Jason's View

"We Don't Need No Medication": The Culture of Medication

06 Aug 2015 by Jason Harris
Image: 123rf.com

Medicine is one of the things we all deal with at some point, whether over the counter medicine for colds or the flu, or prescription drugs for more serious conditions. For some people these drugs are an everyday part of life. They may be able to help with mood, or pain, a health condition, and so much more. But the thing about taking prescription drugs is they can have heavy effects on your body.

We have all seen the pharmaceutical commercials with the lists of seemingly hundreds of side effects, so many that it is hard to keep track of everything, which is probably why they tell you to go to your doctor! This can be a catch-22 depending on the doctor. While doctors can be amazing, it can be hard to find the right doctor for you.

When I was over medicated, I felt less like myself and more like an empty shell of a person.

In my own personal experience, I have not always had the right doctor. What does that mean? Sometimes there is a propensity to overmedicate. The reason for this can be many things from the influence of big pharma to the fact that diagnosis happens more often now. When I was over medicated, I felt less like myself and more like an empty shell of a person.

Another issue is that doctors don’t always listen to you about your own health. The more medication you are on the more chances you will experience side effects. One of the times I was overmedicated I got OCD symptoms that progressively got so bad I almost dropped out of school. My doctor then said there was no way I could have those side effects. Finally, we looked up the medicine and saw that it had a black-box warning saying to use it at your own risk. This is obviously an extreme case, but it is not uncommon for doctors to dismiss the experiences of patients.

So what is there to do? If you ask someone like ROSS MCKENZIE, who we interviewed earlier this year, he would say the solution is to go completely off medicine. This could work if you have the money and the time. You have to really train yourself to be mindful enough to control some actions, or exercise enough. For me I have gone off my medicine a couple times and I always get the worst feeling when I am off them. I know I am not alone in that feeling. I would always start off fine but as time went on, I would start having a tougher time coping, until it became apparent to me that I need some medication to function. I, like many people, do not have the time or resources to devote my life to staying stable off meds. I have responsibilities, needs, wants, and quite frankly, don’t have the capacity to be able to stop and focus a lot of energy on that.

What has worked for me is being very particular as to who I have work with me on my medicines.

What has worked for me is being very particular as to who I have work with me on my medicines. I let them know that I have a sensitive system and can feel side effects easily. It is important to remember we are all different in how we interact with medicine, and how medicines interact when you are on more than one of them. You want to make sure you have a doctor who listens to you and does not just discredit you, saying that the effects you’re experiencing can’t happen or that you are just imagining then.

With my doctors, I tend to have a very hands-on, proactive approach, and ask questions about the medicines I am taking and what possible side effects they have. I usually try to start on low doses and go up if necessary. Sometimes when a dosage is upped, I do feel side effects and I communicate with my doctor about it. Your doctor knows the medicine, but you before anyone else, know your own body.  So make sure you meet with someone you can work with.

Your doctor knows the medicine, but you before anyone else, know your own body.

In the end, it is a tough choice to know what to do with medications and it is everyone’s personal choice. No matter what though, make sure you make informed decisions, and feel that you have a good working relationship with the doctors you see. If something comes up, make sure you can talk to them and figure out what is going on together. If you can find the time and strength to go without meds, by all means, try it but don’t feel like you have to be off meds to be normal. They can also be helpful when used right.


Jason Harris

Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with disabilities, mental health, aging and other needs. Jason was awarded an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education and Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from Syracuse University.  Jason is also a Project Coordinator and Research Associate at the Burton Blatt Institute, an international think tank for Disability Rights and Human Justice at Syracuse University.  He regularly contributes to the blog in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country consulting and speaking about disability issues and rights. To read more from Jason Harris, read Jason's View