General Question

nikipedia's avatar

Why do people resist taking medication?

Asked by nikipedia (27526points) August 13th, 2008

People seem to have an almost-universal distaste for taking medication long-term, especially psychiatric medications. Why? Would it make a difference to you if you only took the medication for a few weeks, and the effects were permanent? Are naturopathic medications less offensive, even taken long-term? Why are are medications to treat mental illness more offensive than those to treat physical illness? (What’s the difference, really?)

(And there’s no judgment intended in the tone of this question—just curious for some perspectives.)

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49 Answers

tonedef's avatar

In the wake of the Vioxx case, with Phen fen in the 90’s, and with other high-profile drug recalls, I guess some people just don’t trust what big pharm companies are trying to push down their throats.

I understand that for a lot of things- psychosis, extreme anxiety- the benefits outweigh almost ANY possible side effects, because the symptoms they treat are so debilitating, but these high profile drug recall cases illustrate that perhaps longer drug trials are required to really get a sense of how these chemicals will affect your body on a long-term scale.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

I take cholesterol medication and it affects your liver. I like my cocktails and hate the thought of this drug hastening my demise by ruining my liver. I know. I know. Quit drinking. Wrong answer. That’s my aversion to the taking drugs long term. The potential side effects. Although, I must say, I have been a very good girl as of late. With taking my drugs, that is…

iwamoto's avatar

i used to take Xerocsat (an antidepressive) when i was younger, somewhere around 14, however, after around a year, i just didn’t want it, i didn’t want to have to take drugs to feel good, so i started taking less and less, and within a month i was off, and i’m glad i don’t have to take drugs anymore, i feel more..alive, directly involved instead of living in a shell

ezraglenn's avatar

One of my campers this summer was supposed to be on medication for severe ADHD and Panic Depression. Her parents decided summer was a good time for a “Medication Vacation.” It wasn’t.

poofandmook's avatar

when I worked in psych intensive care, the two biggest reasons for not wanting to take medication were “they’ll make me fat!” and “they make me tired.” Other than that, the general consensus seems to usually be that if they start taking medication, they have to fully admit they’re mentally ill.

As for physical illness medications, our too-quick release of information that isn’t concrete has given the patient too much mixed information, and therefore, people are scared that if they take Tylenol they’ll get liver disease and if they take antibiotics then they’ll be come resistant, yadda-yadda.

drhat77's avatar

being ill = being vulnerable.
being ill = being mortal.
both of these things makes people scared, and a very common response to this is ignoring the problem.
no problem = no medication needed

drhat77's avatar

oh yes with psych medicine:
if the medications control my brain, then I don’t control it.
loss of control is also a big fear with most people.
also psych medicines are stigmatized, and no one like the scarlet letter

scamp's avatar

They are so damned expensive!!!

Mr_M's avatar

It’s common for people to be on drugs for a long time, and, when the drugs make them feel better, they think they no longer need to take the drug. They fail to realize that it is BECAUSE of the drug that they feel so much better and if they stop taking it, they’ll go back to feeling sick.

When it comes to psych medications, there are a few reasons why patients don’t like to take them. First of all, there is still a stigma associated with mental illness and when a patient needs medications to deal with it, the stigma is sometimes even stronger. Also, some patients, as part of their mental illness, feel the medicines are doing strange things to them or that their doctor is trying to kill them. Finally, sometimes psych medications do significantly change the personality of the patient and patients don’t want any part of it, even though it is a good thing.

jcs007's avatar

People resist out of fear. If you just listen to those drug commercials, I wouldn’t blame you if you started sweating.

“Side effects may include headache, sweating, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, ulcers, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, increased chance of stroke, blood clot, pain, ...” The list goes on.

We definitely know what happens when you don’t take your medication: your condition continues to deteriorate. However, you have a chance of getting any one of those zillions of side effects.

The way I see it, I’d go with the definite. The way your doctor sees it, he or she would go with the definite, too. It’s all about the balance of cost and benefit. What are the benefits of taking a certain medication and at what cost? If the price isn’t too high, then I’ll buy into it.

