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Alternative Medicine

Over the last decade, there have been growing concerns over the cost of prescription drugs and the inequitable investments accompanied with it. Consumers are constantly being deceived as they spend money on high priced drugs that tend to keep phony promises. “Spending in the U.S. for prescription drugs was $162.4 billion in 2002, 4 times larger than the amount spent in 1990” (Kaiser). Imagine if these amounts of money could be spent on something more useful than processed drugs. Money could be spent more intelligently by reinforcing other forms of healing which, can also directly impact the brain just as effectively as drugs. These types of natural remedies have been proven by ample research to be substantially more beneficial than chemical drugs. In fact, the only time ‘medicine’ could ever be harmful is when it

contains side effects. Why would anyone want to take risks of harming themselves for the sake of self -healing. Television commercials constantly promote drug use and range from a variety of different drugs, whether it be aspirin or anti-depressants, any type of chemical intake can always have hazardous risks because of it‘s artificial production, it‘s not considered ‘natural’ to the body. Any commercials that are advertising prescription drugs always manages to point out all of the benefits the drug exhorts; such as rapid pain relief, and quick acting substances that will surely alter the user‘s mental state. Except, for some reason they always seem to mention the lengthy list of side effects at the very end of the ad, where it is said in a very low tone, that is ridiculously fast and can barely be understood. The general public is being trained to take “magical pills” that will “magically” make a person feel better. This society has taught everyone to be overly rushed. People rush so frequently that they forget about taking care of vital priorities in their lives; such as their mind, body, and soul. Keeping these three important aspects of life balanced, and at healthy states can be extremely helpful. Hence, the definition of health, “a positive state of physical, mental, and social well-being ” (Sarafino p 2).

In this modern age, health is not solely seen as just a physical aspect. A healthy body produces healthy emotions, which in turn produces a healthy life style. People are not aware that our brain is a warehouse of chemicals waiting to be put to use to support our actions in our daily lives. For example, those who exercise claim to feel “very good” after a good work-out. The same neurotransmitter Dopamine, which activates motivation, movement, and reward, can be released while taking a recreational drug and also while doing natural movements of the body such as exercising, laughing, and feeling happy. Lack of this hormone can lead to depression. People have to become aware of the simple movements that can encourage a pleasant state of mind. There have been many cases where therapies and exercises of the mind and body have greatly improved behavior naturally, without use of pharmaceutical drugs. Even though these types of therapies exist, they are generally not recognized by the general public compared to the constant drug exposure that is all over the news, television, and radio broadcasts. It has been made a common belief in the United States that a “miracle pill” will make all the troubles go away. This, unfortunately, is not always the case.

“Although the prescription drug spending is a relatively small proportion (11%) of national health care spending, it is one of the fastest growing components, increasing at double digit rates in each of the past 8 years. National prescription spending increased from 15% from 2001 to 2002, compared to an 8% increase for physician and clinical services and a 10% increase for hospital care”. (Kaiser)

The motives for this dramatic increase in prescription costs are due to devious and heinous acts of crimes that allows the government to take money from it’s loyal citizens who in return receives deceptive medical treatment that at times can cause more harm than good. There are many people who can’t afford any type of health insurance. This often leads certain populations with no options to choose from. People are paying for high priced medication that profits billions of capita per year, from artificially producing toxic chemicals that may cause us harm yet we consume it as if it were a life saver.

There are three main factors contributing to these increases; the primary being the aggrandizement of medications being prescribed. From 1993-2003-, the number of prescribed prescriptions purchased increased 70% (from 2 billion to 3.4 billion), compared to a U.S. population growth of 13%; the average number of prescriptions per capita increased from 7.8 to 11.8. (Census Bereau, 2003). Secondly, newer and higher priced drugs are the new replacements for older, less expensive drugs. Retail prescription prices have increased an average of 7.4% a year from 1993-2003 (Nat. Assoc. of Chain Drug Stores). Lastly, since there are newer drugs being produced, the research and development activities of pharmaceutical manufacturers and government-supported research have also sky rocketed. Manufacturer research and development spending increased from $12.7 billion in 1993 to an estimated $33.2 billion for 2003, with research and development estimated to be 17.7% of sales in 2003 (Pharm. Res. & Manufacturers of America). With all this money being spent, it was no wonder pharmaceutical manufacturers were the nation’s most profitable industry from 1995-2002. Now, although it may be beneficial to have the advantage of being able to purchase medical aid directly with money, at the same time, money is a very large factor why not everyone can afford treatment. How is it that the government can offer excess amounts of medication but will not allow everyone to have vital access to it’s ‘necessary benefits‘.

