Trauma, PTSD and Prescriptions: Asking The Right Questions

 Asking The Right Questions

My PTSD experience began with an innocent prescription: I had a common kind of infection and my doctor prescribed a common kind of antibiotic. After that the most uncommon thing happened: the medication nearly killed me. I became the 1 in 2 million to end up with Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Syndrome. To put that in plain English, I became the equivalent of a full-body burn victim as my body rejected the medication and purged it through my skin.

That was back in 1981. Since then I’ve learned to be very cautious about what medications I take, what their side effects might be and how they interact with each other. Still, for over twenty-five years after that horrific illness I struggled with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The long-lasting effect of the medication lingered in my mind long after it left my body.

Today, PTSD statistics let us know that over 24 million people cope with PTSD symptoms at any given time. (Those of us in the healing profession know that number is low as it only includes diagnosed cases, not survivors who go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.) The causes of PTSD, of course, span more than medical trauma to include survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, accidents, natural disasters and, of course, military service to name a few.

The Prevalence of Prescription Drugs

According to the Mayo Clinic, the number of Americans on prescription medications (antibiotics, antidepressants and painkilling opiods are the most popular) is at 70% — and 50% are on two medications simultaneously. In addition to that, 20% of patients are on five prescriptions or more. The United States alone consumes 75% of the worlds prescription drugs, a number supported by this data from

  • 700,000 emergency room visits each year are due to incorrect medication use.
  • 2/3 of all doctors’ visits end with a prescription being written.
  • Medication-related problems are estimated to be one of the top five causes of death for people 65 and over.

One of the most popular ways to quell the chaos of PTSD, in fact, is medication. From the Veterans Administration to many psychiatrist’s offices survivors are given prescriptions to reduce insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, depression, mood swings and phobias. With so many prescriptions written for both mental health and physical issues it becomes more and more important to make sure you’re asking the right questions before popping a pill.

Top 5 Questions to Ask When Filling a Prescription

The best person to help you discover all you need to know about the new medication you’re taking is often your pharmacist. With an enormous database of medications’ side effects and interactions — and a willingness to educate you for free — your pharmacists can be a terrific asset in your healthcare management. Questions to ask when filling a new prescription include:

1. What are the possible side effects I should be aware of?

2. What interaction does this have with a) other medications I’m taking, b) other over the counter medications (e.g. antihistamines, birth control, painkillers)?

3. When should I expect to see positive benefits?

4. Does it matter if I take this with food or without or at a specific time of day?

5. Will this impact what activities I can do when I take it?

There is one final question, too, and this one is for your family:

Often negative drug reactions can be genetic. Meaning, they are passed down from one generation to another. For example, both of my grandmother’s were allergic to the major component that was in the antibiotic I was given in 1981 — but neither of them mentioned it to my parents. We had no way to know my body might be harboring a secret allergy. Before you take any new medication ask your family:

Has anyone else taken this medication and what has been his/her experience?

Medications have many good benefits both in our medical and mental health lives. Being an advocate for yourself as a patient means asking, asking, asking questions of the right people and about the important subjects to keep yourself safe on your journey to healing.

For drug recall recall information visit American Recall Center.


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