bedtime and sleep, and counseling to get overwrought patients to realize that their insomnia has less of an impact on the next day than they think.

Harvard's Jacobs compared insomnia medication Ambien in a head-to-head trial versus cognitive behavioral therapy. The result was that therapy worked just as well as Ambien, but therapy had a significant advantage. When people stopped taking Ambien, their ability to sleep better began to fade. Subjects who had therapy were still sleeping better a full year later.

If you're spending the more than $1,000 per year taking Ambien to sleep, you might look into using some of that money for a few therapy sessions.

Many people see osteoporosis as an inevitable result of the aging process and take bisphosphonate medications like Actonel and Fosamax. While these medications can help increase bone density, they do have side effects like chest pain, heartburn or ulcers of the esophagus.

Thinning of the bones is a natural result of aging, but simple things like eating a nutritious diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus can help. Regular strength training exercises can also increase the amount and thickness of bones. The sooner you start the greater the long-term positive effects are.

While many of the drugs I've mentioned have helped millions of people, it's also very likely they've hurt many too. If you're relying on prescription medications to correct lifestyle problems, you should talk with your doctor and make an honest appraisal of your health. Take control of your weight. If you smoke, stop. If you drink a lot, cut down. Get informed! You can make changes in your life by choosing one thing you want to improve and start right now.

The end result is you will look, feel and be healthier, and hopefully over time be able to reduce or eliminate prescription medications.

8 Questions Before you Start a Prescription

  1. Do I have to start a new drug or are there lifestyle changes I can make first?

  2. Exactly what is the drug for and how will I know it's working?

  3. Should I use a new drug or is there a potential "old reliable" that can be used?

  4. What are the measurable benefits of taking the drug?

  5. What are the risks and potential side effects I should be aware of?

  6. Will any supplements, herbs or other medications I'm taking interfere with the new drug?

  7. Is there a generic version of the drug that may save me money?

  8. When should my next appointment be to determine the efficacy of the new drug?

Now it's up to you, what are you going to do?

Part 1 2 3

CAUTION: DO NOT stop, start or modify any drug program you may currently be on without consulting with your doctor or health care provider FIRST. This information is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should NOT be used to diagnose, treat or manage any disease or condition.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

2/4/2005