Grief will soon be a medical disorder. Psychiatrists are trying to decide how to classify it so it can be treated. (See the New York Times, 1/24/12) Lose a loved one, pop a pill. And here I thought grief was a natural part of life. Everyone suffers losses; everyone experiences grief.
Apparently, life itself is a disease. Menopause, also once a natural stage of life, became a disorder several decades ago that needed to be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Soon, trying to push all women into treatment for menopause wasn’t enough for the medical community. It came up with a new ‘diagnosis’: perimenopause, which precedes menopause, so women could be treated at an even earlier age. Now research shows that women undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy are vulnerable to more heart disease, heart attacks, and cancers.
Oh, well, moving right along, there’s always osteoporosis—or the relatively new ‘diagnosis’ of osteopenia. Osteopenia is the thinning of bones. . . as we age. . . another natural process. But what if it leads to osteoporosis and broken bones? Better treat all women before it becomes a problem. Oopsy! Wait a minute. These drugs create dense bones, but brittle ones, and are implicated in increased fractures. . . of hips. . . and thighs. Women are starting to look like a losing proposition for the medical world.
What about cholesterol? Now there’s something that’s a problem for everyone. All adults should be on statins—for life—to prevent high cholesterol. And look at all those chubby kids. Put them on statins, too. After all, there’s an ‘epidemic’ of obesity among the young. Just to be safe, put all children on statins for life, starting when they’re eight years old. It’s so much easier than learning about nutrition and lifestyle choices. Except that statins—a class of drugs that doctors, for decades, routinely assured patients were safe—have been shown to do little to prevent heart attacks while having major side effects, such as muscle pain, memory loss, and liver damage. Many people, including some health care professionals, are beginning to suspect that the reason for statins—high cholesterol—is another invented disease. Especially since research shows cholesterol isn’t what causes clogged arteries. It’s looking more and more like metabolized sugar sticking to artery walls creates the fatty deposits. (See Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, pp. 463-467)
Got a kid who can’t concentrate? Lots of drugs for attention deficit disorder—except they’re being shown to have no long-term benefit. (NY Times, 1/29/12) Low sex drive? There’s a pill for that. Never mind the possible headaches, vision disturbances, and heart attacks. You could have a four-hour erection! But it’ll be a painful one.
The conclusion is obvious: we’re being over-diagnosed and over-medicated because massive profits are involved—for drug companies and for healthcare professionals, who are often rewarded for their cooperation.
What’s not obvious is that we have a choice. We’re more than patients in a medical situation; we’re also consumers. Would we pick a new car on the basis of a salesperson’s recommendation? Or a house because the seller told us how happy we’ll be in it? Consumers have a responsibility to research and question—first of all, their diagnosis, and secondly, what their doctors are prescribing for it. We have a world of information sitting one mouse-click away. Doctors are not gods. They are vulnerable both to mistakes and to the profit motive.
However, it’s our lives that are being viewed as diseases. If we accept that approach to every discomfort, every change, we’re likely to end up in a drugged-out state, taking more medications than we can keep track of. It happens every day and can be seen in any nursing home. The choice is to take charge, to arm ourselves with information and, when we deem it appropriate, to Just Say No!