Pharmaceuticals

I’m starting off potential treatments for the symptoms of ME/CFS with pharmaceutical drugs because it’s the simplest category, not because they are necessarily better – being a recognised and accepted drug does not automatically make it more effective or safer than other remedies.

The most common drugs to take for ME/CFS are painkillers or antidepressants.

Painkillers or analgesics give relief from pain. They come in various classifications and strengths, each being used to treat a different type of pain. Some are available over the counter, others have to be prescribed, and some over the counter drugs may be prescribed at higher doses if you go see a doctor about it.

Antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression. As with painkillers, there are various types and strengths. While normal doses of these drugs are used to treat depression, lower doses may be suggested to give pain relief or to aid sleep.

Some things to consider:

  • Most drugs have side-affects, especially if you take them long-term
  • Antidepressants can be nasty. People I know have talked about them as ‘only putting off dealing with the real problem’, ‘highly addictive and very hard to come off’, ’cause more problems than they solve’. They are meant to be short-term use only
  • Bodies can adapt, so like with recreational drugs, if you take painkillers over the long-term you may end up needing to increase your dose to get the same result
  • Taking these sorts of drugs may ease the symptom but they are only masking it, not making it better or treating the cause.
  • There is evidence to suggest that painkillers don’t always work, and you could be taking all these pills to no affect. Supporting this conclusion is a BBC program ‘The Doctor who gave up Drugs’.

Personally, I try to avoid taking drugs whenever possible. (Like my mummy told me!) The first question I always ask myself is, do I really need to take this? Obviously, if the symptom is significantly affecting quality of life then you need to do something to try and ease it, and taking pills is often the first thought. My second question is, are there alternatives to consider? The answer to this is yes.

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