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Minimizing Your Use of Medicines

Minimize Medicines



"The best doctor gives the least medicines."  (Benjamin Franklin)

Another way to put that is, "The best patient NEEDS the least medicines." Anything that you can do to be healthier is likely to reduce the number and amount of drugs that your doctor would need to prescribe for you. A good doctor is certainly willing to see that you are taking as little medicine as possible. 

One reason to take only minimum doses is that all drugs carry a risk. You could say that vitamins carry a risk, too. You could say that EVERYTHING in life carries some risk. You could, but that would obscure the real point that drugs carry a higher than average risk, and they are regularly used by a very large number of people. 

Vitamin supplements have an especially high margin for error; drugs do not. Let's take what has traditionally been regarded the most dangerous of vitamins, and compare it to one of the safest of drugs. The vitamin is vitamin D and the drug is aspirin. 

The U.S. Recommend Daily Allowance for vitamin D is 400 International Units (I.U.) per day. It has frequently been said that vitamin D can be toxic at relatively low levels. Certainly doses of over two thousand I.U. per day are hard to justify. It is instructive to note, however, that as far back as 1939 some really enormous doses of vitamin D were found to be remarkably non-toxic. In several countries, infants including preemies were safely given from 200,000 I.U. to over HALF A MILLION units of vitamin D in a single injected or oral dose. This is hard to believe; the references are on pages 544 and 584-591 in the medical textbook The Vitamins in Medicine, third edition, by Bicknell and Prescott (1953).  This is quite a comprehensive work. There are a total of 344 scientific papers on Vitamin D cited in one chapter. 

Aspirin is a drug generally regarded as safe enough to not require a prescription. It is also one of the leading causes of death from poisoning each year. A normal recommended dose of aspirin would be two 5-grain tablets every four hours. An arthritis sufferer might be told by the doctor to take more than twice this amount. One hundred aspirin taken at once would likely be fatal. Probably less.

Let's do some math.

100 aspirin divided by two is 50. The toxic dose for aspirin is therefore about 50 times the normal recommended dose on the bottle. 

500,000 I.U. of vitamin D divided by the U.S. RDA of 400 I.U. gives us 1250. This means that BABIES have taken 1,250 times the U.S. RDA in a single dose and have lived! That is indeed a high safety margin. 

How much safer is vitamin D than aspirin? Well, if you take 1,250 and divide it by 50, you get 25. Therefore the most dangerous of vitamins is TWENTY-FIVE TIMES SAFER than the safest of drugs. This means that all the other vitamins are safer still.  It also means that almost all medicines, particularly prescription drugs, are still worse. 

The biggest reason prescription drugs require that prescription is because they ARE dangerous. That is the whole point. Doctors and pharmacists try to carefully figure just how much of the medicine you can take without UNUSUAL danger. The information that they have to go on is generally provided for them by the drug manufacturer.  You might find this information in a leaflet included inside the box with your prescription. You will also find this information in a reference book called the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR). The PDR is basically a two-thousand-page "Who's who" of every drug there is. You may ask the pharmacist at any drug store for a look through this book.  If he or she says "no," then it's time to do business with a different pharmacy. 

Inside of the PDR you will find drugs classified under type, generic name and brand name. It is easy to look up any drug that you or a family member takes. Be ready for some unpleasant reading.  Most drugs have many more precautions than uses, that is, more dangers than benefits. 

Why are drugs still used, then? Several hundred years of medical tradition is one reason. Physician unfamiliarity with therapeutic nutrition is another.  Money, big multi-billion dollar drug company money, is another. Pick your reason, and consider another: patients accept drug therapy.  They accept the risks and the side effects. Patients practically demand a wonder drug. "Cure me, Doc" puts the physician on the spot. She has to do SOMETHING, and since her background is in drugs and surgery, that's what she selects from. That may not be ideal. 

What can you do, then? 

 1. Ask the doctor to fully explain the risks and side effects that you read about in the PDR. Now ask for justification as to why you should let your body take those risks. If you do not get a full and straight answer, or if the doctor is "too busy" to discuss this with you, then it is time for a new doctor. 

 2. Ask for the absolute minimum possible dose. 

 3. Get back to the doctor right away if there are any negative effects of the medication. 

 4. ASK FOR AN ALTERNATIVE INSTEAD OF A DRUG! Some doctors are happy to work with interested patients who want to avoid medicines when they can.  If your doctor is not interested, then you can find a doctor who is. 

If you are already taking a medication: 

 1. I really do NOT think that it is a good idea to just suddenly "stop" medication. This is especially true if you are taking something more than a pain-reliever or other   non-essential drugs. 

 2. Inform the doctor that you are interested in getting off the medicine that you are on. If that is not realistic, then you can tell the doctor that you would like to gradually decrease the amount that you have to take. 

 3. It is best to work with the physician who made the prescription for you in the first place. After all, the doctor that put you on the medicine should be the one involved with taking you off of it.  The doctor should give you a schedule to follow that gradually reduces your drug dose. 

 4. If the doctor wants to see you for monitoring your progress, then do it. That's only fair, plus it provides you with documented evidence that you are succeeding without the medicine. 

 5. If your doctor believes that you cannot reduce the level of your medication at all, you can honor that viewpoint without agreeing with it. A second medical opinion might be in order next.  If you find a whole string of doctors, all saying "Don't you dare stop taking your so-and-so," then you need to stop and do some serious reconsideration.

At this point, you may feel like the person in a French restaurant who keeps asking every waiter for chow mein. You are just not going to get what you want there. There may be a good reason for it. Or, it may simply be a matter of taste. 

Some people will then begin on their own to reduce or eliminate their medicines. No doctor is so naive as to think that this doesn't happen every day. It is an individual's right, and an individual's risk, to do so. I cannot recommend it. 

Drugs, and for that matter surgery as well, are options that do exist.  They are widely regarded as severe measures, though, and may not be necessary for your well being.  If proper nutrition and living bring you good health, there is no NEED for medication. 

A prescription too often represents a guess. Voltaire once said that "Doctors are men who give drugs of which they know little, into bodies of which they know less... for diseases of which they know nothing at all." We can allow that medical knowledge has advanced a good deal since the 18th century. However, we cannot not allow that drugs are safe. They never have been safe, and they are not safe now. Medicine is LESS imprecise than in Voltaire's time, but it is still imprecise. Refer back to the Physician's Desk Reference again for proof of this. 

Therapeutic nutrition is a serious option, and a safer one, too. Ask for it. 

Copyright  C  2008, 2004 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


AN IMPORTANT NOTE:  This page is not in any way offered as prescription, diagnosis nor treatment for any disease, illness, infirmity or physical condition.  Any form of self-treatment or alternative health program necessarily must involve an individual's acceptance of some risk, and no one should assume otherwise.  Persons needing medical care should obtain it from a physician.  Consult your doctor before making any health decision. 

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