When Drugs Don't Work Blog Say No to a Pill For Every Woe

When Drugs Don’t Work, Why More Prescriptions?

When drugs don’t work and fail to alleviate symptoms, it makes sense to look deeper at the root cause, and alternative treatments. Why are so many who seek medical guidance instead given more medication? Let me ask you, do you so wholeheartedly trust in prescribers and the science of big pharma that you are agreeable to taking recommended prescriptions despite not having clear evidence of their efficacy? Are you following outdated beliefs and expectations about a medical system that no longer sees you as anything more than a commodity? Package it however they will, the medical establishment is no longer set up to promote wellness. It’s big business; illness and pharmaceutical dependency drive profits.

The Phenomenon that Leads to Medical Adherence When Drugs Don’t Work

A medical adherence model seeks to increase patient’s belief in their treatment and motivation to commit to it. Increasingly, this has translated into drug compliance with little focus on self-care or alternatives to treatment. Many people ardently follow the guidelines of a mainstream medical system that demands unquestioning medical adherence. Health and wellness recommendations that fall outside of what brings these businesses profits are discounted. You’re told not to trust what is not proven by science. If a preventative or treatment has been used safely for literally centuries worldwide, they’ll still warn that there is not enough evidence, so beware.

No big corporations are marketing to physicians and consumers to say the science is out, “What you need is garlic, turmeric, ginger, and time outdoors.” Instead, “scientific” claims, derived from pharmaceutically funded research, say they have a pill for your every woe. Don’t question those claims either, even though they have a stake in reaching specific conclusions. If the garlic farmers of America were conducting the research and marketing we’d all be healthier for it.

Taking Medications Has Become Normalized as a Natural Part of Living and Caring For Oneself. Brush Your Teeth, and Take Your Meds

Life can be so hectic, and there are days we all wish we had the lives of the Jetsons. Leave it up to the robots! Then, you can stress less, be more productive, and not have to actively participate in hard things like your own wellness. Marketing experts know your secret fantasies. Pharma commercials depict carefree, happy, and seemingly empty-headed people singing the praises of how medication changed their lives for the better. I get a sinking feeling with the bombardment of advertisements that these larger entities are working on making us into Stepford wives and Stepford husbands (if ever there could be such a thing), except we are married to Big Pharma. We already have what seems to be Stepford physicians. Just accept the rules and don’t think!

Can we stop deceptive drug ads on tv?

I’m being snarky here, and I don’t mean to bash or admonish, especially any consumers of medical care who are suffering. Many people do not have the privilege of being pain or symptom-free and are desperate to remedy what ails them and diminishes their quality of life. They want to trust that an expert opinion will guide them toward greater wellness. Desperation will organically lead people to take the risk of agreeing to take a drug, even when drugs don’t work or cause additional complications.

It’s important to note, that the FDA believes that its system for gathering information about (ADE) Adverse Drug Effects, through the Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), receives reports for only about 1 to 10 percent of all ADEs. In the world of pharmaceuticals, all is an experiment.

Vulnerable Populations, Those with Intellectual Disabilities, and Older Adults Have a Higher Incidence of Polypharmacy and (PIP) Potentially Inappropriate Prescribing

Practitioners must take extra care to learn about their vulnerable patients. There’s a lot to learn and to know about a person before drugs can be safely prescribed. In many instances, another prescription should be the last option, not the first! Clear communication and asking the right questions are paramount to care for those with a limited ability to self-advocate or question their prescriptions. For many vulnerable people who seek relief from physical and mental ailments, prescriptions are taken without question.

Every week, I see a young woman who takes a small cocktail of psycho-pharmaceuticals. She is also developmentally disabled. I often wonder if her symptoms are organic or from the medications. Changes and additions to her meds have made her paranoid, agitated, dulled, and spaced out. Caregivers accept, implement, and adhere to what is prescribed. I coach her to tell ‘her people’ how she feels generally and what feels worse, better, or new that doesn’t feel good. Often, the drugs prescribed to vulnerable patients make caregivers, staff, or family members’ lives easier. However, cocktails of drugs can change, hide, or dull a person’s personality and expressions.

