The reason I’ve never become an advice columnist is that I don’t have scientifically-based facts arcing through my brain.
I’m dependent on experts who know their fields and can pass on well-tested information.
As a senior citizen, I take a lot of meds. I was attracted to an article that asked, “Should You Stop Taking That Medication?”
Here are some of the tips found in the Consumer Reports article.
More than one-third of Americans older than 55 (I’m qualified) regularly take five or more prescription medications, and 9% take 10 or more drugs, according to a 2017 Consumer Reports national survey.
Some medication may be needed long-term to help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, but others may not be needed for long periods, or may be harmful if used for too long.
• Opioid pain medication: These drugs, which include Oxycodone (Oxycontin and generic), and Oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet and generic), are very effective at relieving pain, but can be addictive. Taking an opioid for more than three months increases addiction risk by 15 times, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you have a chronic condition, such as ongoing back pain, it’s best to skip opioids altogether — guidelines from the American College of Physicians say they should be an absolute last resort for chronic back pain.
• Sleep aids: About 14% of adults ages 65 to 80 report regular use of prescription or over the counter aids. But this is a mistake, especially for older adults.
Sleeping pills more than double the risk of falls and hip fractures in older adults. And OTC sleep aid ingredients such as Diphenhydramine (Advil PM, Aleve PM, Sominex, Tylenol PM and generic) and Doxylamine (Unisom and generic) have been linked to an increase risk of cognitive problems and dementia in seniors.
If you are using an OTC or prescription sleep aid for more than a few days in a row, Raz Dasgupta, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, strongly suggests that you ask for a referral to a sleep specialist who may recommend short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy.
• Heartburn drugs: More than 15 million Americans regularly take an OTC or prescription proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as Omeprazole (Prilosec and generic) Lansoprazole (Prevacid and generic) or Esomeprazole (Nexium and generic), for heartburn.
Groups such as the American Gastroenterological Association advise that those who need a PPI take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.
• Decongestant nasal sprays: If you’re congested, it’s tempting to reach for an OTC nasal decongestant spray with Oxymetazoline, such as Afrin, Dristan or Vicks Sinex. These shrink swollen nasal tissue quickly and are less likely than oral decongestant pills, such as Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed and generic), to raise blood pressure.
Most package labels state that they should be used for no more than three days in a row.
What to do: First, try an OTC saline and water nasal rinse, which can help flush out mucus and rinse away allergens. If this is ineffective, it’s generally fine to use a nasal decongestant spray for some quick relief, but if possible, use it only at night and for no longer than three days.