Take this quote (emphasis added) from Yoda and apply it to your question:
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” o_O

drhat77's avatar

Also poor medical education. I once saw a patient for a headache, because his “headache medicine” wasn’t working. turns out his blood pressure was through the roof. his medication was actually blood pressure medicine, but instead of taking it daily, he’d only take it when he had a headache. the doctor who prescribed it should have taken an extra minute to clarify the difference between his symtom (headaches) and his disease (blood pressure)

PupnTaco's avatar

I distrust Big Pharma, insurance, and the doctors who prescribe whatever the reps are selling lately (and bribing with vacations, etc.)

I’ll take meds if I need to, but I’ll also do as much independent research as I can to educate myself about the medication, user experiences, and any alternatives.

augustlan's avatar

I’ve heard many people say (regarding mental health drugs) that it’s a “crutch”, and they don’t want that. I find that incredibly stubborn…if you had a broken leg, you’d use the crutch, right? I occasionly experience “medication fatigue” due to the fact that I take multiple meds for different conditions (both physical and mental) every day, twice a day, and will have to take most of them for the rest of my life…I wish with all my heart that I didn’t need all these damn pills just to live, but I do, so…I suck it up and take them.

dragonflyfaith's avatar

I try to avoid medications because my father has problems with addiction. However, I will take tylenol or whatever is on hand if I have a headache or something if I have a cold.

wildflower's avatar

I just don’t like the idea of something being put in my body to change an internal, natural function. I’ll admit defeat and give in when it comes to speeding up a healing process with some anti-biotic, but even then only grudgingly (I’m not a good patient).
I currently have to take a daily dose of diovan for hypertension and I accept it because I’d rather not have a heart-attack before I’m 35, so…..fair enough!

And I have no faith in alternative medicine and homeopathy. I know some foods, fruits, vegs and herbs are good for me, but using them to heal seems a tad far fetched to me.

wundayatta's avatar

In the case of bipolar disease, a lot of people don’t want to take their meds because they find the manic state truly enjoyable. However, it usually isn’t hard to get them to resume taking the meds, because the depression that follows is pretty killer.

Another problem is that if you take Lithium, the “gold standard” treatment, that’ll get your kidneys after 20 years or so.

Usually, finding the right drug for an individual patient is not easy. It’s a process of trying drug after drug, until you find something that works. It can take months to fully test each drug and drug combination. Patients often get tired of this. They get sick of what they see as incompetent psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are often rather unfriendly people, too, unlike therapists. So patients say “screw it” until the next time they find themselves in the hospital.

Then, as drhat77 said, there’s the “who is me?” issue. Am I the me when I was manic? Or depressed? Or is the real me, the me on meds? If you have ideas that you must be natural to be “me” then you may be prejudiced against drugs. Our society overall is prejudiced against “unnatural” states. We prefer to keep our bodies “pure.” We often believe that pure and natural are better. We should handle our problems on our own.

I think that the more experience you have with life, the more likely you’ll want to stay on your meds. The more open-minded you are, the more likely you will stay on your meds. The more you understand science, the more likely you will be to stay on your meds. The more you hate being sick, .....

I accepted my diagnosis the minute I got it. That’s unusual. But, since I’m a researcher, I’d been doing my research, and I had diagnosed myself the day before. So I wasn’t surprised. I’ve stayed on my meds ever since, even though they didn’t seem to work for a while. I’ve been doing everything everyone with any credibility suggests to help me. And I still get upset, at moments like this (my eyes are tearing up), because I am so angry about having to deal with this, and so unsure that I’ll be able to survive it.

But I know it won’t go away, and my only choice is to deal with it as best I can.


loser's avatar

I don’t!!! I love pills! Mmm… pills…

trumi's avatar

Because I’m a Christian Scientist!

wildflower's avatar

@trumi: why haven’t you imploded yet?

trumi's avatar

@wildflower; Implosion? I thought you said explosion!

But in all seriousness I’m expecting the lightening bolt any day now. Hit me with your best shot big guy!

gooch's avatar

I must add its more common in males. Maybe to some its an admission of weakness. Personally it an issue of cost for me. If I am not going to die I will rough it out.