A related resource: Training Direct Care Staff to Empower Adults with Intellectual
Disabilities and Their Families to Reduce Overmedication

I could offer countless examples of when drugs were prescribed to people experiencing inner distress in response to a complex traumatic past. Accepting that it was good enough to mask their symptoms, they never moved beyond offering a pharmaceutical band-aid. For many, the drugs offered temporary relief, but impaired their ability to effectively address the roots of their discord. For several, the drugs lead to more drugs and greater afflictions. Check out: Not So Rare Side Effects of Medication for other reading.

A Loosely Related Anecdote

Mid-morning in my high school freshman year study hall, I was struggling to focus on my Algebra homework when my friend Paul asked me to stick out my tongue. I complied, and he placed a small piece of paper on the end of it. A few moments later, I smiled and asked, “What is it?” He said, “White Blotter.” The next couple of days were life-changing. I wished the trip would end, and eventually, it did.

When Drugs Don't Work
Be an Active Participant in Your Wellness Care
You Have a Choice

The recklessness we engaged in as teens ended my friend Paul’s life before he was 20. It was tragic that he disregarded himself to such an extent that his life was cut short. But that was his own doing, his choice, to experiment with illicit drugs. Decades later, I’d like to think the rest of us smartened up and took paths that hold our physical vessels in higher regard. Sadly, how many people take prescription drugs today seems no less reckless. The only difference now is the person asking you to stick out your tongue is the expert you are conditioned to trust.

The Power of Belief and The Role it Plays in Continuing Medication “Fixes” Even When Drugs Don’t Work

The Basic Dictum to Comprehend is That the Body Obeys the Mind; Therefore, the Body Tends to Manifest What the Mind Believes.

The Map Of Consciousness, David R. Hawkins M.D., Ph.D

Some practitioners take a person’s reported symptoms or challenges, package them up, put a neat bow and label on the top, and hand it back to them. Usually, it comes with a prescription, but beyond that, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. The power of belief is so strikingly significant to your wellness that it will be the catalyst for healing or the force that feeds cellular discord. Read more in The Power of Belief – How Healthcare Harms 101.

Lured into a world that asks you to hand over your healthcare, and your decision-making to the pharmaceutical and medical establishment Gods, you may believe that they DO know best. After all, the experts, and 7 out of 10 Americans who take at least one prescription drug a day, seem to agree. What is presented as care now is an illusion of choice. Drink it down, put it on your tongue, and swallow it! How many pills do you think the average American would be prescribed if we behaved like trusting and unsuspecting 14-year-olds?

(PIP) Potentially Inappropriate Prescribing

Let’s tip-toe gently when labeling negligent prescribing! Potentially inappropriate prescribing (PIP) involves using medicines that may cause more harm than benefit, are not cost-effective, or are not clinically indicated. Increased hospitalization, adverse drug events (ADEs), and emergency department visits have been reported as detrimental effects of PIP. When my cervix leaked amniotic fluid during pregnancy with my daughter, I was diagnosed with an Incompetent Cervix.

I wonder, who holds the job of diagnostic labeler? Words carry so much weight (and so did my cervix with the help of a stitch).

The Insidious Nature of Diagnostic Labels and Pathologizing

  • Diagnostic Labels can create over-identification with the label as part of one’s identity.
  • Imply brokenness or a sense that there is something inherently wrong with yourself.
  • Oversimplifies or dismisses the multitude of contributing factors to a person’s experiences.
  • Often suggests that the remedy is outside of oneself, likely in the form of a pill.

Some physicians behave more like prescribers indoctrinated by a medical model that pathologizes individuals to offer drugs that correspond to their diagnosis. Many patients are led to believe that their “conditions” can ONLY be effectively treated with drugs. Illness care, not wellness care, suggests a one-way approach that disregards the varied aspects of a whole human being.

