I heard a segment on NPR recently discussing a new study by Harvard’s Public Health School, which released some statistics showing that prescription drug use in the U.S. is on the rise (listen to the short segment here!). According to the study, about 60% of American adults take prescription medications. Some up to five different pills a day.
The majority of these drugs are used to treat diabetes, obesity and heart disease, the trifecta that is unfortunately extremely prevalent in American society today. Taking the obesity epidemic into account, I guess the increase in prescription drug use isn’t that big of a surprise. What surprised me was the fact that the study also reported a rise in the use of anti-depressants, with the number of people over 40 being treated for depression doubling in recent years.
I get pretty fired up when I hear facts like this about our disease-care system (I don’t call it a healthcare system), so wanted to share my thoughts. Before I do, let me throw out a few caveats. First, I am in no way, shape or form recommending that you stop taking any prescriptions you may be taking without consulting your doctor. Second, I am also generalizing here and when I refer to “we”, I am referring to the United States and all of its citizens as a whole. I am merely sharing my thoughts on the matter and how I think the issue is only going to get worse if we continue on our current path.
As a society, we depend on prescription drugs to treat any ailment we may have. But has anyone stopped to think about the underlying problem that caused said ailment? Prescription drugs generally only treat an existing problem, try to lessen its symptoms while not necessarily always solving it. Don’t you think the better approach is addressing what is really causing the problem in the first place?
I know doctors are incredibly busy and see so many patients every day, but if they just took a little more time to really talk to each patient and try to get to the root of the problem instead of immediately writing a prescription to make it better, maybe we wouldn’t have so many people using prescription drugs every day. (I know there are some doctors, including mine, who do this so again, I’m generalizing). Pills can’t be the only answer, especially since it’s usually some unhealthy habit done over a length of time that caused the problem in the first place.
Maybe doctors should also receive formal nutrition education in medical school. In many cases, cutting sugar and processed food, eating more vegetables and lean protein, getting off the couch to exercise and making sure to get enough sleep consistency over a span of time may lessen the need for meds. Or the two can be paired together. Yeah, these healthy habits may not solve a person’s particular problem, but don’t you think they will help improve someone’s quality of life in at least some way? I think so.
And that gets me back to the statistic about anti-depressants. With the state of public health in our nation, sadly this statistic makes sense. People are sad because they feel downright crappy. We fill our bodies with sugary drinks and processed food that resemble little of what comes from nature. These “food-like substances” are created in a lab, not by Mother Earth. Our bodies don’t recognize them and certainly don’t know what to do with them. They make us feel groggy, lazy, unproductive and do crazy things to our blood sugar. For me personally, if I have too much sugar, I can get into a serious funk. I get negative and completely down on myself. My former struggles with depression rear their ugly head. So yeah, I think our diet has a huge impact.
When we are tired we don’t take a step back and try to get more sleep. We push through by drinking more caffeine (in the form of soda and/or coffee), eat sugar to get through the workday (mid-afternoon slump anyone?) and take a sleeping pill at night when our bodies do not calm down. Our bodies are completely out of whack; not in touch with the real world and the rhythms of nature. These rhythms are what we lived in harmony with for thousands of years. They are the reason we (should) get tired when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises. They are the reason women have hormonal changes that (should) go in line with the phases of the moon.
Our current path will only increase the cost of health-, I mean disease-, care in this country. One way to approach the issue? Our government should make healthy, wholesome and fresh food cheaper and more available to the masses. Provide nutrition education to parents and children alike. (The number of teens I see at the Starbucks near my office on their high school lunch hour is downright alarming.) We should decrease our subsidies on commodity crops (corn, soybeans) that are used to create the majority of processed food we see on the supermarket shelves (that’s why they are so cheap!).
Let’s take back our health, one vegetable at a time.
~Peace, love and natural health~