It comes as no surprise for most people to learn that in our current times, most of the North American population is on one or more prescription medications. It is nothing short of disturbing to see that we have reached such a medical catastrophe. There is nothing normal about this and nothing worthy of praise as far as any medical progress goes. We have people who proudly boast that our life expectancy has been extended today, however, there is nothing to celebrate when people are being kept alive and functioning by synthetic means. It is a sad reflection of how far we have removed ourselves from proper dietary and lifestyle habits. Most of the pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed to deal with chronic conditions that arose from poor food and lifestyle habits, and which can be fixed by changing those habits without pharmaceuticals.
So how did we get here? What and who is to blame? The answers are quite simple, and the reasons point to us all. The epidemic rates of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes type 2, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and others have surfaced due to a dysfunctional approach to health in our entire society. Although some people like to villainize the pharmaceutical companies, they are only one part of the problem. The government, the food and agricultural industries, the medical organizations, and the educational institutions are all responsible for creating the dire predicament in which we find ourselves. And then there is the general public and the choices consumers are making each day. Sure, processed modern food is engineered to be addictive and chronic stress lowers the brain’s ability to make good choices. Still, it is us who are making the choices each day that either leads to our health and wellbeing or symptoms and sickness.
The purpose of this article, therefore, is to raise awareness about the overuse and reliance on prescription drugs, which do not cure diseases but suppress symptoms, and in the process, expose people to unacceptable side effects that create new problems.
Prescription Drug Statistics
To make sure that we are all on the same page, I will first share with you some of the most recent statistics from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics - NCHS:
- 48.4% of people in the US have used at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days (2013-2016)
- 24% of people in the US are using at least three or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days (2013-2016)
- 12.6% of people in the US are using five or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days (2013-2016)
- 2.9 billion of drugs ordered or provided by US physicians in 2016
- 73.9% of doctor visits involved drug therapy in the US in 2016
- The most frequently prescribed drug classes in the US are pain-relieving drugs, cholesterol drugs, and dermatological drugs.
- 359.0 million of drugs were given or prescribed in US hospital emergency rooms in 2016
- 80.4% of hospital emergency visits involved drug therapy in the US in 2016
According to the medical report Death by Medicine by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio, and Dorothy Smith:
- 2.2 million people per year have in-hospital, adverse reactions to prescription drugs (2003)
- 20% of hospital medications for patients had dosage errors (2002)
- 20 million unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed per year for viral infections (2003)
- 783, 936 people die each year due to conventional medicine (2003)
- The American medical system is the current leading cause of death and injury in the US (2003)
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the US also shares the following information about adverse drug events (ADEs), which result in injury from medical intervention related to a drug:
- Inpatient settings account for an estimated 1 in 3 of all hospital adverse events, affect about 2 million hospital stays each year, and prolong hospital stays by 1.7 to 4.6 days.
- Outpatient settings account for over 3.5 million physician office visits, 1 million emergency department visits, and approximately 125,000 hospital admissions each year.
The above are just a few statistics that point to the enormity of the situation and the urgency of addressing this matter effectively. Most people are not educated about the risks of pharmaceutical drugs that should be used predominantly for real emergencies and do not realize that they have other therapy options besides them. In addition to this, most people do not understand that most acute conditions do not require any drugs in the first place. What they need are proper rest, hydration, and nutrition. This lack of awareness results in billions of dollars made for pharmaceutical corporations, while people suffer and have the quality of their lives reduced significantly and unnecessarily. True medical healing means that the physician should do no harm, and if there are better or safer alternatives, then those should be utilized. However, the pharmaceutical monopoly in the United States, and most other countries around the world, do not wish to allow for that.
The drug companies have discovered there is a vast market in trying to help people get better. The result of this is that they are stuck in the process of trying because true healing would end the lucrative cash flow that they have been enjoying. This makes me think of a statement I once read that illustrates this perfectly: Every disease cured is a customer lost. As such, countries like the United States and New Zealand allow for the free marketing of pharmaceutical drugs on television and other media that target millions of people each day. They put out cleverly designed and emotion-inducing ads that target the vulnerable consumer, while they directly talk doctors into prescribing their drugs to their patients.