Losing the Boy with The Labels. An Example of When Drugs Don’t Work

Over fifteen years ago, one of my many roles was as a therapeutic mentor to a boy living in a toxic, emotionally and physically unsafe family environment. He knew his labels. ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), and at the time, his mother was seeking a schizoaffective disorder diagnosis as well. All I saw was a scared boy living in a chaotic and volatile environment. When I met with him to work on communication and self-regulation skills, he told me he was bad and crazy. We worked on disputing the limiting beliefs he adopted about himself from the labels and other harmful programming, and he made progress. He was a handful, as they say, but I was overjoyed by how well he eventually listened and responded to encouragement and guidance.

The sick talk all around him was deafening! Family members, doctors, and school staff were unrelenting with the lies they told about him. Everyone seemed to dismiss his experiences and instead inadvertently, successfully shaped his behavior to match his diagnoses. I’d seen and heard him behave in ways they described and knew he was living up to their low expectations. But, I saw another side to him when he felt safe. He was smart imaginative and kind, handling small insects like a Buddhist monk. The truth was he was angry and scared. His role models were dysregulated, addicted, and mean. One day, I picked up a subdued boy dulled by the myriad of medications they had him on. They’d been successful with getting the additional diagnosis they wanted. He was mentally checked out, lethargic and less annoying to them and, I missed him.

When Drugs Don’t Work and Cause Secondary Symptoms and Medical Harm

Recently, I saw a commercial for a pharmaceutical that treats tardive dyskinesia, or TD as it’s now called, and it’s available to greater numbers of pharmaceutical consumers.

The widespread use of serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has revealed an increasing number of patients with movement disorders induced by this class of drugs. Movement disorders most frequently associated with SSRIs include akathisia, dystonia, parkinsonism, and tardive dyskinesia.

Tics Induced by Sertraline: Case Report and Literature Review

When I was a young case manager at a mental health center, I had a client who, from the age of 2 until her early 40s lived in a New York State Institution. She was a prime example of the proverbial madness vs. genius dichotomy. Off of all anti-psychotic medication for many years, she presented as wildly brilliant but also menacing. My initial meeting with her went well, but I was horrified when she thrust out her tongue and moved it side to side with a lizard-like grimace. When asked at a clinical team meeting about my impression of her, I said, “She’s wicked smart and kind of scary, but what the hell is she doing with her tongue!?”.

Her sad history of forced medication in the institution caused her to develop a neurological movement disorder called Tardive Dyskinesia. She adamantly refused treatment recommendations to continue anti-psychotic medication and coped with some level of psychosis, as well as these involuntary movements on a daily basis. I remember thinking how tragic it was that in addition to her institutional abuse, forced to take the antiquated anti-psychotic Haldol, she had the scars of walking around making bizarre facial movements.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Valbenazine (Ingrezza) and Deutetrabenazine (Austedo) as treatments for TD. The message is, do not stop taking medications that cause harm! There are newly approved drugs to treat those pesky side effects from your primary medication. Important to note that you should be on the lookout for the following possible side effects of these additional medications: depression, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, problems thinking, sweating, parkinsonian-like symptoms, and more. So when drugs don’t work without side effects, you’ll be prescribed a medication for those side effects; however, there’s a chance you’ll have side effects from that medication. Got it?! At what point is enough, enough?

Before and When Drugs Don't Work
Seek Alternatives and Adhere to a Healthy Lifestyle

If your physician’s only path to wellness is a prescription their drug representative says is safe and effective, maybe the question you should ask is,

“What else do you know, and is that all you’ve got?”.

Before and When Drugs Don’t Work, Develop a Healthy Lifestyle and Explore Alternatives for Empowered Wellness

I do not wish to write an opinion piece that points out what is wrong without offering practical suggestions. So, I ask that you consider creating your own regimen for wellness adherence, whereby you have a list of things you do uncompromisingly every day to support the best nutrition, healthy movement, mental health, and connection. Be mindful to steer away from those things you know are temporarily helpful yet detrimental overall.

