Drugs are everywhere. They’re taken in the bathroom stall next to us when we’ve gone out to a nightclub. They’re spread across the news and social media when one of our beloved artists meets an untimely demise due to an overdose. And they’re lining our cabinets and dressers when we reach for our birth control, aspirin and host of other pills. We’ve become desensitized to drugs and medications, whether experimenting during college or taking Vicodin after an intense surgery.
And, of course, as with anything that is commonly used there comes a whole heap of misconceptions and myths that pervade the landscape without anyone ever making sense of them. So where does one go to find the truth in these ideas? To dispel some common misconceptions and fallacies, I consulted three-time author Dr. Susan C. Vaughan, who is currently a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst on the faculty at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and author Dr. Frank Lipman, founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center.
Misconception: #1 Manufactured drugs have dangerous side effects, but natural medications are safe.
“Aspirin is derived from tree bark. Certain ‘natural’ drugs have bad interactions with prescription drugs and other natural drugs, only we don’t know the details very well because few fund supplement and ‘natural’ drug studies. So taking things like St John’s Wort and melatonin don’t necessarily make them safe, let alone effective. And taking a ‘drug’ made by a company doesn’t mean it isn’t also ‘natural’ product, meaning from a plant, tree or from nature.” – Dr. Vaughan
“Besides the long-term side effects of pharmaceuticals and the toxic exposure one experiences while taking drugs, the biggest concern is that a symptom is being masked when turning to the quick fix of a pill. The body shows symptoms when something is not right internally, and by going the natural route, you are not only supporting the natural healing process of your body, but you are ideally gaining an understanding of why you are experiencing this symptom in the first place. This understanding allows you to actually heal the body instead of just hide the symptoms, which is necessary for long-term health and well-being.” – Dr. Lipman
Misconception #2: Aspirin and other over-the-counter treatments that fix common problems are harmless.
“We live in a ‘quick-fix’ society that seems to have a pill for everything. Although this may seem like a quick and harmless form of treatment, most (if not all) of these drugs can have harmful side effects —especially if they are used over a period of time. There are many natural remedies for common ailments like headaches, stress, unsound sleep or aches and pains. Generally, we recommend these natural treatments be tried first before reaching for drugs, especially if it is a preventative measure.” – Dr. Lipman
Misconception #3: Less is better when it comes to drugs.
“Being on less of an antidepressant doesn’t mean your ailment is less severe than it would be if you were on more medication. It’s a matter of body metabolism and also of treating your symptoms fully. Don’t measure your health by your dosage. That said, I do think that fewer drugs — the fewest needed to control your symptoms in the lowest doses that control your symptoms — is, of course, preferable.” – Dr. Vaughan
Misconception #4: If I feel better, I should top taking what has been prescribed.
“In WWII, when there were antibiotic shortages, troops went around on military bases and collected all partially taken antibiotics and other drugs — enough to restock the military. If your doctor told you to take it for 10 days, then you should take it. This especially applies when people are talking about antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds, where they often make their symptoms worse or even create relapse by suddenly stopping meds that need to be tapered.” – Dr. Vaughan
Misconception #5: I should completely trust my doctor and whatever he or she prescribes.
“Cultures have been using plants, herbs and natural remedies for much longer then pharmaceuticals have been around. Although certain drugs and practices are an essential part of healing and survival in our day and age, we believe that drugs are overprescribed and overused — often causing more harm than good. We encourage you to ask questions and know your options when confronting a symptom or illness, especially with preventative care. When you empower yourself with different options and choices, you can make an educated decision based on what feels right for you.” – Dr. Lipman
Misconception #6: Brand name drugs are better for me and work better.
“There may be rare instances when this is true, but very rarely is it necessary to get brand name drugs when generics have the same dose of the same chemical. Very occasionally, the base (i.e. what the drug attaches to when stabilized for its pill form) will be different, but even then absorption rarely varies enough to make a real clinical difference.” – Dr. Vaughan
Misonception #7: If I’m feeling congested, I should consult my doctor about antibiotics.
“Most of the colds and sinus problems that affect us are from viruses, not bacteria, and thus are not affected by antibiotics. But antibiotics couldn’t hurt, right? Wrong! Forget about resistant bacteria and all the public health rationales that hardly seem to matter when we’re in the midst of a terrible cold. The reality is that antibiotics are not harmless — they can kill off whole hordes of healthy gut bacteria and leave you susceptible to the overgrowth of other bacteria in the gut and to yeast infections that then need to be treated. “– Dr. Vaughan
Misconception #8: All my doctors don’t really need to know all my conditions and medications, do they?
“This really does matter more often than you would think, especially where anesthesia is concerned. Just come clean about all your med. If you’re having trouble doing that with a particular doctor, maybe it’s time to find a new doctor.” – Dr. Vaughan