It’s called polypharmacy. Put simply, it’s when someone uses more medication than they actually need. And it can be risky.
According to an article that appeared last year in USA Today, problems can surface in three key areas, including drug interactions (“How can I be sure that all these medications will get along?”), drug compliance (“How can I be expected to follow so many detailed and potentially conflicting instructions?”), and side effects (“I thought the idea was to get rid of my problem, not create new ones!”).
Of course, doctors and pharmacists alike will encourage their patients to be cautious, suggesting, for instance, that all medications be taken with water, not fruit juice or soda; that you read the instructions carefully; that you make it a habit to review all current medications with your doctor and pharmacist; and that you report any adverse symptoms that occur once you start taking a new medication.
Good advice, to be sure. And yet…
One bit of advice that may not come immediately to mind is, why not consider an alternative?
If the latest surveys are to be believed, lots of people have, including the vast majority of those working within the healthcare industry. According to a study published in Health Services Research, three out of every four health care workers use some form of complementary and alternative medicine including massage, yoga, acupuncture, herbal medicine – and prayer.
Why so many folks would even consider switching their brand of medicine is anybody’s guess. Maybe they’re not seeing the results they’d like. Maybe they’re concerned about side effects. Or maybe they’re finding that there really is a bona fide alternative to conventional medicine.
Certainly this is true for a friend of mine who decided that prayer was the best alternative for treating her recurring migraines. She’d had the problem for the better part of 15 years. And then, after praying about the situation one night with some practical ideas she found in her Bible, the problem vanished. This happened over a year ago and she hasn’t had the problem since.
Others, however, might not be so keen on taking the prayerful plunge. I have another friend who for years has gone to an acupuncturist to keep his allergies in check. This seems to be working for him. At the very least, it reduces the number of medications he has to take and my sense is that he feels like that’s a good way to go.
Whatever one’s choice of medicine, the common thread seems to be an approach that gives equal consideration to both effectiveness and safety – a trend that is certain to lead to a happier and healthier society.
Eric Nelson is a Los Altos resident. His articles on consciousness and health have appeared in a number of local, regional, and national publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. This article originally appeared on Blogcritics.