Those of you who know me well, know that I am not a fan of the pharmaceutical approach to health, except when absolutely necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are some amazing medicines out there that have saved countless lives. But in our fast paced world, we look for the quick fix for every ailment without considering a) are there risks or side-effects of the prescribed treatment and b) is there a behavior I can change that will alleviate this problem?
My lack of satisfaction with the pharmaceutical approach to health started many years ago when I was completing case studies as part of my student internship at a psychiatric hospital in Florida. One component of the case study was to do a medication review, identifying the medications the patient was prescribed, what each medication was prescribed for, and the side effects and contraindications of each medication. I recall in one case the patient was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of depression with anxiety, not having been on any previous medications. By the time she was discharged she was had 12 different prescriptions. In doing the medication review, I found that only 2 of the 12 medications were specifically for the treatment of depression and anxiety. As I read through the patient record it became clear that while medication #1 was indeed helping with depression and medication #2 was helping with anxiety, medication #1 had negative effects on blood pressure. So the doctor prescribed medication #3 to regulate blood pressure. But medication #3 caused nausea, so the doctor ordered medication #4 to alleviate the nausea. But medication #4 causes constipation and so on, and so on until the patient was taking 12 different medications.
I recently had the pleasure of listening to a doctor present on the Importance of Work-Life Balance for Health, something that many people around the beltway struggle with. In his presentation, he discussed several wellness factors including (but not limited to) physical exercise, proper nutrition/hydration, stress management, adequate rest, spiritual pursuits and family engagement. He reviewed each factor individually and discussed how getting a balanced amount of each factor positively impacted different aspects of physical and mental health, and how deficiencies of each factor can contribute to specific disease processes. He closed his presentation by encouraging the attendees to strive for balance in the areas he discussed before taking the first pill. Guess who has a new doctor?
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