DON’T…DO…DON’T…DO Read the Fine Print!

People tell you to “take control” of your health.  That sounds like a capital idea…until you actually start doing it.  I’m not convinced that the years you may add to your life aren’t immediately taken away via stress at understanding what’s really involved.

Take my current Lyme treatment, which is just now getting underway.  I’ve been given two oral anti-biotics:  Clarithromycin and Minocycline. Let me begin by saying that I’m hopeful this will be the first step in finally knocking this out of me. So, being the intelligent, responsible adult, I decided to look up what the side effects might be.  Here’s what I found:

  • hearing loss
  • muscle weakness
  • drooping eyelids
  • blurred vision
  • diarrhea
  • bloody poo
  • dizziness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • ringing in the ears
  • joint stiffness
  • blue gray skin/tongue/lips/gums
  • tooth discoloration
  • intracranial hypertension

  • abnormal growth of toenails to the size of small cars
  • exploding head syndrome
  • an irresistible urge to listen to “Africa” by Toto on repeat
  • Miley Cyrus
  • (Okay, I may have added a few…)

And for the love of all!  Don’t read the drug reviews unless you’ve really steeled yourself!  Consider this one:

I had a close family member take this drug for acne. After taking for 2 months she developed a rash, shortly after that shortness of breath a skin biopsy was done which indicated DRESS a severe systemic allergic reaction. She was placed on oral prednisone. As she was tapering off the prednisone she developed severe chest pain and extreme fatigue. She was taken to the hospital where she cardiac arrested and was placed on life support. She experienced multiple organ failure myocarditis. She remained on life support for several weeks. She has been slowly recovering but 5 months later she is still suffering from heart failure. Previous to taking the drug she was a healthy 21 yr old. A athletic college student who was scheduled to graduate from college with honors.

Right.  It is sobering.  For some people, the cure may indeed be worse than the disease! Of course, thousands of people take these medicines every day and have no ill-effects. It’s the few who have issues who care enough to write reviews, generally. After all, the goal of taking the blasted things in the first place is so you can get back to a place where you aren’t obsessing about your health problems!

I appreciate science, but moments like this really remind us what science is: fallible, limited human beings monkeying with a system far more complex than the short span of their existence in this sphere will allow even the best of them to comprehend. “There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.” I think that’s one reason why our culture tries to worship science and why we place so much blind faith in it–people facing inevitable death want hope. Moreover, they want it on their terms.

But the truth is science is limited because we are limited. That means that our medicines can be no better than we are. I’m very grateful that we’ve achieved some amazing things, but it does no one any good to pretend otherwise.

That makes informing ourselves about our medicines essential. No doctor can know everything that can possibly go wrong. I may need this medicine, and it’s good to trust my doctor, but I also need to know what I’m getting into and what warning signs I must be on the lookout for.