A woman who attends one of my classes does many things right for her wellness. She is knowledgeable and motivated to adhere to good nutrition and exercise. Overall, she is mindful to care for her mind, body, and spirit. She’s tried four different diabetes medications, each yielding no improvement in her blood sugar levels. When her physician suggests another drug, she finally said, “I’m done!” Done treating symptoms with drugs that don’t work, she is ready to seek alternative ways to identify and treat the root cause of her symptoms. For some, it can feel like a randomly thrown dart. Well, how about this one? No?! How about this one?

Give a wake-up call to physicians and let them know that if they want to be seen as experts, they need to provide expert care, not pill-pushing or dismissing ways to care for yourself outside of a pharmaceutical model or their scope of knowledge. Outside expectations telling you what you are supposed to do for prevention, treatment, or wellness needn’t have your buy-in or consent. Remember that you are not a commodity.

When Drugs Don't Work
Rethink Your Basic Prescriptions

Recognize there are ways you may choose to care for yourself that physicians know nothing about. Do all you can to be the director of your precious life, so when drugs don’t work or diminish the quality of your life’s experiences, you make different choices. Pharmaceuticals have their place, but they need not be a regular part of your wellness nor the only means to achieve a healthier end. Life is short, so “Never stick your tongue out at someone you can’t lick” – Sid Bolon 😛

The last laugh, the last cup of coffee, the last sunset, the last time you jump through a sprinkler, or eat an ice-cream cone, or stick your tongue out to catch a snowflake. You just don’t know. 

Lauren Oliver

Before and when drugs don’t work, explore options that have the potential to help you heal, work on developing a healthy lifestyle, and know that your choices for remedies include more than pharmaceuticals. For more reading see: How to Stay Healthy – 18 Simple Habits. Please visit my Coaching Services page for more information or contact me to book an appointment for support with developing a healthy lifestyle and exploring alternatives for empowered wellness.

I wish you clarity and empowerment as your focus shifts toward acting as your own expert and authority around your healthcare choices.

Estelle Bonaceto
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2 thoughts on “When Drugs Don’t Work, Why More Prescriptions?

  1. This article is an exemplary summary of what the medical model has become: measure success by the number of treatments provided rather than on patient outcomes.

    My personal experience with psychopharmaceuticals caused disability, multiple misdiagnoses, and treatment that just wasn’t going anywhere. Any time I pushed back on my caregivers, telling them I felt better before I was medicated, my misgivings were met with disbelief and threats for involuntary commitment. They explained that I felt better before because I had been “manic” and that I was now experiencing what they called anosognosia. In other words, I lacked an awareness of my condition and couldn’t make cogent decisions.

    During the summer of 2023 researchers published a paper at PLOS ONE entitled “Long-term consequences of benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction”. The results linked a myriad of psychological and physical symptoms to benzodiazepine prescriptions. Moreover, the symptoms that the researchers focused on persisted years even after discontinuing benzodiazepine. They estimate that 1 in 5 benzodiazepine users are affected.

    One of the more angering elements of this new report is that a doctor named Heather Ashton raised the alarm with her own research in 1999. It took 25 years for the current research to catch up. In the meantime psychiatry blamed the side effects of benzodiazepine on their patients’ psychiatric condition.

    I endured awful symptoms, wile living in desperate circumstances, for more than half my life because my caregivers were unwilling to listen. By now I’m living damage and scarred from decades of faulty treatment. I’m healing but I remain resentful having wasted so much time hopelessly dependent on a broken system.

    1. Thank you for your personal testimony, Chris. I’m saddened to hear of how your care has harmed you and betrayed your trust. You and your story matter. Sharing your experiences helps others to claim and overcome their own. May you continue to heal and recover some of what you have lost.

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