Since I don’t know enough about you, I can’t advise you on whether or not you really need all those drugs. But you may get some answers and insights on them in my new book Mind Over Meds: Know when Drugs are Necessary, When Alternatives are Better—and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own which includes chapters on the pros and cons of some of the medications you mention – statins, products for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), sleep aids and drugs to strengthen bones.
I wrote the book because I am very concerned about all the medications Americans are taking these days. We now use 10 times the number of prescription drugs we took in the 1950s. The number of over-the-counter drugs used has exploded as dramatically. Some of the drugs we now have are miraculously effective – like opium and its derivatives for pain and antibiotics for bacterial infections that commonly killed throughout most of human history. There are many other life-saving drugs, such as insulin for people with type 1 diabetes and chemotherapy agents that now cure forms of leukemia and lymphoma that used to be fatal. However, the downside to all this is horrifying: adverse drug reactions are the fourth leading cause of death in our country and rank between the fourth and sixth most common cause of death in hospitalized patients. What’s more, too often drugs fail to correct the problems they are meant to solve or simply reduce symptoms without addressing the root causes of disease. Many conditions would better be addressed by changing dietary patterns, increasing physical activity, correcting sleep disturbances, and practicing techniques to neutralize the damaging effects of stress. At best, the benefits of the most widely used medications fall far short of the claims made by manufacturers, who also downplay the risks. At worst, many of these medications do more harm than good.
Mind Over Meds covers the drugs I view as most overprescribed, misprescribed, overused and misused. In addition to the ones you mention, you’ll find chapters on antibiotics, antihistamines, cold and flu medications, steroids, NSAIDs, psychiatric medications, opioids, antihypertensive drugs, and diabetes drugs, as well as one on the overmedication of children and another on overmedication of the elderly. I also invited a pharmacist to write a chapter on her view of the overuse and misuse of medications.
In my opinion, people don’t ask enough questions about their medications. Taking a drug just because a doctor says so isn’t a good idea. You should always try to understand why you need it. If what you read in Mind Over Meds makes you uneasy about any medication you are taking, please keep this advice in mind:
- Never stop taking a prescribed medication suddenly.
- It is always best to wean off a drug gradually and under the supervision of a health professional.
- Never attempt to discontinue medication without first putting in place other measures to manage the condition being treated.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Read an excerpt from Mind Over Meds – “Too Many Meds: The Problem And The Solution“