So many drugs, so many side effects! Why even distinguish between the two?
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In truth, it’s often misleading to speak of “side effects” at all. It’s more accurate to say drugs have effects, period. Some of them – lowering blood pressure, say, or alleviating pain – are considered desirable; others are not. Those, we call “side effects.”
But the body doesn’t make this distinction. It simply responds to what it’s been given.
Like naturopathic medicine, biological approaches to dentistry and medicine aim to stimulate the body’s innate healing and self-regulating abilities. Drugs, by design, work against those processes. Their purpose is to force certain physiological actions. That they end up doing other things is a risk that conventional practitioners think is worth taking.
Pharmaceuticals work against the body in another way, too: adding to the body’s overall toxic burden.
Yet more often than not, they remain the default treatment – something you often see in the area of “pain management.” About 1/3 of all Americans live with chronic pain that all too often seems to have no clear cause, at least within the judgment of orthodox medicine. And if you can’t find a cause, of course, you certainly can’t treat it. You can only “manage” symptoms – sometimes with holistic therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic or therapeutic massage; most times with drugs, particularly opioids.
Unfortunately, these narcotics – drugs like Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin – are highly addictive and easily abused. According to the CDC, more people die each year from drug overdose than car crashes or firearms. In 60% of those cases, prescription drugs were involved.
One troubling truth behind some of this data was highlighted by a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
“It’s a major health care problem,” says Raymond Hobbs, M.D., a Henry Ford Internal Medicine physician and senior author of the evidence-based clinical review article in JAOA. “We have physicians who have been well trained and have been practicing a long time, but didn’t receive training in pain management.”
In fact, among 117 North American medical schools, only four in the US “offered a required course on pain management.”
How can you even begin to treat what you’ve not been trained to treat?
Maybe that points toward one reason why many people opt to self-medicate with larger-than-directed dosages of “safe” over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen. Yet this, too, is still a drug that comes replete with “side effects” – some, potentially severe when the drug is taken routinely or in high doses. As Dr. Mercola points out in a recent article, risks from overuse of acetaminophen include skin reactions, kidney damage and reduced immune function.
Fortunately, there are non-drug alternatives available, helpfully outlined and discussed by Dr. Mercola. If chronic pain is an issue for you, it’s well worth your while to take a few minutes to read his suggestions for more helpful approaches to “pain management.”
Best of all, of course, is to find out what’s actually causing and encouraging the pain to begin with, treating the cause rather than symptoms. A skilled naturopath or other qualified practitioner can help you understand both the whys of your pain and appropriate therapies to deal with them.
Just as in biological dentistry, the basic concept is the same: Treat the illness or dysfunction, not the symptom.