To medicate or not to medicate

If I can’t afford my prescriptions, what do I do?

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

In 2019, I came across a video called “True cost of US healthcare shocks the British public.” I hate to admit it, but it made me laugh – a lot.

The whole premise of the video is that the interviewer asks random people in the United Kingdom how much they think simple medical services cost in the United States. I laughed at how shocked the interviewees were when they heard the actual costs. I laughed, because I knew the costs sounded ludicrous.

I’m not laughing now. I’m a 24-year-old living with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and a personality disorder, not to mention other health conditions. The difference between 2019 and now is that my parent’s health plan no longer covers me. This is also the first time I haven’t been covered by a university or college health plan.

I’m working a full-time job that hardly pays for rent, my car or the necessities like hydro and groceries – and on top of that, it comes with no health plan. So what happens when a 24-year-old with several mental-health disorders and poor health history can barely afford to pay for medications?

According to the New York Times, “more than 8 per cent of all Americans between 18 and 64 have not taken medication as prescribed because of the cost to them.” This resonates with me. There have been several times I have wondered if taking my medications is worth the price.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I became more aware of my health. After talking to my doctor about some issues I was having, I was finally diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a rare genetic disorder that affects the adrenal glands, which explained random weight gain, exhaustion and increased anxiety.

It feels great to have a diagnosis, because it means there is a possible solution. But it isn’t that easy. I have had doctors and specialists tell me that if I want to get better, there are certain medications I have to take. The problem is, they will not prescribe them to me, because they say they are too expensive.

So if doctors say that medication is too expensive, what does that mean for me and my health? I continuously have to research new ways to keep myself healthy, because I can no longer rely on my doctors.

I have resorted to taking CBD oil rather than lorazepam, a medication used to treat anxiety, because my doctors don’t prescribe enough to help me deal with my GAD. I think a lot of people can relate to increased anxiety levels during the pandemic. Yet I have not received any accommodations with my medication.

One of the health conditions I live with may cause me to develop diabetes. I’m not scared of being diabetic. Still, I am afraid of not being able to afford the medications to stay healthy. I have amazing parents who have helped me pay for necessities, but why should I rely on their help to get by? I ask myself every day, what would I do if I didn’t have their support? What about those who are living with the same disorders I am? Can they afford treatment? What do they do if they can’t?

Rebecca Driedger is a freelance writer, photographer and graphic designer. She currently works at The Gargoyle Theatre as the venue technician and media co-ordinator. When she isn’t working or freelancing, she is cuddling her three-legged cat, Link.

Published in Volume 76, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 7, 2021)

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