Our nation’s opioid crisis is an extreme example of the damage we’ve done to our collective health by taking a pharmaceutical approach to wellness. A lot of blame has been assigned to doctors who’ve prescribed highly addictive drugs for chronic non-cancer pain, and to patients who’ve been complicit in their own downfall by failing to resist the lure of drugs. But it’s important to remember how this crisis started: with a concerted marketing strategy by the companies that created the drugs, and then managed to convince the medical industry not just that opioids were safe, but that they were the only adequate treatment for chronic pain. In fact, doctors who wouldn't prescribe narcotics for issues like back and neck pain were often accused of undertreating their patients. As a result, according to doctor and medical journalist Celine Gounder, who wrote about the crisis for the New Yorker, sales of “opioid analgesics” like OxyContin and Percocet quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. We’re now living—and dying—with the consequences.
Before he left office, President Eisenhower warned Americans about the dangers of giving too much power to the military-industrial complex. In the same way, wise people are now warning us not to hand control of our lives, unquestioned, to the pharmaceutical-medical “complex.” That’s not an indictment of all drugs or all doctors: there’s a valid place for both. But discretion also has a critical place in our medical treatment, and that has to start with us. It’s up to us to do the up-front work that will give us the best chance of getting and staying healthy: eating nutritious foods, moving around as much as possible, and cultivating a positive attitude. If we can’t accomplish those things on our own, it’s up to us to get support from professionals who can help us. I promise you that the time and money involved in this kind of self-care are far less costly than the alternative, which is getting sick. And when we do need medical treatment, it’s up to us to seek out doctors whose first instinct isn’t to hand us a prescription but, whenever possible, to prescribe natural ways to ease our symptoms—and, better yet, work with us to get to the root of those symptoms. Yes, this takes more effort from us (and from our doctors!), but the health benefits will last far longer than a bottle of pills.
Natural Awakenings has always been about giving you the information and resources to be proactive about your health. Whether it’s through our articles about avoiding toxic chemicals or toxic attitudes, our recipes for whole-food-based dishes, or our advertisements from local providers of natural products or services, our gift to you is to help you take charge of your life. This issue, in particular, is chock-full of well-researched articles about taking a non-pharmaceutical approach to wellness. Read it and then pass it along to someone you care about. A little re-gifting will go a long way.
Daralyn & Scott Chase