This week, we discuss a very important issue that affects millions of Americans in sometimes devastating ways: overmedication. Notably, almost half of all Americans take at least 4-5 pharmaceutical drugs daily, many of whom also ingest OTC medications, too! Unfortunately, many of these medications produce unwelcome side effects and may lead to dependency and addiction in some cases.
In tonight’s live, Doc outlines a few reasons overmedication has become so problematic in America, then lists seven things you can do to keep it from happening to you.
Click the YouTube video below to hear Doc discuss his thoughts or keep reading for a recap of this live taping.
We begin tonight’s live with a hypothetical (but all-too-real) story about a girl who found herself experiencing a bout of anxiety after graduation. She sought help from her doctor who prescribed her a series of medications to help take the edge off. And, though the meds seemed to curb her anxiety, they seemed to cause other issues like lethargy and difficulty focusing.
When she discussed her issue with her doctor, he suggested more medications to ease the side effects of the first medication, which began a snowball effect of medications and side-effects and doctor intervention with more medications. And all because she sought a little help for her anxiety.
Explaining Overmedication; The Birth of Pharma-Culture
In 1997, the FDA established guidelines that allowed pharmaceutical companies to market their products directly to consumers. This also meant that pharmacies could educate the public about their products while omitting key details like side effects and addiction risks.
As the commodification of healthcare expanded, pharmaceutical companies began offering doctors “coupons” for speaking highly of their products, thus driving the appeal of prescription solutions for physicians.
Importantly, much of this occurred at a time when we were culturally conditioned to always trust our doctors – that they know our health needs better than us so we should take their word regarding the best possible solutions to our health. This is especially true of those born in the 60s, 70s, and 80s who tend to be most prone to overmedication.
Unfortunately, this cycle of doctor-prescribed pharmaceutical solutions is not necessarily what’s best for patients. To be clear, doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies are money-making entities. They will not make a profit if they actually fix the problem – but they will if they can help mask it for a little while. As such, doctors who immediately jump to prescribing medication may be thinking more about their wallets and not their patients’ health and wellbeing.
When possible, patients should seek advice from doctors who take the time to listen to their patients’ concerns and lifestyle behaviors. Patients and doctors should then work together to develop the best solutions – which may or may not include prescription medication.
7 Steps to Avoid Overmedication
We are not victims of circumstance. We can absolutely avoid the risk of overmedication without compromising our physical or mental health. However, doing so will take intentional effort and a willingness to adjust our lifestyle choices as necessary. Here are seven simple tips that can help.
Tip #1: Prevention
The best thing you can do to prevent overmedication is to prevent the need for medications in the first place. This is obviously not realistic in all cases, but there are a few things one might do to, say, boost mood before resorting to antidepressants. For example, daily exercise or social interaction may help bust the blues in many people who find themselves in a slump.
Tip #2: Habit Modification
Certain foods and activities can have a detrimental impact on our physical and mental health. As such, those who experience chronic discomfort might consider modifying their routine to welcome in more activity or healthy, disease-fighting foods.
Tip #3: Conservative Management
Conservative management refers to the practice of using non-invasive types of medical treatment as opposed to surgical means. For example, you might add yoga to your routine or seek help from a chiropractor for more natural, long-term pain management.
Tip #4: Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy means that you pay close attention to your behaviors, emotions, triggers, and effects. Then, you can modify those triggers or behaviors into more a more productive form of output. Essentially, CBT helps people find the connection between the mind, body, and environment so they can better control the outcome.
Tip #5: Natural or Nutritional Solutions
When possible, you can also try plan to ween your off of pills. For example, you can use medication to improve depression to help motivate you to find more natural depression solutions. You might also add natural supplements and other food items to your diet, as well (just make sure not to over-supplement, either).
Tip #6: Mental Health Support
Medication can help for a little while. However, the most effective long-term mental health care generally comes from a trusted mental health advocate. In fact, a licensed therapist can improve long-term mental health with actionable solutions instead of relying on basic (habit-forming) medications.
Tip #7: Find a Knowledgeable Advocate
Finally, regardless of which of the above tips you choose to follow, always involve an advocate. A knowledgeable friend, family member, or trusted doctor can help you determine your options and make solid choices without ulterior motives (like lining their wallets). Remember, if you’re feeling low, whether physically or mentally, someone is always there to help you feel better.
Overmedication and the American Healthcare System; Closing Thoughts
Overmedicating is an unfortunate side effect of a for-profit healthcare system. Doctors, pharmacists, and insurance companies make the most money by keeping their patients in an overmedication cycle. As such, it is always wise to shop around for the best healthcare practitioner. Specifically, look for someone who listens and offers actionable solutions rather instead of just pharmaceutical solutions.
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