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Life often deals us a bad hand. Sometimes we end up in a horrible job, or we lose a job. Loved ones die. Marriages fall apart.

When these events occur, it is natural to feel sad. For thousands of years, people dealt with such difficulties by calling on friends and family for help. Grieving was a normal part of life.

Now, though, we are frequently told that we need medicine to deal with emotions such as sadness and despair.

A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry (April 2007) revealed that many patients are misdiagnosed as depressed when, in fact, they are reacting normally to bereavement or other loss.

So what's the problem? If you feel sad, why not take an antidepressant that might help you feel better?

For one thing, a diagnosis of depression goes into your medical record. It might negatively affect future job opportunities or insurability.

For another, not all antidepressants are innocuous. Side effects such as nausea, headache, nervousness, insomnia, dry mouth, diarrhea and sexual dysfunction can be troubling. What's more, stopping use of certain antidepressants can be more difficult than most people realize.

Drugs can be helpful, but not all of life's disappointments require a prescription. To learn more about nondrug approaches for depression, we wrote Best Choices From The People's Pharmacy. It is available at libraries and bookstores, or online at

Prescription dates

Q. Whenever I receive a prescription from a pharmacy, I ask for the expiration date on the bottle from which the medication was dispensed, so I can record that date on my prescription bottle and prescription documents. That way, I'm not constrained by the one-year time frame many pharmacists put on the customer's bottle.

I also save money because I'm not throwing away perfectly good medication and getting new prescriptions filled.

A. Thank you. If you make your request at the time you submit your prescription, the pharmacist can allow for the extra time it takes to note the manufacturer's expiration date. In some states, pharmacists are legally required to display a one-year use-by date, but they are not forbidden to give you the additional information you request.

Help for weak bones

Q. I have been on thyroid hormone replacement for more than 20 years. Now I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

My doctor prescribed Fosamax and then Actonel. I have heard that such drugs can cause jawbone deterioration. What other options are available for treating osteoporosis?

A. Too much thyroid hormone can weaken bones. Although medications such as Fosamax and Actonel are popular treatments for osteoporosis, they have been linked to osteonecrosis of the jaw. Though not common, it is a frightening side effect and is extremely difficult to treat.

It appears to be triggered by dental extractions or other invasive procedures. People with known dental problems should have them taken care of before starting such medication.

A number of other medicines can strengthen the bones. Ask your doctor to discuss Menostar, Evista, Miacalcin and Forteo as possible alternatives. All are used to treat osteoporosis.

People with low bone density should be sure to get adequate vitamin D (at least 1,000 IU a day), as well as calcium and magnesium.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them via their Web site:

King Features Syndicate