Too much medication, too many medications (polypharmacy), overprescribing, inappropriate prescribing, & the body’s decline in metabolization and excretion. Whew! It is a lot, isn’t it?

May 4, 2022

Medications will not fix everything. Medications are not without risks. Over-the-counter medications are not always safe. Vitamins, supplements, herbs, or essential oils are not without risks and they are not always safe either.

What I look for is medication overload

I am on the lookout for unnecessary medications, potentially inappropriate use of medications., or multiple medications used for the same thing. I look for appropriate medication usage and benefits vs risks treatment regimens. Just because a medication may help, does not mean it should be used because the risks or side effects will be worse than the treatment. Treatment may be indicated, but it will not be beneficial. A medication may no longer be necessary. Medication is not necessary at all.

We have to get over this, “a pill for every ill,” kind of thinking. Let’s be honest, a lot of folks want “my rights” or “my choices,” but they do not want the responsibilities that come along with those things. It is each of our responsibilities to take care of our bodies, as best we can. Eating better, drinking our water, doing physical activity, taking care of our mental health, and even sleeping well. Progress over perfection. Be consistent. Then if you need meds, take only what you need in the lowest amount you need.

Medication overload isn’t really talked about very much. When 750 people aged 65+ are admitted to the hospital Every Day, due to medication problems … that is significant. Not all of these folks survive. 7,000 people die every year due to preventable adverse drug events. It is unknown how many dies, due to worsening of their current diagnoses.

If you are 65+ and take 5 or more prescription medications, you are at risk of an adverse drug event.

Possible side effects of overmedication include:

    • Mental health concerns

    • Addiction

    • Substance misuse or abuse disorders

    • Drug reactions that are dangerous

    • Adverse side effects

    • Increase in physical health problems

Common signs of overmedication in seniors include:

    • Fatigue and energy depletion

    • Pressure in the abdomen

    • Aches and pains in the body

    • Problems with balance and motor skills

    • Fatalities and falls

    • Rashes and flushing of the skin on a regular basis

    • Weight gain or loss that is not clarified

    • Mood swings are frequent, and there is a lack of personal hygiene.

    • Concentration problems

    • Impairment of memory

    • Confusion or cloudiness of mind

    • Delayed decision-making

    • Inability to think rationally

    • Psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions

    • Symptoms of withdrawal when not using

How can we decrease or eliminate medication overload in the older adult?

Take time to discuss medications during office visits. Find out what is still necessary and needed. Find out what can be stopped or tapered off. Work with your physician. Discuss the benefits vs harm and what are the alternatives. You doctor will probably be thrilled that you want to decrease the number of medications that you are taking.

Be open to the possibility that your medications are hurting you rather than helping you. Maybe, you feel so bad, not because of your diagnoses, but because of some of your medications. Your goal is to reduce medication overload. Could you be on a potentially inappropriate or harmful medication for you? One or more medications that you are taking may cause you to feel bad or may even cause a hospitalization. 

You are the one inside your body and you are the expert on how you feel and how you are really doing. Consider, just consider, that taking less medication (in number or dosage) may benefit you.