Medications: The Good and the Bad

By Gail Lowenstein MD     GUEST BLOGGER

I have a rule: Any change in any elderly person: the top 3 reasons are:
1. Medication
2. Medication
3. Medication

This includes medications that have been recently discontinued: I was called to recommend a nursing home for an 88 year old woman with dementia. She had become paranoid and was accusing her husband of poisoning her. The elderly husband could no longer handle his wife in their home. The patient was not on any medications that were likely to cause this new behavior. However, an anti-depressant had been recently stopped abruptly. It turned out that paranoia was from the withdrawal syndrome from suddenly stopping the anti-depressant. The patient never ended up going to a nursing home and was able to be managed at home.

We have become a pill-popping society:
“When Life Just Blows…Fukitol!”

More people die from medical errors than from cancer and a disproportionate number of those who die or end up hospitalized are aged 85 and over. Adverse drug reactions occur in 6% of those who take 2 medications, and in 100% of those who take 8 or more medications. The average elderly person takes 2 – 6 prescribed medications and 1 – 3 over-the-counter medications. If medication-related problems were ranked as a disease, it would be the 5th cause of death in the United States – more than from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS (The Institute of Medicine Report: To Err is Human 1999).

Over-the-counter medications can be as dangerous as prescribed medicines: The number of people killed from medicines like Advil, Motrin, Naprosyn (class of medicines known as NSAIDs) is greater than the number of people who died from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Spanish-American War, World War I, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Persian Gulf War combined! (Roman Bystrianyk 2010)

There are alternatives to medications: People would be better served to take responsibility for their own health through choices they make in what they think, eat and do. When we truly take on this responsibility, we become artificers of our own destiny, rather than victims of a dreaded disease and a health care system fraught with unnecessary interventions, medical errors and known adverse reaction.



Dr. Gail Lowenstein is a Western-trained physician with board certifications in internal medicine, holistic medicine, wound management, hospice and palliative medicine, and geriatrics. She offers a unique perspective that integrates contemporary Western medicine with complementary and alternative medicine.