The half-life of medical knowledge is getting shorter and shorter. By the time a young doctor has been in practice for five years much of the clinical information he was taught at medical school will be out-of-date. Most of what he was taught about drugs will be out-of-date too. In order to keep up-to-date, doctors attend postgraduate courses and conferences. Many of these learning experiences are sponsored in some way by pharmaceutical industry companies. It is, therefore, hardly surprising if doctors regard drugs as pretty much the only answer whenever they are faced with a health problem which requires treatment.
But drugs are not, of course, the only answer. And they are frequently not the best answer.
There is no doubt that when used properly, and appropriately, drugs can – and do – save lives. But the medical profession’s ongoing love affair with pills and capsules, and the tendency of doctors to encourage their patients to reach for the pill bottle whenever illness strikes, means that other, often safer and frequently more effective treatments may be ignored. In particular, the possibility of doing nothing at all (often one of the safest therapies of all) is frequently overlooked. Similarly, the ability of the body to heal itself (through ‘bodypower’) is often under-estimated. Serious, sometimes life-threatening health problems can sometimes be controlled very effectively without very much active intervention. (My book Bodypower explains how you can identify and use your body’s own self- healing processes.)
Today, it is common for patients (often perfectly healthy ones) to be given drugs which, according to their doctors, they will need to take for life.
Although providing drugs for patients suffering from chronic long- term problems (such as asthma, depression, high blood pressure or arthritis) is clearly a profitable area for pharmaceutical companies an even more profitable business is to sell drugs to perfectly healthy patients – such as women going through the menopause. This is an area where the drug companies are looking for huge growth.
If your doctor tells you that you are suffering from a long-term disorder for which you need to take long-term drug therapy – you should ask for a second opinion. Never forget that four out of ten patients who take pills suffer side effects.
Patients have a right to know what they are taking – and why.
Here are some questions you should ask your doctor if he wants you to take a drug:
What is this medicine for?
How long should I take it? Should I take it until the bottle is empty or until my symptoms have gone?
What should I do if I miss a dose?
What side effects should I particularly watch out for?
Am I likely to need to take more when these have gone? Should I arrange another consultation?
Are there any foods I should avoid? Should I take the medication before, during or after meals?
How long will the medicine take to work – and how will I know that it is working?
How many times a day should I take it?
What side effects should I expect?
Of course, not all patients even know they are taking drugs.
For years now it has been common for nurses – both in hospitals and in nursing homes – to hide drugs in food and drink. Sedatives, tranquillisers and sleeping tablets are among the drugs most commonly abused in this way.
Read More: If you’re taking a prescribed drug you must read this