Vertical Ill Health, Prescription drugs and Primum non nocere

“Doctors are confronted daily with patients suffering from illnesses for which conventional medicine offers only superficial treatment of symptoms. The magic of antibiotics is vanishing as a host of resistant infections emerge. Diseases such as AIDS and chronic fatigue syndrome have shown us clearly that our present treatments are simply not effective and hint at new health problems that may lie ahead. The metaphor of a modern plague may be appropriate. Growing numbers of people lack vitality and suffer from a host of complaints difficult to define. Most adults, and many children, today suffer from complaints including allergies, headaches, lack of energy, excessive fatigue, and various digestive and respiratory disorders, along with a variety of emotional states ranging from mild depression to mood swings and anxiety.
They are manifesting what Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., of Gig Harbor, Washington, calls a state of “vertical ill health.” “They are not sick enough to lie down (in which case they would become ‘horizontally ill’) and yet consider themselves ‘normal’ because most of the people they know are equally unhealthy,” explains Leon Chaitow, N.D., D.O., of London, England. “They derive only limited benefit from the flood of tranquilizers, antidepressants, analgesics, and anti-inflammatory drugs[…]”
Excerpt From: Larry Trivieri. “Alternative Medicine.”
I’m reading this awesomely swell book lately.  As a naturopathic premedical student, I find it interesting to cycle between the safety and established concreteness of my Anatomy & Physiology textbook, to my alternative medicine texts, and then to the way out there psychotherapy of the audiobook, Advanced Energy Anatomy by Catherine Myss.  I really feel like its best to look at the whole spectrum of modalities to treat the body, mind and spirit.  Primum non nocere or “Do no harm” is the first principle of naturopathic medicine.  I had an interesting conversation yesterday with an admissions counselor for the National College of National Medicine about naturopathy’s relationship to allopathic medicine.  These ideas were sparked by an interview I saw from Paul Mittman, ND discussing naturopathic supplements to aid chemotherapy.  Yet, every bone in my body resists the idea that chemotherapy can be anything but toxic to the human body.  If the chemicals used spill on the ground they are treated as biohazards materials, yet it is normal and considered therapy if they are pumped into the body via IV.  The statistics on chemotherapy’s effectiveness show that cancer patients who choose no treatment at all have longer survival rates than those who follow doctors orders of receiving chemo.  
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Mittman’s view was one of using naturopathic medicine as being used complementary to allopathic.  But can naturopathic medicine stand alone?  The admissions counselor’s opinion was that in order to follow “Do no harm” if an allopathic treatment could temporarily resolve the painful symptoms of a patient while the root cause is sill being determined, then it must be recommended or they must be referred.  The judgment of the doctor becomes especially important here.  You may be doing harm not referring them to an allopathic treatment.  However, it must be seen as a temporary bandaid and not a lifelong crutch of dependency.  Whether or not I will prescribe drugs as a part of my practice is an important decision that will be made based on future knowledge and experience.  
Yes, the current state of medicine is corrupt and revolves around making money for expensive and invasive tests, pharmaceutical drugs and using treatments that have been proven useless.  Innovation is discouraged and allopathic doctors seem to live in constant fear of being seen as experimental by their peers.  Yet, MDs and NDs must cooperate because we must work within the system to change it.  While the intention of holistic health is pure, we cannot sugarcoat the reality we exist in or kid ourselves with idealistic values when the world exists in the state it does currently.  This applies to both medicine and politics.  Idealistic ideas must be translated into realistic action that will make a difference today.

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