Are Americans over-medicated? Of course.

On the heels of this disturbing article by the New York Times, it’s worth examining whether Americans are over-medicated and if so, what the extent of the problem is. Western Medicine has been said to treat only the symptoms of a disease, but not it’s under-lying causes, and this is reflected in the drugs that are prescribed by western physicians. For example, the prescription of pain medication has increased nearly 400% over the past two decades. And while opiates like Oxycontin are essential for a small number of people, they are simply over-prescribed. And while Oxycontin itself is harmful, it is particularly insidious as it eventually leads to heroin addiction for those unfortunate “graduates” of the drug.

Eastern Medicine, on the other hand, is designed to address the causes of disease and ailments rather than the symptoms. Many argue that this is the better way to approach the treatment of disease and discomfort in modern human beings.

Of this, I’m not qualified to make a value call, but I can offer some opinions on the state of medicine and supplements in American society.

I believe that the reason for the dependence that Americans have on medication comes down to a few socio-cultural factors. For one, we are an overworked society, and this trend is showing no signs of ending. In fact, since the 1970s Americans have worked an increasing number of hours per year. The average American today works 8% more today than they they did in 1980.

In response to increased workplace pressure, people turn to substances in an effort to self-medicate.

When you should try to solve the problem naturally…

Now, of course there are times when a doctor would recommend that you turn to a substance in an effort to solve your problem, but the truth is that people move prematurely to this solution far to regularly. Some common ailments that result from the stress of modern American life and which can often be solved by natural solutions are:

  • Insomnia- Consider using something like melatonin to help yourself sleep before turning to a more powerful substance like Ambien, which has been shown to correlate with cancer.
  • Anxiety- If you are feeling anxious on a regular basis, consider why this might be. Sometimes nervousness and anxiety result for physiological reasons, but oftentimes simple lifestyle changes, like drinking less coffee and/or alcohol, can have the desired impact.
  • Weight loss- Don’t jump to a liposuction or even an over the counter supplement before you try dieting (under your doctor’s supervision of course). Remember that only a few years ephedra used to be legal!

When you might consider a supplement…

Is this to say that all medicine is bad? No, absoutely not. In fact, I depend on various vitamins and supplements for my productivity. Luckily my health is such that I don’t need to rely on any serious medications, but I do take a number of supplements that I can recommend. Firstly, you might want to check out products like Alpha Brain, an all-natural supplement that has been proven to improve cognitive functioning. As an extra fun fact, the company that manufactures Alpha Brain, Onnit, was founded by Joe Rogan.

Staying healthy with the American lifestyle…

While America has the second highest rate of obesity in the modern world (now second to Australia) and a high-stress society, it is also one of the most progressive societies in the world when it comes to health and weight loss. Most major dietary trends can be traced back to their roots in the US (often in California), and while junky fast food options abound, so do a variety of healthy options.

In a way, the challenge of modern America is the same challenge that the rest of the globalized world is starting to face- with EVERY option available to us, how do we make the right decisions consistently? I don’t have a single answer to that, but I do have a framework I like to apply to decision-making in my work at a thinktank as well as in my daily life. I’ll share it in my next post.

Until then, stay safe and healthy.

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