September 23, 2021

Breaking free from pill-popping medical culture

At one during my nearly three-decade-long career in medicine, I had simply had enough. I had seen the growth of the influence of prescription medications and witnessed the negative health impacts of the pill-popping medical culture.

I walked away from traditional medicine for a while. At that time, I was anti-western medicine. I think I needed to go to the extreme to clear my thoughts and eventually find a healthy balance between traditional medicine and holistic medicine that define my practice today.

I had seen too many destructive things that happen when the first response is prescription drugs and the belief that pill-popping for symptoms is a form of “healing.” It is a form of treatment but it too often ignores the root causes of our pain and illness that need to be treated.

Restorative medicine gets to these root causes. It’s the central focus of my practice now. My road here wasn’t easy.

Leaving the pill-popping treatments behind

They call it a script. A doctor takes a tiny pad and scribbles in a barely legible scrawl and hands the prescription or script to the patient who obediently goes to the pharmacy to await the pills.

There is a mountain of evidence that our pill-popping culture is a serious threat to American health. Consider these stats:

  • An estimated 52 million Americans use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes
  • Every year, prescription painkillers cause more than 16,000 deaths and 475,000 emergency room visits
  • American accounts for 99 percent of Vicodin use worldwide and 80 percent of Percocet and Oxycontin

This problem hits most of us in one way or another. Nearly 70% of all Americans are on at least one prescription drug and 20% are on at least five prescription drugs. Adverse effects brought on by the combination of multiple drugs are thought to be responsible for nearly 1/3 of all hospital admissions.

Still, doctors keep writing scripts.

The “cure” in hand, the patient’s pill-popping begins as does the often false belief that the cure is at hand. I’d seen so many people thrown on medications that I became disenchanted. I knew a lack of connection between the pill-popping and the causes was missing.

There are so many missing pieces in medicine today that patients end up with an experience like trying to build a jigsaw puzzle without the edges. One day you start something great for you that helps with your pain, but soon it hurts you.

This disenchantment pushed me outside my traditional training into a new space of learning about holistic and natural remedies, where I evolved into my role as a restorative physician, a trusted guide for my patients throughout their healing journey.

I went beyond my traditional training into a new space of learning about holistic and natural remedies. I applied the same lessons I used in medical school to learn more about holistic treatments of root causes. I explored mindfulness, herbs, food, energy medicine techniques, and physical treatments to get back to what true healing is all about: restoring the body and mind to its healthy, natural, intended state of being.

I rediscovered my passion and purpose during those days and saw the value of medicine, scientific research when interwoven with many ancient and natural treatments. By employing both in an interconnected way, I realized I could offer my patients a broader, comprehensive form of treatment. I could connect with them in more meaningful ways.

Combining my expertise for the good of the patient

Unlike many naturopathic healers, I can use medicine when it’s necessary and when it’s needed because at times it is. Sometimes a prescription is helpful, just as sometimes you need surgery. But knowing when that time is and also working with holistic treatments alongside those potential treatments — or in the best base, before such treatments are necessary to avoid them altogether — is what being a restorative physician is all about.

Finding this balance for my patients that takes into account medical treatments, human physiology, and the opportunities for natural remedies, allows me to see all sides of the human being I am working with. I can advise when it’s time to do conventional treatment, when to do alternative treatments, and most importantly when you can blend them together.

Just one example of this unique difference in my practice: many who want to do holistic treatments tend to shy away from getting bloodwork done, testing, diagnostic study, and other traditional medical approaches.

Often they’ve had too much experience with that pill-popping medical culture. They have been unheard, their fears unacknowledged, and often felt bullied into any system or way of treatment that they didn’t understand or didn’t want.

This is one of the great shortcomings of the American medical system. A patient’s instincts and intuitions should be considered and balanced with potential treatments. As a restorative physician, this is an ongoing process for me to keep in balance.

I have a medical license and must operate within it. Part of that is confirming what I instinctively know to be true. In this way, I encourage my patients to get a needed x-ray, MRI, biopsy or other traditional medical tests. Information is power and I can use all this information to empower my patients on the best course of comprehensive treatment.

I do push the boundaries and have for a long time if it’s in my patient’s best interest. My focus is always on that, my patients’ best interest, something the pill-popping medical culture often loses sight of.

I get excited knowing I can help a patient awaken their sense of their own body, tune in to what they need, and work together with me to restore it to its wonderful healthy state.

This is the work I get to do every day.