Instead of talking about a specific health condition in this article, we’re going to touch on a topic I’m quite passionate about. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I ultimately decided to become a naturopathic medical doctor. It’s something I call, ‘pill nation.’
Pill Nation Doctor Speaks Out
An important disclaimer
First, let’s start with a disclaimer: many medications are essential for maintaining good health and you should never discontinue a medication without speaking to the prescribing physician first. Many supplements, whether nutritional or botanical, are great for supporting health and wellness. Again, you should not discontinue these supplements without checking in with the individual who recommended or prescribed them to you.
Alarming facts around pill dependency
There’s an alarming trend that’s been developing in America over the last few decades, and unfortunately, other countries around the world are following our patterns.
In the year 2000, 50% of Americans were taking at least one medication. Fast forward to 2012 and that number jumped up to 60%. During that 12-year gap, the number of people taking five or more medications doubled from 8% to 16%, and these numbers are still increasing every year.
Why are people taking more than five medications? There are many factors. We know that medications can cause side effects, so some doctors prescribe additional medications to treat the side effects of the first, second, or even third medication. Another key factor is due to the legal changes that happened in the early 1980s. Legislation was passed by Congress and Ronald Reagan, president at the time, allowing for direct to consumer marketing and advertising.
This new legislation took some of the power from a physician. A physician would typically review your medical history, give you a physical exam, make a proper diagnosis, recommend a treatment, and probably prescribe medication. Thanks to the new legislation though, big pharma companies were able to bypass this practice of medicine by marketing directly to people. Suddenly there were commercials on TV, sometimes with cartoons involved but always with happy people.
Patients turned into consumers, visiting the doctor, requesting a certain medication based on an advertisement they saw, and having the doctor sign off on it. This trend is still on the rise. In 2014, 4.3 billion prescriptions were written, equaling $375 billion – and that doesn’t even include over the counter medications or supplements. In 2014, roughly a third of Americans were taking at least one nutritional or botanical supplement, equaling $5 billion. We’re becoming increasingly dependent on pills.
Why it’s dangerous to depend on pills
Why is the idea of a ‘pill nation’ so alarming? Some pills certainly cause side effects and some pills can actually cause disease. A common one is proton pump inhibitors. Proton pump inhibitors are quite effective at reducing acid reflux, but they’re almost too effective. They can decrease your acid to the point where you’re not able to extract and absorb certain nutrients anymore.
If you’re not absorbing nutrients because of low stomach acid, you can face mood changes, physical pain, increased rates of asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even osteoporosis.
In 2018, John Hopkins University showed that due to medical errors and excessive medications, modern medicine is now the third most common cause of death. I believe that most doctors intend to help with health, but the trend of individuals taking more and more pills is alarming.
Good health begins with you
Instead of immediately turning to pills, remember that good health begins with you. If you follow a healthy diet, engage in physical activity, balance your hormones, and reduce stress in your life, you can make tremendous strides in your health and wellbeing.
The next step in creating your good health is adding in nutritional or botanical supplements. Look for companies that do in-house testing and third-party testing to ensure the potency and purity of the ingredients. If you do need medication for a health condition, remember to consult with a physician instead of blindly following an advertisement. You can have a dramatic impact on your health with the right lifestyle changes.
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I believe in the original meaning of the word doctor, ‘docere’, which means teacher. I’m here to help educate you on how to take care of yourself in ways that you may not have heard of before, but that are effective. I always want to hear your ideas and feedback so be sure to leave me comments below!