Many medical professionals seem to have forgotten how to educate patients about drug allergies. They pass on incorrect information about the drugs they are handing to patients.
An allergy refers specifically to a histamine reaction. This includes certain rashes and swollen tongue or swollen face and trouble breathing. This is almost always a medical emergency requiring an epi-pen or antihistimine and people acting quickly. It’s best not to expose the person in the first place and take precautions. However, there are other nasty reactions a person can have, that are also life-threatening, but are certainly not “allergies” but will kill a person and should be taken seriously. So when a doctor, pharmacist, or any person treating a patient asks, “Are you allergic to any drugs?” is this really the correct question to ask?
NO! Not in my humble opinion. Because shouldn’t patients then answer the question correctly? If you have ever been allergic to certain drugs, which does occasionally happen, then you might answer, “Yes.” But if you were, you’d only be including true allergies, such as drugs that gave you hives or rashes. The question shouldn’t even be asked that way. How about, “Have you ever had a bad reaction to a drug?” This widens the playing field to include
the various reactions to steroids I have heard about
hallucinations (except recreational drugs, which are supposed to do that)
your hair falling out
driving in your sleep
violent behavior (and you are a schoolteacher)
suicidal tendencies (unless you’re a psych patient, because you don’t matter anyway)
inability to concentrate and short term memory deficit causing you to miss an entire semester of school (and you weren’t able to get a refund on your tuition. again, if you’re psych, no one will care)
shaky hands (and you are an eye surgeon)
…..and any other reason why you might never take the darned pill again.
I think also that if a patient tells a doc, “Please do not give me drugs such as Klonopin or Ativan because these is an addicting pills, and I am easily prone to benzo addiction,” you’d hope a prescriber would respect the patient’s wishes. Unfortunately, many are not, or they ignore a patient’s written and well-documented request that he or she not be given such pills.
No matter what the physician’s opinion is of addiction, I think personally he or she should respect the patient’s wishes. I do not have any respect for a physician who says, “It’s okay to take this because it’s only a little addicting.” You would not believe how many times I have heard that, and I don’t have a benzo addiction myself. I saw what they did to other people and I am shocked at the way they were given out like candy. I heard that said to me and to others. Rarely did docs warn of addiction to drugs.
“This pill will not get you hooked.” These statements almost always turn out to be completely false. Or, “It’s okay to take this even though you have a history of benzo and alcohol addiction. Just take it as prescribed.”
Taking a pill as prescribed does not change the chemical nature of the substance nor change your body in any way. It only means you are now dependent on the doc for your supply. He’s got a steady customer, and you are under his control, financially and otherwise. Not only that, it’s legally sanctioned, unless he dies, commits suicide, or takes too many of his own pills, (or he suddenly leaves town, gee, I wonder why). Then what? Uh oh.
So when they ask, “Do you have any allergies to drugs?” I usually skirt around the question. I reword it. I won’t even answer. I say the following,
“I have been told not to take certain drugs.” Then, I list those drugs or classes of drugs. Or I might say, “I had a very bad reaction to ____ and was told to never take it again.”
Only let’s put it this way: If you really do not want to be given a drug, whatever reaction you had, or tell them you had, it had better be nearly fatal and spontaneous or they might give it to you!