Michael E. Makover, MD FACP, Chief Medical Officer JIBEI
Many people very understandably hate to take medicines. It is a lot of bother, they can be expensive, and there is always that worry that they might do something bad to you. Taking medicines says to you that there is something wrong with you – who likes to feel that way? Besides, it seems so unnatural.
Doctors do not like to prescribe medicines. They always have to worry that they are fiddling with Mother Nature and something unexpected might go wrong, as carefully as they try to avoid that.
Doctors use medicines because they know from experience that they can save lives, cure diseases and help people feel better, and how much worse things can be when patients do not use treatments that could have helped.
What was life like before modern medicine?
Let’s think back to just 1899:
That is just a few ways in which modern medicines have transformed our lives from constant fear of even the simplest diseases and given us not just much longer lives, but much better ones.
Maybe hating medicines is not a good idea.
But medicines have risks and side effects
Sure they do. So do automobiles, crossing the street, eating, swimming, cooking and everything else we do. Life is full of risks and side effects.
We all take those risks every day because we know that having a full life is worth the risk.
We judge that the benefit of what we are doing is worth the risk.
In some cases, we do things because we have to – not doing them would be much worse – like eating. You should not starve just to avoid the possibility of contaminated food.
The same is true for medications, but with one difference – medicines are carefully examined and regulated by the FDA and doctors are highly trained to use medications only when absolutely necessary and as safely as possible.
Most medicines are very low risk and have few side effects. High risk medicines are used only for diseases like highly fatal cancers, because in that case the higher risk is still much less than the disease.
Medications are worth using when the benefit you seek is worth the risk, and even more so when the risk of not using the medicine is much greater than the risk of using it.
Aren’t natural remedies much better?
Unfortunately, not at all. Please see our article on ‘natural’ remedies, "Herbal Supplements' Unnatural Risks and Recent Scandal" on our wellness website at wellness.jibei.org. The article explains why herbal supplements and vitamins are actually not ‘natural’, rarely work as claimed and can cause more serious side effects and risks than medications (which, unlike the supplements, are carefully evaluated and regulated by the FDA). Supplements are virtually exempt from FDA regulation.
Both you and your doctor should be very careful and thoughtful about all treatments. You should only use them when the need outweighs any downsides.
The best way to think about medicines? We are all very fortunate to be living in the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth!
We should use medicines very carefully and only when they will bring significant benefit and/or prevent serious damage from disease, but avoiding them when needed will send you back to the terrible days before we had the miracles of modern medicine.