When you’re living with an illness, a medication could mean the difference between feeling great and suffering. But you often have choices in the pills you take.
If you rely on a prescription medication, you’re not alone. Research from Consumer Reports suggests that about half of us take at least one doctor-ordered drug every day.
Frequently, your doctor will suggest a specific type of pill, and you’ll try it to see if it works. If you don’t get relief, you try something new. You may repeat this several times until you find the perfect solution.
But walking into your doctor’s office with research can help you steer the conversation. You might suggest a drug first that your doctor wanted to hold back. In doing so, you just might take a less harmful version and avoid medication-delivered problems.
In this article, we’ll help you understand your medication options if you’re living with:
We’ll also dig into solutions to try that don’t require a medicine cabinet. And we’ll help you understand why talking to your doctor about anything you try is so important.
People with depression aren’t just sad. They have a chemical imbalance deep within the brain that prevents them from experiencing joy. Addressing that issue with medication can mean bringing light back into a person’s life.
Experts say doctors often reach for these drugs when working with patients who have depression:
Researchers say antidepressant medications come with a low risk of abuse. Most people who have a prescription use the drugs as directed. But some drugs, including MAOIs, can produce effects very similar to stimulants. And others, including tricyclic antidepressants, can cause euphoria when abused.
An anxiety disorder can leave you feeling stressed and worried, even when you’re in a safe place. Overactive electrical signals in the brain are often to blame. Most pharmaceutical therapies aim to slow down your busy cells so you can feel relaxed once more. But there’s one type of medication that’s been linked to abuse and addiction.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says there are four main types of anti-anxiety drugs doctors use.
If these solutions don’t work, your doctor might suggest buspirone. This medication alters neuroreceptors in the brain, experts explain, and that can help to ease anxiety symptoms. Researchers say the drug tends to sedate rather than produce euphoria. But some people claim the drug can be abused.
Anxiety disorders are serious, and medications could help you ease symptoms. But it’s not unusual for mental health issues and addictions to form in the same person. If you’re concerned about addiction, discuss this with your doctor.
Your body needs rest to repair muscles, set down memories, and grow. When sleep won’t come, or you can’t stay asleep, your body can’t tackle this critical work. Medication could help to reset your internal clock, so you can get spend your nights asleep. But some insomnia solutions come with risks.
Mayo Clinic says most sleep medications can lead to dependence, including:
Develop drug dependence, and you’ll need medications to feel normal. Without them, you might feel sick. In some cases, you could develop seizures when you try to quit sleeping pills.
Insomnia solutions in the benzodiazepine class, including estazolam and Restoril, have also been associated with addiction. These drugs can boost chemicals in the brain associated with pleasure, and when that happens, a pill sparks euphoria.
No matter what sleeping pill you use, work with your doctor. If you’re tempted to take too many doses or swallow more pills each time, your doctor will want to know. This could indicate that substance abuse is an issue, and your doctor may have suggestions that can help.
Life with bipolar disorder isn’t easy. Your mood seems to swing from one fixed point to the next, or you’re stuck in a deep depression with no way out. Medications may ease chemical imbalances that lead to bipolar disorder flareups.
But your doctor might need to do a few experiments to find the one that works for you. Experts say most people with bipolar disorder try several different drugs until they find one that works.
Your doctor might suggest these medications:
Open communication with your doctor is critical, as you might need to tinker with your drugs quite a bit before you find relief. And if you find you’re tempted to abuse your medications, your doctor may have suggestions that can help.
Everyone has discomfort from time to time. But when it won’t leave your side, it can keep you from doing what you love. In severe cases, pain can lead to depression and anxiety. Doctors have many medication solutions available, but they tend to fall into two classifications.
Your doctor might choose opioids to help. They include:
These drugs don’t address what causes your pain. They can’t reduce inflammation or cut a fever. But they can make discomfort easier to ignore, as your brain is awash in pleasure chemicals.
Many people who take opioids abuse them. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says up to 29 percent of people with an opioid prescription for chronic pain abuse their drugs.
Opioids aren’t your only option. Mayo Clinic says non-opioid solutions include the following:
Managing discomfort can be a balancing act, as you may have good days followed by bad ones. Your doctor might suggest a pain journal, so you can look back and determine how well your medications are working.
Every medication we’ve listed here comes with the potential for side effects, and some of those complications are life-threatening. Your doctor might suggest other solutions in addition to — or instead of — your medications to ease your symptoms.
But you shouldn’t try anything without talking to your doctor first.
Managing a chronic condition can be tiring, and it’s not unusual for people to look for DIY solutions. But it’s critical to stay in contact with your doctor. Trying something new, like switching one medication for another, could mean dealing with a relapse of your symptoms.
Most lifestyle changes, such as sleeping more and exercising with intention, seem safe. But there are times when even those shifts require a talk with a doctor. Some drugs shift your blood pressure, for example, so lifting weights might not be safe. Talking with your doctor could help you prevent those problems.