· By Leeanna Gantt
Medication Stigma—Taking Meds Doesn’t Mean You’re Old, Sick, or Less Than
Taking medication on a regular basis is something that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. That is, until you’re prescribed a medication. You may suddenly be faced with negative thoughts like:
- My time is running out because only old people take medication
- I must be a sick and unwell person because I have to take these pills
- Needing medicine means there is something wrong with me
Medication stigma is real. Although it’s usually talked about in regards to mental health medicines, having to take medication on a regular basis can make you feel old, sick, and less than, no matter what kind of pills you take.
None of those things are true. Here’s why.
Nearly 70 Percent of Americans Take Prescription Drugs
It’s true that many old people take medication, but that doesn’t mean your time is running out just because you take meds.
Cultural stereotypes don’t help. A quick look at the medication management aisle at your local pharmacy—with its oversized pill containers covered in giant letters—makes it clear that taking medication is associated with old age.
The truth is that almost 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug. Yet, only about 17 percent of the population is over the age of 65. That means the vast majority of people taking medication are under the age of 65.
Even if you are over the age of 65, the previous facts can be comforting. It means you’re in good company if you take medication, no matter what your age.
There’s a Difference Between Chronic Health Conditions and Acute Illness
We have all been prescribed temporary medication for an acute illness, like amoxicillin for strep throat or Tamiflu for the flu. When you end up getting prescribed a long-term medication, it’s easy to feel like you’re a sick or unwell person because you feel like that’s what taking medication means.
That’s not true. Acute illnesses, like the common cold, bronchitis, and even COVID-19, mean you’re sick. Health challenges, like diabetes, arthritis, and cancer are chronic conditions that you can improve with medication and lifestyle changes. Taking medication for a chronic condition means you’re dealing with a health challenge—not that you’re sick.
Famous People take Mental Health Medication
The stigma surrounding mental health medication can be especially debilitating, as it can be a reminder that there's something wrong with you that has to be treated.
You aren't less than if you take meds for your mental health. There are plenty of successful people who deal with mental health issues too.
Pete Davidson, an SNL alum has openly talked about taking medication for a mental health diagnosis. He's not the only one either. Lada Gaga takes antipsychotics for PTSD, Ben Affleck has shared that he has taken antidepressantsfor depression, and even Michelle Obama has shared that she's no stranger to depression and anxiety.
Taking medication isn’t a moral failing. It doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person. It’s simply a tool you can use to feel like the best version of yourself.