Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Do-It-Yourself Medicine

This New York Times article on self-medicating young adults is a pretty good description of behaviors that seemed fairly common among some people I knew in college and law school. Money quote:
they have grown up watching their psychiatrists mix and match drugs in a manner that sometimes seems arbitrary, and they feel an obligation to supervise.
This is especially true given the kind of medical care I think most young people are familiar with these days. We often don't have longstanding relationships with one physician, and a consultation frequently takes fifteen minutes or less, with the doctor or nurse practitioner shuffling through the paperwork we filled out in the waiting room and then gruffly asking a few questions. At the end of this, all too often we can walk out with the wrong thing: a prescription for some drug, apparently chosen on the basis of what the doctor has sample packs of; or nothing at all, despite having a clear need, because fifteen minutes is not long enough to fully make clear the symptoms of whatever ailment has brought you there in the first place. I knew people in law school who were constantly having to fend off offers of prescriptions from student health, while other actually ill students were begging for their pain to be taken seriously but were brushed off as malingerers or wannabe junkies.

Given the apparently arbitrary way that prescription drugs are doled out, and the minimal level of patient knowledge of the average prescribing physician, is it any wonder that educated people take their health into their own hands?
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