Last night was the first night of the controversial two part series on ‘The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs’, on BBC 1.
I decided to watch it on BBC iplayer and as I lay in bed with 5 of my nightly pain killing concoction of drugs on the table next to me, I pressed ‘play’ on my Kindle.
After only watching it for just 10 minutes I was pleased that I had not watched it with my husband on the regular TV as I knew immediately what his reaction would be about the amount of medication I take.
The strangest thing of all was that only yesterday morning along with a letter from my GP’s surgery about when the regular flu clinic started I also had one about ‘Paracetamol for short-term or occasional use to control pain or fever’. It was basically explaining about the cost of prescribing paracetamol and what sort of operations could be done with the money instead of prescribing the drug (160 more hip replacements, 26 chemotherapy treatments, 30,000 breast cancer hormone treatments, or 980 cataract operations). The letter struck a cord as I do take regular paracetamol with my other more potent pain killers. ‘The thing is’, I said to my husband, ‘It was my GP’s idea to up the amount of paracetamol I could have on my repeat prescription as I was nearly always running out of them by the end of the month’.
I was hooked on the program right from the beginning to see if Dr. Chris van Tulleken could treat patients for a variety of illness without drugs, and wean some patients off their ‘life-saving’ regimes.
The main two patients highlighted in last night’s episode were two ladies. One who took a gambit of drugs for chronic shoulder pain and another who had been on an antidepressant since she was just 16 years old.
The lady with the bad shoulder was given a weeks worth of drugs put into a container for her to take as she would normally, but some of them were not her usual medication just a placebo pill instead. When Dr Tulleken went back after the week he was soon able to show her from the graft that she did not need the drugs she was taking. She decided on the spot that she would not take any more not even for a headache and he sent her for physiotherapy and exercise. A few weeks later before the end of the first episode she came back and said she was in a lot less pain and would never take the pills again. That had to be a big tick for Tulleken.
However the second patient who was clearly in need of her anti-depressants said she wanted to come off the drugs. She really wanted to try it so Tulleken’s first idea for her was to try swimming in very very cold water. To create a bit of a shock tactic which can also bring on a feeling of euphoria. The swim worked and she felt absolutely fantastic, so I guess another tick for the Dr Tulleken.
Also during the episode he tried to persuade the GP’s at the practice to not give out so many antibiotic prescriptions but even though he had a special piece of equipment to see if the patient had an infection or a viral illness he soon realised that most did need a prescription for an antibiotic, and only an exceptional few that did not need them
During the program they pointed out that his fellow doctors think he is being rather reckless and I think some of the outcome even surprised Tulleken but as episode one finished they showed a preview of episode two where it was obvious to see how the lady on the antidepressant was far from dealing with her problem without the drugs.
Right from the beginning I could not help but consciously think about what I take on a regular basis but the more I saw of the program I realised that in some cases ( I guess, like mine) if you have tried every other route to get pain relief but to no avail then drugs it may have to be.
I shall look forward to next week’s episode when he tries weaning some patients off ‘life saving’ drugs and the outcome of the lady who suffers from depression. I am sure the series will make some people ‘think’ a bit more about their medication regime, and when my appointment finally comes through for my next spinal injections I will definitely ask my pain consultant his views on this matter.