There are a great many drug guides
available and it is confusing trying to work out which are the most useful.
For most people, they sit on the bookshelf and are hardly ever used. However,
occasionally one gets a prescription, or a family member of friend mentions
some new medication they have been given, and it is useful to get more
information about it. That might be especially true in the case of psychiatric
medications that are designed to affect mood, attention, or behavior. Going to
the Internet can provide some useful information, but often one can only find a
few details or one is unsure about the reliability of the claims made on the
So a book like The Essential
Guide to Prescription Drugs 2005 can be quite useful. Suppose one is
prescribed Paxil. First, the index shows that this is listed under the name
"paroxetine." The initial information says that it was introduced
into the market in 1993 and is used as an antidepressant and other purposes.
Then a box lists benefits and risks. It can control depression, social
anxiety, panic attacks in children, OCD, and PTSD, has fewer adverse effects
that tricyclic antidepressants, may help premature ejaculation, and can be
useful in some pain syndromes. But it can cause abnormal ejaculation in males
and there is a possible association with increased risk of suicidal thinking or
attempts if used in children. There are over 6 pages of information on the drug
in more detail, with principal uses, a short description of how the drug works,
available doses and strengths, recommended dosages, and so on. It lists both
mild and severe adverse effects, and says whether they are infrequent or rare.
It also specifies possible interactions with herbal medicines such as St.
John's wort, ginseng and ginko. There is a long list of possible
interactions with other prescription medications.
This guide contains similarly
detailed listings for most medications that are in common use. Haldol, Zoloft
and Xanax get 6 pages, and Prozac gets over 7. The drugs are listed
alphabetically, rather than being grouped into different kinds. The 1430-page
book starts with over 30 pages with general advice about medications, and ends
with over 140 pages with tables of medicine information, which might be useful
although probably most readers won't use them. It is a fairly large format,
which means it is easy to open without breaking the spine, and most of the
language used is straightforward. The technical terms and names it does use
can be looked up. So this is a book that will be easy to use and contains
helpful information. It is certainly as good as the other popular guides to
prescription drugs, and will be easier to understand than the Physicians
Desk Reference for non-health-professionals.
For psychiatric medications, my
preferred reference is still Psychotropic
Drugs: Fast Facts, since it is organized according to different kinds
of medications and contains more precise information about side effects.
However, The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2005 is impressive,
and I especially like its inclusion about information about herbal medicines,
so I'll be keeping it on my bookshelf.
© 2004 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island.
He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.