Lightlyseared's avatar

People take meds because they are ill. The meds make you feel well. You stop taking the meds.

It’s a big problem with any long term condition not just psych stuff. Diabetes, cardiac… anti rejection meds post transplant for example.

tinyfaery's avatar

The only long-term meds I take are for my asthma, which I have had since I was a child. I will take antibiotics if necessary, and when my insomnia is bad I’ll take some drugs to get me through it, but I am much more interested in trying alternative therapies.

As far as the psych meds are concerned, I think the posts here pretty much sum it up. Another reason some reject their psych meds is out of spite. Really, I’ve seen it. They know the consequences of refusing their meds, but do it anyway, as a way of punishing others.

kevbo's avatar

For me, it was difficult to understand/admit/accept that my health and welfare were dependent upon taking pills every day. It’s not a natural thing to do. Also, in the case of mental illness, it can be frustrating and absurd to have to chalk up your deepest existential identity crises to a mere chemical imbalance that can be fixed with a pill.

wundayatta's avatar

@kevbo: you said it! It is so annoying to find out how much of the way we think and feel is dependent upon chemicals. It makes you feel so much more like a machine than a person.

On the other hand, we mentally ill know this. The so-called healthy go blissfully along, secure in their delusion that they are in control of the decisions in their lives. A ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Bri_L's avatar

@I second that kevbo. Once again you have crystalized my thoughts perfectly.

allengreen's avatar

@kevbo rocks

drhat77's avatar

even the non-metally ill can know how it feels – why can’t we think when we are too tired or have too much alcohol? clearly even the mentally “normal” have their thoughts governed, to a signifigant degree, by the chemistry in our bodies and brains. but somewhere along the way that “obvious” knowledge fails to translate into an understanding of this simple fact. probably because given time and rest, hard partiers will recover what little metal faculties God has bestowed upon them, but mentally ill need medication to “come back to normal”. it’s two sides of the same coin, but people don’t see it that way.

augustlan's avatar

@drhat: Very good answer…the old drugs (20 years ago or more) made one feel like a completely different person (I always said “no highs, no lows…like a robot”) but the newer meds just make me feel like a normal human being again.

wundayatta's avatar

I was at group last night, and started talking about my shaking hands (a side-effect of the meds), and all of a sudden I was swearing about how much I hate that feeling. I hate having to hold a glass with two hands. I hate wondering if people notice. I hate wondering what they might be thinking about me.

I’d never let that feeling get expressed before. I didn’t know how much this bothers me.

augustlan's avatar

@daloon: It’s good you got that feeling out. Don’t worry about people noticing, or what they’re thinking of you…at the end of the day, the only opinion that really matters is yours. Keep working on improving your opinion of yourself, keep talking, and most importantly, keep taking your meds!

wundayatta's avatar

Well, as you may know, augustian, it is SO easy to start tearing into yourself. So often, I’m my own worst enemy. So saying that the opinion that matters is mine is a double-edged sword. Lately I’ve found that people are so much nicer to me than I am. Naw. This has been all my life. So I tend to discount other people’s intelligence when they think something positive about me, since I don’t concur. So here’s another thing I hate: I hate feeling bad about myself at such a core level. It always brings tears to my eyes.

augustlan's avatar

@daloon: Just from my observation of your posts here on Fluther, I can conclude that you are intelligent and sensitive…sometimes a tough combo. I’m reasonably sure you are much harder on yourself than you need to be. It’s so important to come to terms with yourself, warts and all, and be ok with who you are. That’s the single biggest lesson I learned in therapy, and the thing that’s had the biggest impact in my (now, much happier) life. In previous therapy attempts, I went in thinking “something’s wrong with me, I need to change”. Over time I learned that while I’m not perfect, and am very different from “normal” (lots of issues), that’s ok. It’s just a different way to be, you know? As long as you are not harming anyone, it’s ok to be whatever type of person you are. Hold your head up, and go forth into the world!

wundayatta's avatar

Just one problem. A little hangup. I want people to like me.

augustlan's avatar

Well, I like you :)

cwilbur's avatar

I have seen people go from healthy to depressed to medicated on antidepressants, and it was not a pretty sight. And once they were on the antidepressants, they could not get off the antidepressants. The mental health system, especially when combined with insurance, channels people into taking medication, and doctors prescribe antidepressants with reckless abandon.

