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To Drug Or Not To Drug?

There was once a time when hardly a day went by without my taking some sort of pill or chemical. I had a dependence on the seeming magic of drug capsules.

Whether it was an ibuprofen for chronic back and hip pain, acetaminophen when I still had pain and worried that the ibuprofen would harm my kidneys, antihistamines to unblock the sinuses, antifungals for the systemic candida that occurred after my hepatitis B vaccine series before medical school, caffeine in large doses via strong coffee, or Ambien for those sleepless nights or days following 36-hour shifts and disrupted sleep patterns during my residency, it seemed that my “training” to match up the perfect pill with each and every syndrome or symptom did not stop with my patients. I was on the path toward ill health that often begins with the over-the-counter pills and later spirals into multiple prescriptions and chronic debilitative illness. My awareness of this type of drug dependence grew bigger and I set a little intention to get away from it. In the years that followed I began to learn of more holistic means to deal with my multiple health issues, and willpower allowed me to cut down on the pills. But willpower alone was not enough to free me from the seduction of instant symptom relief.

At one point it seemed impossible to stop the pills altogether and I thought that my body was just too cracked and damaged to ever be healthy again. I suffered a severe facial and jaw fracture in an accident, and combined with the vaccine-related illness, it seemed like I had irreversible problems. For a while I accepted my damage and worked at keeping the pills to a minimum. But it wasn’t until I decided to change course in my career and study homeopathy that the key to changing my level of vitality really shifted. At first, when a foreign truth would appear in front of me, I would try to incorporate it. But it was just a philosophy that I liked, rather than a truth that could live inside of me. I think many people get stuck at this place; liking a philosophy of holistic health but finding it difficult in practice. Without incorporating the truth into their psyche, they run back to pharma when the going gets tough.

From Theory to Practice

I needed some examples of people who were aging without drugs, getting infected and not taking antibiotics, and remaining healthy into their sixth to ninth decades. Once I looked for them, they appeared. Most of them are homeopaths, and one is a shamanic practitioner. All of them exercise, eat whole and organic foods, and take impeccable care of themselves. All of them were once seated in the allopathic paradigm, and all of them got out. It is always a good idea to get advice from people who have been where you are and who have what you want. Once I found this living proof, I had all the evidence I needed to shift my old belief system. It became much easier to feel the possibility that I didn’t have to travel the hopeless trail to 12 or 22 medications per day like many of my kidney patients. The new philosophy blended easily with the real-life pictures of health that I saw in others whom I could look to for encouragement.

The ideas of Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, on how and why people get sicker under conventional drug-based medicine were also lighting up in the cases I had been watching for almost two decades in my medical practice. There was no doubt in my mind that Hahnemann was correct, and little had changed since he developed his opinion of allopaths. I found it both amusing and comforting that he was a former allopath who left the field because his conscience could not allow him to keep harming his patients. Hahnemann noted the effects of what he called “crude,” chemical, non-homeopathic drugs on the system. For instance, taking ibuprofen will indeed remove mild to moderate pain. But when that pill wears off, the cause of the pain remains, and the pain can become even more severe as a result of the prior days’ suppression. Swallowing or snorting an antihistamine will shrink the sinus tissue and decrease the edema in nasal passages, but when the drugs are stopped, people often find themselves wanting to restart them because of the rebound phenomenon. This rebound phenomenon is why many people have such trouble getting off of their prescription drugs. For instance, taking an antacid will indeed block acid secretion in the stomach. But when people try to stop the pills, they often experience worse burning than they had before they started the pills.

Blood-pressure drugs create similar problems. Beta blockers and alpha blockers such as metoprolol and clonidine do slow down the heart rate and lower the blood pressure by impeding neurological and chemical processes. But when these drugs are stopped abruptly, people can experience dangerous rapid heart rates and rebound high blood pressure. The solution given by most doctors to these issues is to never stop the pills, ever. What happens ultimately is a domino effect of more symptoms that lead to more drugs. What is missing in conventional medicine is the understanding that symptoms are not the disease, but rather they are the body’s attempt at compensating in an unbalanced milieu. Symptom suppression creates a dangerous backlog of the original “pathology.”

In homeopathic terms, symptoms are the language of the illness. They represent different things for different people. This is why one-size-fits-all remedies are not used in homeopathy, and why it is impossible to study homeopathy in casecontrolled studies using the same remedy in all cases.

A Toxic Chain Reaction

During my years of studying homeopathy while continuing to work as an allopath, the toxicity of every pharmaceutical drug came to life in a way that few people can appreciate. Even one pill, one little ibuprofen, antacid or acetaminophen, stirs up a cascade of abnormal body chemistry. Every chemical pill actually creates a sort of disease in the body that has to somehow be balanced out. Where one lands after this rebalancing is variable. Some people are vital enough that pill popping can be dealt with for a period of time. But the breaking point, where the chemistry doesn’t settle back to normal, is there for all of us.

Over the years as an internist and nephrologist, I have seen the path created by a long line of prescription medications. Most patients recall skin conditions like eczema in their childhood, which was treated with steroid lotions. After this, many of them developed respiratory issues, including asthma and allergies, which were medicated with antibiotics, steroids or inhalers. The symptoms of each entity disappeared because pharmaceutical drugs are good at suppressing symptoms. By the time a person became my patient as an adult, they were usually taking at least three blood pressure drugs (often more), an antacid, multiple diabetes drugs, multiple cholesterol drugs, anticoagulants (blood thinners), antidepressants and various pain medicines. They accepted this form of treatment from their doctor, because like me back in my 20s, they didn’t know what else to do. And even if they might have an idea what else they would like to try, their insurance would only pay for sick care, which may have seemed better than nothing. My changed viewpoint now leads me to believe that sick care may not be better than nothing. In fact “nothing” may have been better, because their kidney and organ failure no doubt were contributed to by their litany of “healthcare.”

So how do we do it? How do we transition our belief systems from one of undeserved trust in often-deadly drugs to trust in our own vitality, our inherent healing mechanisms? How do we incorporate the natural or energy medicine that we have been told over and over is weak medicine, voodoo, or sheer lunacy, as my critics will readily blurt out all over the Internet. I know for a fact that the skeptics are drinking the allopathic Kool-Aid and are dependent on surgery and pharmaceutical drugs. Just about every conventional medical doctor I worked with was on some sort of pill. The critics want scientific proof that homeopathy, acupuncture, yoga, energy medicine, happiness, physical activity, creativity and spirituality create lasting health. They want data, numbers, evidence, statistical power. Yet they fail time and again to prove that people in their 50s living a life on statins, blood pressure pills, pain medicine and surgery after surgery to replace arteries and joints are healthier than people who reject such solutions and move into holistic medicine. I have never seen anyone on prescription drugs maintain true health. Ever. We need vaccinated vs. unvaccinated studies, and we need drugged vs. undrugged studies. We need the magical thinking of health coming from a pill to be transformed into the belief in the real magic—of nature and human ingenuity combined. This never happens inside the walls of conventional medicine.