Comments: Trouble sleeping?

That American study is a bit skewered by the fact that doctors here prescribe sleeping pills to anyone who cannot sleep including people with mental problems. Even though, I agree that too many Doctors think drugs are always the answer.

Posted by la peregrina on 28 February, 2012 at 10:53 PM

Its amazing how many drugs have as a side effect the thing they are used for, eg antihistamines can cause a rash. How do you know if its the drug not working or a side effect?

Posted by Debster on 29 February, 2012 at 12:07 AM

Those results were irrespective of other underlying conditions LaP - having MH problems in itself should not make you more vulnerable to dying. And, there would have been lots of people with MH problems in the (much larger) no sleeping tablet group.

Undoubtedly Americans are far more 'prescribed to' (because the phamaceutical industry have far more control over there, because of the funding structure for healthcare): as David Hockney said in a film about The Bigger Picture (broadcast here last Monday), "The thing you notice about Americans is that they're all medicated."

Posted by Blue Witch on 29 February, 2012 at 7:46 AM

Debster - yes, and the bigger danger is when other drugs are given to mop up the unwanted effects of the first drug (which then, of course perpetuates, with the added fun of interactions). I'm sure we all know people on handfuls of tablets a day. They all started somewhere. Many drugs are a one-way ticket and a slippery slope.

In many cases drugs are sticking plasters (with poor adhesive). The real questions that people/doctors should be asking is, why is the body out of balance? How can we help it regain equilibrium? And NOT what drug can we shove down patients' throats to cover things up?

Posted by Blue Witch on 29 February, 2012 at 8:12 AM

And a nicely-timed connected story here about drugs wastage in the NHS. £300,000,000 a year is spent on medicines that people never even open.

I'll bet that most people who hoard prescritption medication are those who don't have to pay £7.40 an item... if it's free it's not valued.

And, remember it's only in England that people have to pay for prescriptions at all. Even a token charge (say £1 an item) would be enough to make many people think twice about signing up for pharmacy automatic repeat prescription services, which, in many cases, now automatically deliver the same drugs to homes every 28 days.

Posted by Blue Witch on 29 February, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Since I've been having sleeping problems, plenty of people have suggested I get some pills. Some have even offered me a few of theirs. One has to find and deal with the cause, not the symptom, though. My doctor, who has just retired, always knew that a drug would be my last resort and never routinely offered one - he was rather keen on self-help himself, mind you, and approved of my attitude.

Posted by ** on 29 February, 2012 at 9:47 AM

I've no idea why I came over as ** there. Sorry!

Posted by Z on 29 February, 2012 at 9:47 AM

Some doctors seem to think that if they have all these drugs, they have to use them. Don't believe in them myself.

The other half has trouble sleeping; it's mainly stress which is predominantly caused by worrying about whether the stupid oik next door will arrive home at 3.30 in the morning, roaring drunk with his mates in tow and proceed to put the loud music on etc. The fact that it happens maybe once in 3 or 4 weeks doesn't lessen the anxiety that 'tonight will be the night' (last night was, actually).

Posted by GoodTwin on 29 February, 2012 at 12:52 PM

On sleep, the BBC website ran a story a week ago on 'The myth of the eight-hour sleep', to the effect that waking up for an hour or two about half-way through the night is natural and used to be accepted as the norm. Tablets for a non-existent problem, then.

'Z' posting on sleeping problems is a bit ironic..... hope it gets sorted out soon.

Posted by Gordon on 29 February, 2012 at 1:46 PM

I have trouble sleeping. It's probably stress. I occasionally, very occasionally mind, take the Boots Own Brand equivalent of the herbal version of "Nytol". It just takes the edge of the sheer and unrimitting exhausation. I have no intention of even mentioning it to the Quack the next time I have to see them.

What worries me is the keen-ness to prescribe in almost *any* situation. I went to (the same) Quack a few years back when the stress at (different) work had all really, really got too much for me. What I really wanted was to be listened to, and, if we're being honest, I wanted to be signed off work for a month to give myself time to deal with "stuff". The Doctor shoved a questionnaire in front of me which was trying to establish if I was suicidal, barely glanced at which boxes I'd ticked and immeadiately offered me anti-depressents. I didn't take them, and his attitude instantly seemed to shifted to one of assuming I was "difficult". He couldn't wait to get me out of the room. I wonder whether, if I had accepted the offered drugs, I would have got my "sick note"? As it was, he seemed to believe that it was the drugs or nothing.

