3 Reasons Why
If you’ve read even one medication description online or watched one medication commercial, then you’ve heard the popular line: “Advise your doctor of any and all medications that you are taking.”
You might have heard this phrase so much that it almost has no meaning to you anymore. There is so much information crammed into the 60 seconds of a commercial, or small print on a medication informational packet; you wonder which information is just legalese and which is truly important.
It so happens that the small sentence; “Advise your doctor of any and all medication that you are taking” is actually crucial. It’s a matter of life and death, and it’s not an exaggeration.
- But why do we have to let our doctors know about our other medications?
- Is it our primary care physicians business what your pulmonary doctor put you on for your high blood pressure? Yes. One thousand times yes. It is every doctor’s business to know what medication you’re on.
Here are some reasons why:
1. Medications can react differently with individuals.
Unless you’re a chemist or someone interested in chemistry, you might not know much about chemical reactions. Of course you know that oil and water don’t mix, so if you put them together into a bottle, they’ll separate. We know that heat applied to water will eventually make it boil and cause steam.
The same types of reactions happen when we take medication. Medications cause different reactions in our body. Whether it’s taking insulin in order to regulate sugar or taking a Serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor “SNRI” in order to regulate the reuptake of serotonin in the brain; there are chemical reactions happening. This is how medications work.
2. Medications can react with other medications.
Not only do medications react with our body chemicals, they react with each other. Some medications work wonders when combined together. Others don’t get along so well and can cause serious side effects including coma and death.
Going back to the SNRI example; an SNRI regulates Serotonin in the brain. If you are prescribed Cymbalta® (an SNRI) by your primary care physician, but your psychiatrist has had you on Effexor® (an SNRI), you’re overdosing, even if it isn’t intentional. Both drugs regulate Serotonin and help the brain to get more of it. Too much of this neurotransmitter and you could end up very sick.
Not only should you tell your doctor which prescription drugs you have been prescribed, you have to tell them which over-the-counter drugs that you take on a regular basis. Something as simple and common as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®), or naproxen (Aleve®) can have serious or fatal chemical reactions with other drugs that you might be prescribed.
3. Medications can react with substances such as alcohol or illegal substances.
If your drink alcohol or take illegal substances this could seriously impact your health and your drug interactions. If you inform your doctor about drinking alcohol and you say you drink once a week, but that once a week drink is binge drinking five shots of Tequila, that makes a big difference. Be honest and tell your doctor the complete list. It isn’t worth the risk.
Doctors are trained to know which medications work well with each other and which do not work well together. When you are prescribed a new medication, you have to let your doctor know what you are currently taking or have been prescribed since you last visited.
What happens if you forget a medication that you’re taking?
It’s always a good idea to have your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. They keep a record of which medications you’ve been prescribed and will advise you if there are medications that should not be combined together. It is a good idea to keep a record for yourself and carry it in your wallet.
You should also make it a habit to read the pamphlet of information that comes along with your prescription. If there are any over the counter conflicts, the pamphlet will mention it.