The Grim Side of Pharmaceutical Research
In August 2008, a research paper entitled Institutional Foundations of the Vioxx Disaster was presented by Donald Light at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Donald Light is a sociologist and served as a professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He received a BA in history from Stanford, an MA in sociology from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis. His research at the Harvard University Center for Ethics dealt with the historical roots of institutional corruption in the development of prescription drugs and its consequences. He authored the study presented at the ASA, which examined the risks of pharmaceuticals and shared some sobering facts.
Americans are likely to be exposed to unacceptable side effects of FDA-approved drugs because of fatal flaws in the way new drugs are tested and marketed. Drug disasters are literally built into the current system of drug testing and approvals in the United States. Recent changes in the system have only increased the proportion of new drugs with serious risks.
Donald Light, Ph.D.
His analysis identifies the following, as some of the critical problems with the current testing and marketing of drugs:
1. Organizational foundations of patient risk from prescription drugs.
According to Professor Light, institutional reforms to help avoid or reduce future drug disasters are needed. He says that rather than using currently approved drugs as benchmarks of efficacy, the existing testing system evaluates the effectiveness of new drugs based on their effects compared to placebos.
Systematic reviews indicate that 1 in 7 new drugs are superior to existing drugs, but 2 in every 7 new drugs result in side effects severe enough for action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These actions include black box warnings, adverse reaction warnings, or even withdrawal of the drug. Based on this system, new drugs are twice as likely to harm patients and not provide them with benefits that are better than existing drugs.
2. The design of clinical trials as pharmaceutical corporations frequently design their trials to minimize evidence of toxic side effects.
To do so, drug companies sample from a healthier population atypical of patients who will actually take the drug, excluding people who are older, weaker, or who have multiple health problems. Trials are run long enough to pick up main effects but not to detect some long-term side effects. Approvals are based on these data, so drugs with harmful effects sometimes get through.
3. Serious under-funding of the FDA.
This results in a dependency on the pharmaceutical industry to pay the FDA regulating staff. In return for drug company funding, the industry expects faster reviews, but more rapid reviews potentially fail to identify serious long-term side effects. Professor Light found that speed-up reviews for safety have more than tripled the number of black box warnings of side effects or withdrawals after drugs are on the market. Also, in spite of recent reforms to strengthen the FDA’s role in protecting the public from harmful drugs, the harm to benefit ratio is worsening due to these reviews and relaxed rules that allow companies to promote drugs for unapproved uses.
Based on our current system, the designation of ‘safe and effective’ on today’s new drugs could be replaced with, ‘apparently safe based on incomplete information, and more effective than a placebo.’
Donald Light, Ph.D.
The Solution To Take Back Your Health
While some people reading this will not be phased because they have already come across information like this, others will find the above information deeply disturbing. After all, we are made to feel that we can trust our doctors and medical institutions to help us when we most need it in safe and effective ways. However, anger, blame, and resentment are not going to solve anything or improve your health. We cannot wait for our doctors or the medical industry to change; no one is going to walk away from a lucrative business that is generating millions and billions of dollars a year. This is why the solution starts with you and resides in the choices you make.
Here are a few simple things that you can do to avoid becoming a victim of the pharmaceutical industries and take power over your health.
