During the period of 2015 through 2018, the CDC estimates that close to 50% of Americans took at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days, while 24% took three or more (1).
In acute conditions, prescription drugs can save lives. However, the drugs prescribed for chronic health conditions may actually deteriorate your health in the long run.
Instead of getting to the root of the problem, doctors often utilize a drug “band-aid” that covers up underlying health issues that may be more easily fixed with a simple lifestyle or diet change.
Why Drugs Aren’t The Answer
Relying on pills for chronic health conditions can lead to complications down the road. While Western medicine focuses on managing and suppressing individual symptoms one at a time, holistic methods of healing identify the root cause and work to improve the underlying health concerns in a natural way, whether through diet or lifestyle changes.
When we focus on holistic modalities of healing, we can heal the root cause instead of covering it up with a drug that only manages symptoms of something much bigger.
Taking prescription medications long-term may just create a multitude of other side effects which could themselves create other problems in the body. With drug use also comes the risk of addiction. Abuse of prescription drugs has been steadily increasing in the United States, such as the current opioid addictions of OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Fentanyl, and generic equivalents.
Using prescription drugs over a long period of time also puts you at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, and destroys the healthy bacteria in your gut and digestive tract. As people become more and more dependent on prescription drugs, they eventually find themselves on drugs to treat the symptoms of other drugs, which leads to a nasty cycle of drug abuse.
The most frequently prescribed therapeutic drugs today are anti-depressants, painkillers, and anti-hyperlipidemic agents (like cholesterol medications).
Most Dangerous Prescription Drugs To Steer Clear of
You have a higher risk of dying from a preventable adverse drug reaction than you do of dying from cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, breast cancer, or diabetes (2). Those stats are more frightening than anything, given so many people trust that the drugs they take won’t kill them.
The list below comprises some of the most popular and dangerous prescription drugs given to the population at large. It by no means includes a comprehensive list of prescriptions drugs to also be careful around.
If your doctor ever recommends you take a prescription drug, always do your research before taking the drug. Talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of taking the drug.
If your issue can be remediated by a lifestyle or diet change, seek out a naturopath or other holistic health coach, as they’ll have the best tips and suggestions for getting your life back on track.
These drugs are used to treat inflammatory pain like that found in those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ulcerative colitis. It suppresses the immune response by causing the body to attack itself, so it increases the risk of infection, both small and large. Long-term use can lead to skin issues, change in shape/location of body fat, increased acne, menstrual irregularity, low libido, and bruising. Potential side effects include insomnia, mood problems, headaches, dizziness, bloating, and nausea.
While your doctor might not know of natural remedies for treating inflammation, you can take steps to reduce the inflammatory response in the body. This includes reducing your consumption of wheat, dairy, GMO foods, fried foods, refined sugar, and red meat and increasing your consumption of turmeric, ginger, pineapple, dark leafy greens, blueberries, avocado, seaweed, mushrooms, broccoli, and cherries.
Statins are prescribed for managing high cholesterol levels, and they’re one of the most common medications taken by adults (in exchange for a poor diet, more often than not). Taking statins for short-term periods can lead to side effects like headaches, insomnia, nausea, bloating, muscle aches, diarrhea, gas, and rash. The risk of long-term statin use is more serious, however.
Long-term use of statins can be linked to a deficiency of coenzyme Q10 and vitamin K2. It can also increase your risk of breast cancer and diabetes and can raise your risk of Parkinson’s disease (3).
Adopting a plant-based diet, or simply reducing your animal product intake a few days a week is almost guaranteed to keep your cholesterol levels low and heart happy and healthy. There are also many nutrient-dense foods like avocados, broccoli, cinnamon, and spirulina, which can help manage high cholesterol levels.
3. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s)
These drugs are most commonly prescribed for acid reflux. Their brands include familiar names like Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec. These drugs have been associated with higher risks of dementia, kidney disease, and heart attacks. They can also cause chronic constipation, low magnesium levels, and increase the risk of bone fractures (4).
You don’t need PPI’s to get rid of your acid reflux issues. Unfortunately, it does take a little bit of a diet change to fix your stomach acid. Oftentimes, the root cause of acid reflux is low stomach acid, not excess acid. Therefore, taking PPI’s can make digestion and overall health worse than it was, to begin with. Fixing your stomach health by opting for fresh, whole, plant-based foods and taking a good quality probiotic and digestive enzyme is probably your best bet! And go easy on the fried and greasy, over-processed foods!
According to the CDC, 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 take anti-depressants (5), with 60% of those people having taken antidepressants for more than two years in a row. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, and Lexapro are among the world’s most widely prescribed anti-depressant medications, targeting our serotonin receptors and making us think we are happier than we really are.
Unfortunately, the side effects of anti-depressants are numerous. They include things like weight gain, low libido, constipation, sleeping issues, nausea, irritability, and anxiety. Even worse, children and adolescents taking anti-depressants are at risk of having suicidal thoughts. Not so nice.
While anti-depressants do work well for some people, they aren’t an effective means of treatment for the population at large. Sometimes a lifestyle change is needed, such as connecting with your community and engaging in regular meditation and exercise. Minimizing processed foods and eating a nutrient-rich diet are also encouraged. There are also natural supplements people can take to help minimize feelings of depression such as St.John’s Wort, Vitamin-B complex (also found abundantly in leafy greens), omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D (from the sun), magnesium, and ginkgo biloba.
Opioids are one of the most dangerous prescription drugs. While the use of opioids for acute pain might be warranted, they are not the appropriate solution for chronic conditions. Because of their highly addictive nature, even those who have been prescribed opioids for a brief time (like post-operation recovery) can very easily become addicted and begin abusing their prescriptions. Avoiding opioid painkillers altogether can help reduce the risk of becoming dependent on them, as well as dodge some nasty side effects like nausea and constipation.
If you’re about to undergo surgery, talk to your doctor or surgeon about your recovery options and express to them your concerns about opioid medications. Tell them you want to steer clear of any addictive substances. If you’re struggling with chronic pain, always turn to natural solutions first before putting your trust in opioid medications.
The Bottom Line
While you shouldn’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor, it’s worth talking with them to see if there are alternative options.
As some of the top five most dangerous prescription drugs, it would be worth it to see whether certain diet and/or lifestyle changes, including the use of herbal supplements, could help remedy the problem first.