How much do you know about the medications you are putting into your body?

It goes without saying: know what you are putting into your body, right?  This dictum especially applies when it comes to pharmaceuticals.

However, in today's world we have become so desensitized to the ubiquity of pharmaceuticals, many of us don't give adding another medication to our 'regimen' a second thought.  Add to that the allure of the gadzillions of neutraceuticals out there, all promising certain benefits.  Sometimes I think the most desensitized are our doctors.  That's a serious concern.

And...despite the sometimes negative research and the bad press, millions of Americans believe they have benefited from psychotropics such as antidepressants.  Whether the true effect is placebo or not.  Myself included.

But most, if not all, medications come with risks.  Increasingly, scientists such as geneticists are showing why everyone responds differently to every medication.  Yes, it is true that the long line of precautions in the package materials of most medications is due to the company's risk management department trying to ensure they disclose every side effect ever suffered by someone.

So when it comes to you, just you, you need to know big news, when it happens, in regard to the long term effects of the medications you are taking. Particularly when it involves a 'maintenance' medicine you truly benefit from and are taking a few years or more.  If you are young and you say that doesn't apply to you just know that time passes quickly.  It's easy to forget how long you are on a medication, particularly if that medication has helped you.

You probably didn't catch a news report that came out a few months ago that sounded a pretty big alarm regarding commonly prescribed medications and dementia!  A large British study found that the frequent use of a common class of medications known as anti-cholinergics may be associated with an increased risk of dementia among older people.  In fact, this concern has been going on amongst healthcare professionals for two decades now and probably led to the study.

You might be curious what some of these drugs are.  Below I've included the full list.  But when it comes to mental health care, just know that there are several common psychotropics on this list, including Wellbutrin, Xanax and Seroquel as well as more commonly taken drugs like Benadryl and Lasix.  Yes!  However, Wellbutrin is not as risky as Seroquel.  And Benadryl has one of the higher risks!  Go figure!

Are your docs/health care providers up on this news?  Who knows.  I am sure some are.  But why take the chance?  Most of your doctors (if you haven't noticed) are so busy they may overlook something.  Bottom line: coordination of your medical history and circumstances is primarily up to you.

So take the reigns.  Be sure to learn more about these drugs.  If you are on any of them, make an appointment with your PCP (or prescriber if you are seeing a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner) and take the list.  Have a serious discussion with your doctor and, if it is possible, find less dangerous alternatives. Yes, that is a big decision in and of itself. After all, chances are it took a bit of work to get you feeling your best by trying different drugs and if you are on an anti-cholinergic psychotropic you will not want to make an impulsive decision about what to do.  Sometimes, for example, you must weigh the risks of a somewhat risky medication against the risks of not using it.  

But you at least have the right to know, so you can make the most informed decision you can for your health.  That is your right. 

FULL LIST: ACB_Anticholinergic_Burden_List_.pdf