We are a nation of pill poppers. We immediately run to the medicine cabinet at the first sign of pain or discomfort, sneezing or heartburn. It is not our fault we are this way, really it’s not. Do you watch television? Then you know every other ad seems like an ad for a pharmaceutical. A new drug to help us sleep, help us be romantic, for goodness sake, help improve our moods and there is even an ad now for a drug to combat your opioid induced constipation. To make matters worse, we go to the doctor’s office when we do not feel well and we almost always leave with a prescription or two or three. And more times than not we do not even really know the root cause of why we are sick. How did this all happen? How do we stop this madness?
Did you know adverse drug reactions are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Fourth! These are preventable deaths folks.
From https://health.gov/hcq/ade.asp In inpatient settings, ADEs (Adverse Drug Reactions):
Account for an estimated 1 in 3 of all hospital adverse events
Affect about 2 million hospital stays each year
Prolong hospital stays by 1.7 to 4.6 days
Each year, ADEs in outpatient settings account for:
Over 3.5 million physician office visits
An estimated 1 million emergency department visits
Approximately 125,000 hospital admissions
Have you looked at your medicine cabinet lately? Do you know what all the meds you take are even for? Do you know their side effects? Do you know what other medications, either prescription or over the counter, interact with them? Do you know which herbals and supplements are safe to take with them?
One of the biggest problems is the overuse of antibiotics. People go to the doctor when they have cold and demand an antibiotic. And more times than not, the doctor or NP or PA will give them one. The majority of times, these are viral infections and do not require antibiotics. But we have it in our heads that we must take one to be healed. The glaring consequence of this overuse is antibiotic resistance. It is a major health problem for us now. Many many antibiotics are no longer effective against the bacteria they are meant to fight. The bacteria have grown so used their effects they virtually laugh when they see them coming. They have also evolved into superbugs now where even our strongest antibiotics are rendered useless. A viral infection, though not pleasant I know, will resolve itself with plenty of water and rest, an maybe an herbal tea!
Many many patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes (by the way it is estimated that by 2030, 50% of Americans will be diabetic!! Not pre-diabetic but full blown diabetics), children with ADHD, chronic pain patients…are given a medications from the get go without any thought to other approaches of how to treat their conditions.
I have said this before as a pharmacist for over 20 years, I have seen pharmaceuticals do some real good things for patients in real bad situations. Life saving in fact. It is not these instances I am speaking of. There is a place for these medications and patients who really need the help of these meds. But when did taking a pill become first line for everything?
If you are tired of taking medications for everything and anything and want a different approach then YAY you. Integrative healthcare is coming! It is my hope that our “sickcare” system will eventually become a full on actual “healthcare” system whereby we treat the patients based on their diagnosis, getting to the root of WHY the patient has a certain disease or condition and treat them accordingly with an integrative approach, reserving pharmaceuticals for when they are absolutely necessary.
So what is an integrative approach? It is one where the patient is looked at as a whole. What they are eating, what kind of stress they are under, how their relationships are going, how their career is going, their family history (though you are not doomed to follow your family genetics), the exercise they are getting and the blood tests or other diagnostics necessary for a good diagnosis. This may take the help of an integrative doctor, a health coach, an acupuncturist, an herbalist, a chiropractor… to figure out what is going on with the whole patient. Did you know type II diabetes is curable? And just as important is helping the patient not get diabetes in the first place or hypertension or high cholesterol… Did you also know, diet and exercise alone can often remedy a person with high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Add an appropriate supplement or herbal to it and you have some pretty powerful medicine without any medicine. (though herbal remedies can be pretty powerful medicine in their own right).
There are millions and millions of people in this world on antidepressants. When their antidepressant doesn’t work well anymore they are then given another antidepressant to take along with or an antipsychotic to boost the effect of the first medication. Let’s find out the root cause of their depression without simply saying its a “chemical imbalance” and work towards fixing it from the inside out with cognitive therapy, meditation, acupuncture, stress management techniques, and exercise.
If you are still reading – thank you – this is a subject near and dear to me. It is my goal as a holistic health coach and pharmacist to get people OFF their medications. A little ironic I know. If you are at all interested in this please seek out a good integrative health doctor/practitioner, acupuncturist, chiropractor, behavioral therapist, health coach.
For an excellent read on this subject in great detail please read Dr. Andrew Weil’s Mind Over Meds