My previous doctor was unhappy with my blood pressure, and I pointed out that I was driving in traffic for 2–1/2 hours a day and was generally miserable at work. He immediately suggested antidepressants. Um, I might have been depressed, but it wasn’t a chemical imbalance in my brain—it was a miserable work environment, and a hellish commute! I got a new job just about a year ago, and my blood pressure went right back to healthy, I started sleeping better, I lost weight…..

That’s why I resist taking medication. Doctors see it as the easy way out; insurance companies would rather pay $200/month for a bottle of antidepressant pills than $200/week for therapy.

wundayatta's avatar

@cwilbur: I agree. It can be a tough call. I, too, hate meds. I hardly ever take any unless my doc really wants me to, and my research says it is indicated. Then, there’s when I’m desperate.

The trick with depression is that there seems to be two kinds: ordinary, such as you describe, which is a response to events, and the brain chemistry kind, which may be triggered by events, but can’t be fixed without rebalancing the brain chemistry.

I’ve been used to the first kind all my life. Now I’m experiencing the second kind. It is so weird to be depressed or irritable or aggressive (which I never was before) for no reason at all. We seek event-driven explanations, but when you brain chemistry is wrong, you can have feelings for no reason whatsover.

The first one I remember happened back last December, just before Christmas. I came home one evening, and I felt this inexplicable heaviness in my chest. I felt like I must be responding to some psychic information. There was nothing in my life to explain this sudden deep sadness. The next day, I found out that an old colleague, who lived on the other side of the continent, had found out he had a horrible cancer and had less than a week to live. Was it his psychic dismay I felt?

Later on, I found out I did have a brain chemistry disorder. Now I think that was one of the first signs of it. Depression out of nowhere. It is so totally weird.

marinelife's avatar

All of the above. Fear and distrust drug companies and the FDA. Distrust of doctors. Contrariness. Stupidity. Inability to pay.

scamp's avatar

I just bought a presciption of Chantix to stop smoking and it was $240.00!!! I was amazed to find out that most insurance companies don’t cover it. I would think that it would be much more cost effective for them to pay for something that would help a patient stop than the costs of heart and lung damage later on. Go figure….sheesh!

Bri_L's avatar

@ Scamp – Amen to that Sister!

scamp's avatar

Oh well, it’s alot of money, but it’s cheaper than smoking! I love your new avatar BTW. whenever I see it I am tempted to say Oh Yeah!! ha ha!!

Bri_L's avatar

hehehe thanks

cwilbur's avatar

@daloon: Oh, I agree that when it’s imbalanced brain chemistry, medication is the answer.

But when it’s not imbalanced brain chemistry, medication is not the answer. It doesn’t take too many instances of seeing a doctor come up with the wrong answer before you stop trusting any answer from any doctor.

oceansmist's avatar

I totally agree with pretty much all of the posts here. From what I’ve heard from others who truly need medication for various reasons to make them healthy and improve their situations, they tend to give a variety of reasons for not wanting to take long-term or even short-term medications, especially for psychiatric conditions:

Most tend to have a personal issue with admitting to themselves they have a condition requiring a medication that is considered a “psychiatric drug” as they don’t want the perceived or anticipated judgment they think others will place on them.

Many have said the medications give them terrible side effects that make them feel worse than before or so tired or confused or “out of it” that they cannot function and then they cannot work and that presents a huge problem to the people I know in this predicament. It’s the old adage of what cures you ails you. People feel they are in a lose-lose situation no matter what they do.

Many medications cause patients to gain or lose large amounts of weight; their behavior and/or personality changes; they cannot concentrate—all of these side effects are seen as major negatives to the patient even though they really need the medication. That’s why it’s so difficult to get the patients to take their medication.

