Have you ever heard the old expression, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?’ It’s so true! If something is working and working well, there’s no need to change anything. Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing.
Well, in my opinion, some aspects of the medical profession need fixing. There is a huge problem that continues to be ignored and the public needs to take a closer look at the issue in order to find a solution.
What is broken is the western culture’s medical philosophy of prescribing a pill for almost any and every issue for which a patient complains without considering other, often more viable alternatives.
Statistics estimate that 75.1 percent of the time, a prescription for drug therapy is involved in a patient’s treatment with their doctor.
Although it would appear that some medical guidelines offer as part of what is considered appropriate prescribing of medications, a step that suggests that the physician should consider nonpharmacologic therapies, this is often disregarded. Many physicians don’t even suggest another option other than taking medication.
As a licensed psychotherapist, I can’t tell you how often I have parents dragging, sometimes literally, their small child to my office to be seen because they have been informed by the youngster’s teacher that the child needs medication. The most often used explanation by the teacher is that little Jose or little Susie has ADHD and is disrupting their classroom.
More often than not, the issue is one of behavior that can be remedied without the use of psychotropic drugs. However, some parents and teachers alike, may feel that it is easier to medicate a child rather than address the behavior.
Teachers want to be able to teach. Parents are busy trying to keep up. Neither are trained psychotherapists and both rely on those in the medical profession to offer them the best solution.
I have found, that if a child is referred to a psychiatrist for a meds assessment, however, typically the child will leave the psychiatrist’s office with a prescription that will modify the behavior by reducing the desire or impulse to ‘disrupt’.
Is this really the best solution?
I believe that what we have created in the United States is a culture of drug use. We have been ‘trained’ from an early age to believe that this is our best solution.
While it may be customary for a physician to write prescriptions, many physicians either lack the training or the desire to learn nonpharmacologic alternatives. Others don’t consider alternatives perhaps because they don’t offer as much of a financial advantage.
Prescription drugs and the monetary value to physicians who prescribe them and to the pharmaceutical companies who sell them, are motivating factors for continuing to prescribe medications to patients rather than utilizing other remedies.
Making drugs available from an early age to well into our senior years is a way to condition us into believing that medications offer the best solution, if not the only solution, when in fact their most valuable benefit may be to those that dispense them.
There is also another way to benefit financially from prescribing drugs.
Medical guidelines encourage doctors who treat pain to test patients periodically to ensure that they aren’t abusing their medications or are failing to take them.
While the reasons for the testing is professionally sound, the outcome offers a financial benefit to the physician, pharmaceutical company, and the organization that conducts the testing.
A new report suggests that some doctors are taking advantage of these guidelines and have begun testing the elderly for illegal drug use such as heroin, cocaine and ‘angel dust’ in addition to their prescribed medications.
As a result of testing for illegal drugs that are rarely, if ever, used by seniors, Medicare spending on 22 high-tech tests for drugs of abuse reached $445 million in 2012, which is up 1,423 percent in five years.
The end result, is that some physicians and others are getting rich at the patient and taxpayers’ expense.
Prescription drug use also impacts all age groups.
A 2011 Government Accountability Office report concluded that thousands of foster children are being prescribed psychiatric medications at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration in at least five states.
An estimated 71,000 children, 18 or younger, were seen in emergency rooms each year from 2004 to 2005 because of medication overdoses.
Among children under age six, 40 percent of all reports to the poison center are due to pharmaceuticals. Most likely, these children were not themselves prescribed the drugs, but a relative or other family member left their medications unattended and in the reach of these small children.
Also, it would appear overall that prescription drug overdoses have steadily increased since 1992, which is a 117 percent increase from 1999 to 2012.
In 2012, among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes. Also, that year, 79.9 percent of drug overdose deaths were unintentional.
I’m not advocating for terminating the use of all medications in the U.S. What I am suggesting is that the consumer should require more from their physician and become more actively involved in their own healthcare, as well.
For example, if a person has high blood pressure, is overweight, and suffers from diabetes perhaps more is needed than merely taking a pill to mask the symptoms.
A doctor can assist in offering a nutritional and lifestyle change that has the potential of ridding the patient of these problems permanently. However, the patient may, in some cases, be required to insist upon these choices.