As a practising medical doctor for almost 18 years, I really can’t tell you how many prescriptions I’ve needed to write. Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions. But I’ve noticed something very interesting recently – many people don’t seem to want them anymore.
Over the years I’ve worked in numerous fields in health care, including emergency medicine, orthopaedics, paediatrics, surgery, palliative care, geriatrics, and I’ve been a general practitioner for the last 10 years. I’ve performed around a million consultations, and I’ve probably seen just about everything.
But I’ve always believed the answer to many health problems can’t be found in the prescription pad, and now it seems my patients are starting to agree.
So why are people declining medication? I suppose some of them just don’t appear to trust the pharmaceutical companies any more. We hear a lot of talk about “big pharma” and a few people even think that us doctors are aligned with these organisations. I can only speak for the doctors I know, and I assure you that we’re not. As it happens, I haven’t personally spoken to a pharmaceutical rep in over 10 years, and I have a special place for all the promotional material they send me:
But maybe with all the uncertainty around the future of health care provision, people are slowly realising that now is the time to take better control of their health. Nowadays whenever I see a patient with a new health problem, this is what I hear more and more:
“I don’t want a prescription Doc, is there anything I can do to help myself?”
That’s just music to my ears.
People’s reliance on medications has reached alarming levels with 48.9% of Americans using one or more prescription drug over the last 30 days. And if my cohort of patients are anything to go by, it appears the tide is finally turning.
People are realising that lifestyle choices can have a direct impact on their health, and they want to do something about it.
Before any medication is ever prescribed, doctors should always be discussing relevant lifestyle and preventative measures. For example, if your doctor has ever diagnosed you with primary hypertension, they should also have recommended stopping smoking, losing excessive weight, taking regular exercise, cutting out processed and salty foods, reducing stress etc. And if they didn’t, maybe you should get a second opinion. Or even a third.
Because with that advice, you might be able to avoid going on medication for the rest of your life.
Making these positive lifestyle choices can not only reverse many cases of high blood pressure, but can also help to prevent many other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol to name a few.
In fact, many of the conditions we treat everyday in our large family practice can be prevented by better lifestyle choices – even some cancers have preventable elements to them.
And patients are also becoming increasingly aware of the fact that medication can only take them so far. As every drug has potentially harmful side-effects, why not try something safer that is also proven to work?
This is what led me to explore health care beyond the traditional education I received in medical school. As doctors, we were taught to look at a collection of symptoms, examination findings, relevant test results, then reach a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. And this is still what many patients need.
But let’s take a step back first. What is the underlying source of these symptoms? Why is this person’s health out of balance? And if we identify and reverse the imbalance, can we cure their illness without reaching for the prescription pad?
The World Health Organisation defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” as part of their constitution back in 1948. So by definition, there are only three areas we need to focus on to help improve our health : our physical well-being, our mental well-being and our social well-being.
To put it simply, if we nurture and support all three of these areas of our well-being by making sensible life choices, we move toward health. Conversely, if we ignore or neglect one or more of these areas, and we move toward illness.
I have written extensively about this in my best-selling book “The Big Prescription” as I believe we can all improve our health in a natural and sustainable way, without a reliance on pills and potions.
But alternatively, just speak to your doctor. Never stop any prescription drugs without medical supervision, but the next time you see your doctor, ask the simple question: “What can I do to avoid or reduce my medication?”
If their face lights up, that’s the doctor for you. If not, maybe you should get a second opinion.
Or even a third.