To medicate or not to medicate. That is the question. Or is it?

In modern day times, pharmaceuticals have become the centre of medical treatments. We learn and indeed expect that when we go to a doctor that we will receive a script recommendation for a medication, a pill, to treat our ills. Many of us want that unquestioningly, want that little small thing to make the problems go away, and on the other hand, many of us are increasingly suspicious of medications. Some of us want medications, are in search of that little white pill to cure our ills, and then many of us do not want to take medications, no matter what, in fear of side effects.

These positions bring to light certain questions:

  • There certainly can be many side effects from medications. But are we to avoid them ‘no matter what’?
  • Is there in truth a place for medications in the management of our health? Or are we putting our health at risk by not taking medications?

People are not really ambivalent about taking medications, they are absolutely polarised.

I see people who want medications, and then those who refuse to take medications, and then there are of course those who have side effects to all medications, and then those who have no side effects to any sort of medication. Strangely, I don’t see people who are ambivalent about taking medications!

Our response to medications appears to be quite an individual thing, as much as our attitudes towards taking medications and this is to be respected and understood.

But what’s behind our desire to not take medications at all?

Whenever I prescribe medications, one of the common responses I hear is people tell me that they are ‘going to rattle’. Yet, medications are usually smaller than the proverbial tic tac – and people aren’t worried that they will rattle when they take tic tacs…… we happily have tic tacs, or other forms of food, several times a day with no issue, yet we resent having to take medications several times a day, or even once a day……..

So I wonder, what is it that underlies our relationship with pharmaceutical medications and what sort of ‘medication’ are we really seeking?

Certainly there can be many side effects with medications, and this is something to be aware of, but most people don’t get the side effects from medications.

Pills can taste bitter. Is it putting something bitter into our mouths that bothers us?

I note here that most forms of alcohol are bitter and unpleasant to the palate, but that doesn’t appear to be a barrier to their consumption…!

Is it putting something in our mouths that bothers us?

We happily put food in our mouth all day long. The more often the better, and the fact it has been synthesised or is artificial doesn’t seem to bother us. Something that we do not consider in the forefront of our minds is that there are many side effects from taking food, perhaps not so immediate, but the wrong food eaten consistently is associated with not just side effects but with the creation of illness and disease.

  • Smoking is associated with cancer

Often our lifestyle is associated with side effects, and not just side effects but the creation of long term illness and disease.

  • Running and high impact activities such as sport – can cause injuries and osteoarthritis

Food for thought?

Yet, as much we fret over our decision to take a medication with potential side effects, we don’t fret over the regular consumption of food several times a day…..we don’t fret about the fact that we have to buy food and eat food that is going to harm us…….. we don’t fret about those pieces of cakes, those pieces of chocolate, those soft drinks, our favourite wine or whisky that we have to fork out money for from our own pocket and do so happily for the pleasure that it will bring us in the short term……. Nor do we fret so much about the cost or ask if it is on medicare.. or foodicare!

Equally we don’t fret with the same intensity about the fact that we are not exercising, that we are not moving our bodies, that our cigarettes are causing immediate and long term side effects.

But when it comes to a prescription from outside of us, for something that is an ill inside of us, we react, we resist, and then we suddenly want to do things ‘naturally’, and… for free!

But where is this coming from? And is it truly rational?

Its an interesting thing to question.

Why is it that daily we are very comfortable with the side effects that come from our daily lifestyle choices, feeling complacent about them in fact, safe, knowing that there is a medical system that will pay to pick up the pieces later on, but then as soon as it is prescribed that we take a medication that may support our health and well-being that we baulk, we suddenly start to question in minute detail possible side effects and consider the consequences so seriously and deeply….

Does it really make sense?

Do we consider the potential impact of every morsel of food, cake, sweet, alcohol that we consume on a daily basis?

And if not, why not?

And if we knew that we would have to pay for the long term consequences of our lifestyle choices then I wonder, would we be so willing to make these choices on a daily basis?

And for that matter, as an aside, what is ‘natural’ about over eating, or smoking or drinking alcohol, or not exercising……. No species in the untamed animal kingdom lives in such a way…!

I wonder, why do we not consider the way that we live and its short and long term side effects and potential impact on our health and well-being in the same way on a daily basis as we consider the potential impact of a medication?

Being prescribed a medication appears to be a ‘stop’ point for a person in their lives.

Its as if we know deep down that the way we choose to live affects our health and well-being and being prescribed a medication ‘for life’ which we know can possibly cause even more side effects than the ill we already have in our bodies brings it home how ‘unnaturally’ that we have been living and how living ‘unnaturally’ can create an ill in the body. In threat of a potentially greater ill than the one that has already been created we baulk and try and back track and retrace our steps. As we know, medications are certainly not ‘natural’ and they do come with the risk of potentially significant side effects although they can be of an immense support to the body.

The decision to take medications is a personal choice for everyone.

It is natural to not to want to take medications, but I would invite us to consider why we do not question the way that we live on a daily basis with the same vehemence and passion…

I see many people who do not want to take drugs, but equally, do not want to consider reviewing their lifestyle choices or consider how they could potentially be impacting on health and well-being through their daily living. They are more in search of a natural ‘pill’ without side effects to make things better.

In my line of work, in my experience, there are no ‘natural’ cures for diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Autoimmune diseases. And the same can be said for many fields in health care.

Lifestyle changes can make a big difference to support our health and well-being, but without appropriate medication when we have disease, we can in fact be putting our health at risk long term.

A sobering thought indeed.

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