Why I Might Stop Taking My Medication

April 7, 2015

Even a well-informed patient may sometimes throw your prescription in the trash. Here a young woman with lupus describes what sometimes prompts her simply to ignore her doctor's best advice about treatment.

From the time I was diagnosed with lupus, it was drilled into my head that consistently taking my medications was the most fundamental part of my treatment, But even though I know all the risks, I still don't always take my medication the way I should.

There are plenty of well-know reasons why patients don't take their medications:[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"33704","attributes":{"alt":"lupus","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_9990333483094","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3568","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"width: 190px; height: 192px; float: right;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]] We're broke. We feel good and think we don't need them. Or we're scared to death about side effects.

There isn't one universal reason, and sometimes there isn't anything our doctors can do to help. We patients have to  take responsibility for caring for ourselves. However, there are two reasons that doctors can do something about.

One reason I've stopped my medication is because I'm having symptoms that get brushed off.

It might be vague, a general "off" feeling or a symptom that doesn't fit the official side-effect list for my medication. In the past, when this happens, I'm told that it'll go away or that it's stress-related. Often, no tests are given to check. So I stop the medication to see for myself if the symptoms go away.

Another reason I don't take my medication is because I simply don't want to. Even though I walked out of the office with a prescription in hand, it wasn't the direction I wanted to go in.

Maybe I wanted to try dietary changes first or I wanted to avoid traditional medications that cause many other problems in the long term. Even though we're told that our doctors are our partners, we still see them as authorities and feel awkward about questioning them, so ultimately it's easier to just throw that prescription in the trash.

Most of the doctors I know have no knowledge of treatments outside the usual course of medication , so my options have felt limited to taking conventional medication, or going it alone with what I find on Google.

How doctors can help patients stay on track:

•   Set a specific medication trial period. I'm much more likely to try out a new medication if I know it's for a limited time. Try suggesting a journal to keep track of any new or worsening symptoms during that period and let me make an appointment to see how things are going.

•   Take my concerns seriously. I just want to feel better and have as normal a life as possible. Even if I have a hard time describing my symptoms or they don't fit any textbook definitions, if I feel like something is wrong, please take time to hear me out.

•   Work with me to make a complete care plan that includes complementary treatment options if I choose. Point me toward clinical trials that might give me medications that work better for me with fewer side effects.

Taking time for open discussion of all the ways to decrease symptoms and function better can help keep patients motivated and optimistic.