During the period of 2011 through 2014, the CDC estimates that over 50% of Americans took at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days, while 23% took three or more (1). While in acute conditions, prescription drugs can save lives, more often than not, the drugs prescribed for chronic health conditions actually deteriorate your health in the long run.
Instead of curing the condition at its roots, doctors utilize a drug “band-aid” that covers up underlying health issues that could be easily cured if given a simple lifestyle or diet change.
Why Drugs Aren’t The Answer
Relying on pills for chronic conditions simply doesn’t work (at least not if you’re trying to better yourself). 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 cure the root cause instead of covering it up with a drug, which in reality, will 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 our 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, pain-killers and anti-hyperlipidemic agents (like cholesterol medications).
Most Popular 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 deadly medications prescribed 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 beforehand before taking said drug. Talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of taking the drug, and 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 is 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 by 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 medication 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 are more serious, however.
Long-term use of statins can been 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).
By 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 healthy and happy. 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. Often times, the root cause of acid reflux is low stomach acid, not excess acid. Therefore, taking PPI’s can make digestion and overall health more 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 enzymes (I love the company Puradyme) 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 antidepressants (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 antidepressants are numerous. They include things like weight gain, low libido, constipation, sleeping issues, nausea, irritability and anxiety. Even worse, children and adolescents taking antidepressants are at risk of having suicidal thoughts. Not so nice.
While antidepressants 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 to community and engaging in regular meditation and exercise. Minimizing processed foods and eating a nutrient-rich diet is 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 gingko biloba.
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 are 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 and wanting 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.