As the winter festivities approach, some people may be thinking about a different kind of holiday – a drug holiday.
What is a Drug Holiday?
For someone who is taking medication long-term, a drug holiday is when they take a break from that medication for days or even years. There are a variety of reasons why this may be advantageous, and the reasons vary greatly based on each patient’s unique circumstances.
In some cases, a drug holiday can provide a needed break from serious side effects of a medication. This might be lifestyle driven, like taking scheduled breaks from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft), to address sexual side effects.
In other cases, drug holidays are a strategy to manage more serious complications associated with a medication, such as the bisphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis. Holidays are sometimes prescribed after a person has taken an oral bisphosphonate, such as alendronate (Fosamax) or ibandronate (Boniva), for five years or has received three annual intravenous infusions of zolendronate (Reclast). Such drug holidays lower the risk of a rare type of fracture that can occur near the top of the thigh bone, as well as a rare type of damage to the jawbone.
How to Know if it’s Right For You
If you take a long-term medication and you are curious to know if a drug holiday might be right for you, begin by speaking with your prescribing physician. There are many different variables in each individual’s treatment, including other medications that you may take, your long-term treatment plan, age, etc. that will factor into the decision. Your doctor will be able to help you to decide if a drug holiday makes sense for you or if you should consider switching medications to manage your side effects.
It is very important to note that there are some treatments that you should never stop on your own – including those to treat high or low blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, severe pain, anxiety, or insomnia. For example, attempting a drug holiday without medical advice can result in serious complications or death. Suddenly stopping proton-pump inhibitors, such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec), used to treat acid reflux and heartburn, can cause an uncomfortable relapse marked by a surge of stomach acid.
It is also important to note that drug holidays are not recommended as a way to manage your budget. If the cost of your medications is a concern, speak with your doctor or pharmacist and make sure you have the Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card in your wallet (or app on your phone). Quick and easy to use, the FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card has helped over 10 million people nationwide save more than $1 billion on their prescription medications.
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