My grandad, by the time he passed away, was on a cocktail of about 12 things given to him by his doctor. I don't even know what half of them were supposed to be for, but I find it telling that when he died they had to do a post-mortem, and couldn't come up with anything conclusive which had killed him - his heart had just stopped. What were these drugs supposed to be doing?

I also worry that, in many cases, there just isn't enough research into the long-term "side effects" of many of the pills they are prescribing. Anti-depressents (I can't spell that word!) in particular concern me, as my mum has been on them a lot over the last 20 years, and I have concerns for her long term mental health as a result of that - surely drugs that work by messing with the chemistry of your brain (which is my understanding of what they are doing) must have some sort of long-term effect on the brain's chemistry? even if we don't know what, yet?

Posted by Anne on 29 February, 2012 at 2:03 PM

"surely drugs that work by messing with the chemistry of your brain (which is my understanding of what they are doing) must have some sort of long-term effect on the brain's chemistry?"

Yes. All drugs work by messing with the body's finely-balanced chemistry. If you unbalance one bit (eg by incorrect prescription, or incorrect dosage), then you're going to need to have something else to rebalance another bit. Unbalances are often seen as 'side effects' (which I prefer to refer to as 'unwanted effects').

The human body has evolved over millions of years and was getting along very nicely (with a bit of natural selection helping out) until along came the pharmaceutical industry and their handmaidens the doctors.

Until and unless the NHS starts (ie is directed to start) to take other forms of treatment than pharmaceuticals seriously, and until people understand what drugs do to their bodies and question (particularly long-term) prescription (and particularly prescription for psychological problems) more critically, things aren't going to get any better.

I think the trouble is that, over the past few decades, we've been brainwashed into believing that medical science has a cure for everything, at no cost.

Posted by Blue Witch on 29 February, 2012 at 2:41 PM

While I would agree that a lot of doctors overprescribe, anbd that a lot of people do see medicines as a magic bullet, I also think that it is important to remember that medication can be the "least worst" solution.

The body's chemistry can get pretty unbalanced on it's own, and one of the benefits which pharmaceuticals can provide is to buy time to adress the deeper causes. Anti-depressants, for instance, can quite literally be life savers.

Evolution hasn't really done so great a job. We are incredibly badly designed, and we don't live in the environment for which we evolved.

And speaking as someone who would have been Darwinned out of existance at the age of 2 without modern medicines, I remain deeply thankful that I wasn't unfortunate enough to have been born 30 or 40 years earlier.

Do I worry about the long-term effects of the mediction I've been taking for the last 35 years? Sure. But since the alternative is being dead, I'll take the side effects, thanks.

And I'm alsop deeply grateful that my friend, suffering from depression, was able to get medications which *did* affect his brain chemistry, becuase without them he would be dead, too.

Pharmaceuticals are tools. They can help, and they can harm, and often they will do both, and you have to judge whether the help they provide is worth the cost.

Posted by Bagpuss on 29 February, 2012 at 9:18 PM

There was a good piece in the Telegraph today about it.

Posted by Debster on 1 March, 2012 at 12:37 AM

Davy Jones is dead. Cheer up sleepy Jean. And you used the word 'believer' at the end of this piece. It's all too spooky!

Posted by dave on 1 March, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Another spell gone wrong?

Posted by Debster on 1 March, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Bagpuss - yes, I understand what you're saying, and of course I wasn't referring to chronic conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy etc etc etc or infections (antibiotics). And yes, least worst solution for many conditions has to come into it.

But I still think that there is a lot of doctor-controlling of chronic conditions going on: including people left on 1960s or 1970s drugs just because they're cheaper, albeit more damaging.

And there are a lot of people who could help themselves manage conditions better through lifestyle changes, without the easy/easier recourse to pharmaceuticals (ie learning from evolution and living closer to nature and better knowledge of our own bodies and how our own choices affect them). But, it takes time to help people rethink what they are doing, and support them in working out better ways, and staying motivated in following/tweaking them. That sort of support is something the NHS doesn't do well.

Posted by Blue Witch on 1 March, 2012 at 12:31 PM

my mother was diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease, very upsetting, it turned it wasn't but was the result of two drugs she'd been prescribed which interacted badly.

Posted by amber on 1 March, 2012 at 4:52 PM

amber - I hear that so often from my acquaintances (many of whom are in their 70s and 80s), and I've lost track of the number of them I've them sent back to their GP with a list of questions which has resulted in a complete review and rationalisation of medication. I hate to say it, but I suspect that the old school pharmacists (ie the ones who did more than print labels and stick them on pre-packed boxes of pills) would have picked that up. Computerisation = no professional responsibility any more.

Posted by Blue Witch on 1 March, 2012 at 6:07 PM