Finding alternatives to prescription medications
From The Official Blog of Thomas Mitchinson, Illinois Committee on Publication
A recent NBC TODAY show piece by Linda Carroll asked if we are too reliant on prescription medications for sleeplessness and pain. The report stated that Americans are taking more prescription medications than ever – with nearly 16 million prescriptions for painkillers and a full five million prescriptions being written each year for sleep aids.
“We seem to be a country that turns to drugs for solutions more than many other industrialized, wealthy countries do,” said Dr. Jerry Avorn, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the division of pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in his interview with Today.
According to Carroll, Harvard’s Avorn says drug advertising is a big part of the problem. In the 1990’s when it became legal for drug makers to advertise, the demand for prescription medications skyrocketed.
“That created this sense on the part of many patients that, ‘Oh, I saw that ad on television, I think I should be on that medicine,” Avorn stated.
“I think it is a dual problem,” Dr. Gail Saltz commented to Today’s Hoda Koth. Speaking of advertised meds, she stated, “Patients are quick to ask for them and doctors are quick to give them. And some doctors are giving them who are not doing the kind of evaluation that you would hope for.” The problem she added is that some of these drugs can lead to dependence. Saltz is a TODAY contributor and associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill – Cornell School of Medicine.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that there are 2.1 million Americans addicted to prescription medications – including pain relievers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants.
Saltz thought patients would be better served with behavioral therapy instead of drugs.
There are alternative methods to relieve pain and help individuals cope that are outside the realm of addictive medication. According to Harvard Health Publications of the Harvard Medical School, “Many people find it useful to choose from a menu of different pain treatments and remedies, combining them in a regimen that fits their lifestyles.”
They continue, “In addition to the standard pain medications, and surgical repairs of specific problems, patients and their clinicians also have access to a wide range of nondrug therapies for pain. Acupuncture, biofeedback, topical treatments, assistive devices, tai chi and yoga are just a few of the many options available. Not everyone is able or willing to take pain medication every day, and not everyone can or should have surgery for painful conditions. The good news is that mainstream medicine is embracing a wider variety of treatments than ever before.
I have found another alternative therapy that has worked very well when overcoming pain – prayer. I often enjoy reading the book, “The Healing Power of Prayer” by Chester L. Tolson and Dr. Harold G Koenig, MD. They deduce from studies they have seen that “faith and belief in God activate the physiological processes in the body, the immune system, the hormone system, and the circulatory system – to speed healing and recovery.”
As a Christian Scientist, I have often found not just relief, but the complete stoppage of pain through prayer. This has included severe back and leg pain, migraine headaches, and sprains. Prayer, in Christian Science, stems from getting a better understanding of God that spiritualizes one’s thought and brings healing to the body.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of this form of prayer wrote, “Become conscious for a single moment that Life and intelligence are purely spiritual, – neither in nor of matter, – and the body will then utter no complaints” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 14).