Is Pill-Popping a Cultural Obsession that Impedes True Healing?

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

We live in a pill-popping culture. In recognition, two doctors commented in a 2014 medical journal article that current over-usage tends “to distract us” from the real nature of disease and healing.

The article authors, Drew Leder, M.D., Ph.D., of Loyola University (Baltimore) and Mitchell Krucoff, M.D., of Duke University, put pills into perspective: while many pills have “great therapeutic potential,” the “exaggerated cultural fantasy” with them leads to many adverse effects and misunderstandings of the function of pills, which is “to assist bodily processes.”

Pills are models of miniaturized technical devices “capable of downloading into the body healing chemicals. As such, they seem to promise a disburdening solution to many of life’s ills,” they wrote. However, we need “to learn how to better choose and use them wisely,” they added, and begin regarding pills as a gift, with “appropriate gratitude and discernment,” so that “we may ingest fewer pills, but with greater efficacy.”

My Viewpoint: Over-dependence on medication in our society is a problem for both physicians and patients. Annual spending for prescription drugs doubled to $234 billion from 1999 to 2008. It’s no wonder, since according to a 2010 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half (48 percent) of Americans are taking medications! Thirty-one percent take 2 or more drugs. And 11 percent take 5 or more. One out of every 5 kids, and 9 out of 10 seniors are taking medication.

What this Means to You: I have used drugs countless times to save lives but I am against using drugs as the be-all and end-all of medicine. It’s not smart medicine; they have too many serious side effects. Physicians overprescribe and patients “over-want” as they both look for a quick fix. Pills may reduce symptoms but don’t get to the root cause which is often poor lifestyle habits. Changing lifestyle habits for the better might require education and hard work, but yields ongoing, healthy and safe results.

Recommendation: As the authors write, we need to choose and use pills more wisely. If you take multiple medications, ask your doctor to review your intake, and inquire about cutting down, and perhaps eliminating some. Work with a nutritionally-savvy alternative medicine doctor who can help you adjust your lifestyle and formulate and monitor a supplement program that can support tapering down or getting off specific drugs – as I often effectively did for my patients.

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