Although I am not one of these patients nor do I need any type of psychiatric medication, my heart goes out to those that do because it must feel awful to think or feel as if they have no control over their own mind and/or body whether they take the medication or not.

casheroo's avatar

I’ve been on many medications, and I think before going on them..I never fully understood the long term side effects, or even the short term.
I did not like being dependent on a medication to help my moods. I felt I could manage it myself, and under the care of a psychiatrist (he was also my therapist) He supported me staying off all medications, even with a diagnosis of bi-polar.
I am now more for natural approaches before medications, BUT that does not mean I will completely avoid medications. I do know they help people, and they do a lot of good. But it is not what I want in my body, or my child’s body. I know first hand the side effects I suffered, and I hope to never have to go through that again.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

I can understand why some people are resistant to taking medications, especially for mental illness. The side effects can be pretty severe, depending on the person. If you’ve never taken medication like that before, the prospect of gaining weight, changing mood, and other side effects can be really scary.

I also agree with those who stated that the insurance companies would rather pay for pills than therapy. It’s an unfortunate truth that insurance companies are greedy and don’t seem to really care about people’s health (as long as they’re making money).

But there are some cases where medication is really necessary. I have been taking medication for anemia since I was in middle school, and medication for bipolar depression for about 5 years now. I try my best to understand the short- and long-term effects of my medications, but some of them are so new that it’s almost impossible to know what exactly they will do to the body. As of now I don’t see myself getting off my medications any time soon, so I just have to deal with that and be careful. Luckily, I experience very minimal side effects, and the benefits greatly outweigh any negative effects they have had on my life.

Contrary to what people tend to think about psychological medications “changing who they are,” medications like this are designed to help you improve your overall mental health. If a person feels they have changed their personality because of meds, I feel that is most likely because they have been in a mentally ill state for so long that they have forgotten/don’t know what it is like to not be like that.

Certainly in the case of mental illness I don’t think people should jump right to taking medication (I, personally, was in therapy for 6 months before deciding to take meds). Medication may help with the chemical aspects of mental illness, but they will not solve your personal problems, which are often a large part of the problem. But people should not absolutely shut out the idea of taking medication without being properly educated about the risks and benefits.

wundayatta's avatar

@ParaParaYukiko Welcome to the bipolar corner (;-) of fluther!

I am interested in your comment that personal problems are often a large part of the problem. Do you think these personal problems are a cause or a result of bipolar disorder? Are you referring to the behavioral side of bipolar—the impulsiveness, the spending, the paranoia, the sexual interest? Or are you referring to the supposed underlying reasons for depression, or are you referring to the coping techniques?

It seems to me that of those, one can only work on underlying causes of depression without meds, and even that is a stretch. I think there is little you can do without some stability in your brain.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@daloon Thanks! Glad to know I’m welcome :D

What I meant about personal issues being a big part of mental illness is mainly regarding depression. I can’t speak much for the manic side of bipolar (I’ve never really experienced that), but I find that personal problems can often be the catalyst for a depressive episode. Someone who is predisposed to chemical depression/bipolar may not experience really severe symptoms until personal trauma pushes them over the edge in some way. That’s what it was in my case; I was pretty much fine until a barrage of personal problems caused me to go into a depressive state that turned out to be chemical as well as situational.

But at the same time, behavioral elements are sometimes caused by the chemical aspect of mental illness. I know another bipolar person who, during states of mania, takes on a huge amount of volunteer work and such. Then she feels overwhelmed and gets depressed, thinking she is useless for not being able to complete the work she took on. They play into one another – which is why medication alone cannot truly fix someone’s problem.

Yes, some things cannot be fixed without chemical stability in the brain to support it. But medications can also do things that can be dangerous without therapy to control them. Emotional side-effects of medications coupled with unresolved personal problems can cause a situation more dangerous than the original mental illness itself.

HoBe's avatar

hey, we take pills for blood pressure because it needs to be controlled; well, some folks need some help with depression, etc. and if pills work – they should take them!

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