1. If you are currently not taking any prescription medication, aim to keep it that way.
It is always easier not to start something than to stop it after. Consider the slew of addictive substances that have people hooked today, including tobacco, alcohol, sugar, and many pharmaceutical drugs. The most crucial point here is to use your lifestyle as the mechanism of healing and prevention. If you don’t want to end up on cholesterol medication, then change your diet to one that prevents such a problem. If you get a headache, then get to the root of the problem of why the headache surfaced, to begin with, and take appropriate action. Maybe you need more water, maybe you need some fresh air, maybe you have sinus pressure due to allergens, maybe you need to make more time for proper sleep, or maybe you have been working too hard. There are hundreds of reasons for headaches, and the more you can get to the root of the problem, the more liberated and empowered you will be to avoid the problem altogether. Don’t just suppress pain with pills, whenever possible. Any signs or symptoms that your body gives you should not automatically be viewed as unfavorable. They are your body’s way of communicating with you and letting you know that something is out of balance. The goal, then, is to understand what those symptoms are trying to tell you and take action to bring back balance into your body. If we ignore, suppress, or repress symptoms, they only end up going deeper and causing more serious problems in the future.
2. If you are currently taking prescription medication, use your lifestyle to reverse underlying problems.
While there are certain medications that some people require for life to deal with life-threatening conditions, most drugs don’t fit into such a category. Most drugs are taken for acute and chronic issues that can be directly and more effectively managed via our lifestyle choices and natural remedies. We know today with certainty that we can reverse cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight problems with a whole food plant-based diet. Such a dietary change alone can make insulin and diabetic drugs unnecessary within days and reverse diabetes type 2. Over time it dramatically reduces the risk of heart disease, cancers, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic diseases. Given its power to heal the body, it is always necessary to work with a properly educated physician who can safely wean you off of your medication, as needed. Don’t attempt to stop taking a drug without appropriate medical approval, as doing so can cause more harm. As you remove medicines from your system, be patient with your body as it will be going through a significant period of readjustment. Your body will need time to detoxify itself from the drugs and to adjust to its optimal levels of balance and healing.
3. If you have a health problem or symptom surface, explore alternative remedies first.
If you experience any physical or mental condition, assuming that it is not an emergency or a life-threatening situation, consider the numerous alternative options you have to help your body re-balance and heal. Even though many people in our society have been conditioned to reach for pharmaceutical drugs first, given their risks and lack of true healing abilities, they should be considered last. Instead, explore the vast world of alternative therapies and remedies. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Nutritional therapies - best used for acute infection problems and all common chronic diseases
- Herbal therapies - best used for immune, endocrine, digestive, and circulatory system conditions
- Homeopathy - able to treat any acute or chronic physical, mental, or emotional condition without side effects
- Acupuncture - best used for effective pain relief, but also excellent for sleep problems, fertility problems, nerves and anxiety, and specific organ conditions
- Cupping - best used for musculoskeletal pain relief, states of inflammation, and immune system conditions
- Chiropractic therapy - best used for musculoskeletal pain relief, injuries, and states of inflammation
- Hydrotherapy - best used for immune system concerns, rheumatism, arthritis, inflammatory conditions, and pain relief
- Hypnotherapy - best used for psychological health issues, including addictions, anxiety, and depression, as well as psychosomatic illness
- Energy therapies - can be used for a variety of physical and psychological conditions
Thanks to a massive shift in consciousness and the ease of accessing information in our modern times, more and more people are taking back their health by becoming more educated about it and in control of it. Awareness about the dangers associated with pharmaceuticals is increasing, as is the understanding that most of the time, they are not required or beneficial. The rest is up to us and the choices we will be making.
If you are serious about your health, regardless of your current age or state of health right now, know that it is never too early or too late to make changes to protect your health and wellbeing. I cannot stress enough the power of prevention and why this should always be our first goal. Eat healing foods for your body, move and rest your body enough, give yourself routine quiet reflection periods, and live with purpose, meaning, authenticity, gratitude, and joy. These are just some of the essential factors that create a high quality of life.
Don’t settle for less than feeling good and enjoying the best that this life experience has to offer. Don’t let others dictate how to treat your body and heal yourself. Consult your inner knowing and guidance to know what is truly best for you. Don’t allow others to benefit from your pain and suffering. You deserve so much more, and, usually, the only challenge is knowing that and believing yourself to be worthy of good health and healing. Seize the power of your everyday choices and make them count in your favor.
To your best health!