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doctor has been in practice for five years much of the clinical information he was taught at medical school will be out-of-date. Most of what he was taught about drugs will be out-of-date too.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.
Now this despicable practice has been made legal in many countries. Nursing staff are officially allowed to crush pills patients don’t want to take and secretly put them into food or drinks. One study showed that ‘thousands of care home residents were being prescribed powerful tranquillisers for minor problems to make life easier for staff.’ Another study showed that more than a quarter of pensioners living in nursing homes are on powerful sedatives which have turned them into ‘zombies’. This report concluded that elderly people living in care homes are nearly three times as likely to be given ‘chemical cosh’ drugs as those in the community. Elderly folk living in the community get mugged by their young neighbours. Elderly folk living in nursing homes get mugged by their nurses.
Doctors and nurses seem to have forgotten that everyone (including the elderly) has the right to refuse treatment they don’t want.
Patients have a right to refuse drugs and tricking them into taking products which may kill them (and which will very probably reduce their quality of life) is well outside the traditions of medical practice. It is, to be blunt, immoral and unethical.
There is plenty more information and advice for patients taking prescription drugs, including a good list of side effects to look out for, in the book How to conquer health problems between ages 50 and 120, written by Vernon Coleman and Donna Antoinette Coleman.
How to conquer health problems between ages 50 and 120 by Vernon Coleman and Donna Antoinette Coleman is available as a paperback and an eBook on Amazon.