A recent survey found that 37% of the uninsured said that they did not fill a prescription because of cost, compared to 13% of the insured. A 2001 survey of seniors in 8 states (42% of US adults age 65+) found that in the last 12 months, 35% of seniors without prescription drug coverage either did not fill a prescription 1 or more times or skipped doses of medicines to make the prescription last longer, compared to 18% with drug coverage (Kaiser, 2003).

This type of behavior is highly inappropriate and most definitely unnecessary for anyone to go through. People should not have to worry about the money they spend on medical treatment. Nor should they ever have to choose whether or not to buy medicine based on their financial situation. It clearly shows that those who have a higher income can easily afford better services, which are not always available to those who have a lower income.

Fortunately, there are a variety of other options to choose from if you do not agree on putting harmful chemical substances in your body. There are ‘alternative ways’ of healing where a person can be completely cured through mind and body exercises which can help a person resolve conflicts found within themselves. One type of healing is therapy, however there are several kinds of therapy; such as psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, phytotherapy, acupunctural therapy, couples therapy, divorce therapy, growth therapy, interpersonal therapy, and that is just a few to say the least. Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental and emotional disturbances and disorders using psychological methods. It is used to help people solve problems, achieve goals, and manage their lives by treating a variety of mental health issues. This type of therapy is mainly used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, phobias, and substance abuse. Unlike some other therapies, psychotherapy is limited to conversations. Drug therapy and any other physiological treatment methods are
excluded from these procedures. This practice concentrates directly on the person’s behavior, it helps the person better understand what they are undergoing and the reasons behind them. Yes, it may be a bit more complicated than simply raising an elbow and swallowing a pill. The reason why natural healing is so beneficial is because it can not only be just as powerful as a drug, but it is unquestionably safer than some of the severe side effects or allergic reactions these chemicals can produce in our bodies.
In one study of emotional disclosure in people with rheumatoid arthritis, Kelley, Lumley, and Leisen (1997) found that people who had written about their emotions had significantly less physical dysfunction than those assigned to a control condition. There is also some evidence that psychological interventions can help post-heart attack patients who are depressed. In a review of that literature, Linden and colleagues (1996) reported that psychosocial interventions can decrease depression, systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels in CHD patients. Moreover, patients who did not receive psychosocial treatment were 1.7 times more likely to die from their CHD- and 1.8 times more likely to have another heart attack in a 2 -year follow-up period- than patients who were treated for their depression and anxiety. (Butcher et al.,2007).
These positive behaviors include methods such as self-monitoring, reinforcing, and cognitive restructuring. This type of behavior seems to be safer than exposing the body to harmful substances which commonly lead to mental and physical dependence.

It was supposed to be a short course of treatment with tranquilizers after the death of her infant son 15 years ago. But Lynn Ray, 46, of Germantown, MD., says her abuse of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and other prescription drugs led to a long struggle with addiction that nearly ruined her life. These tranquilizers, which slow down the central nervous system and cause drowsiness, surely numbed Ray’s agony, helped her sleep, and untied the relentless knot in her stomach. Soon, however, although her doctor prescribed one pill in an eight-hour period, she took two or three in an attempt to intensify the calming effect of the drug. Most patients take medicine responsibly, but approximately 9 million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in 1999, according the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Also, many people are deceived about the amount of harm these pills can contain because they think since it is coming from a ‘trusted’ source that no harm is involved.

One other type of therapy that is very useful is the management of behavior, or behavioral therapy. This is the use of therapeutic procedures based primarily on principles of classical and operant conditioning. Simply put, a person learns to train themselves to behave in a more controllable, appropriate manner by completely transforming the once problematic behavior into a more subtle disciplined reaction. “Behavioral approaches play a major role in helping people alter dangerous lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive alcohol use, (Butcher et al). There are thousands of people of varied ages who are uncontrollably addicted to cigarettes and alcohol. Most of them struggle with the addiction, while most do not realize that a problem exists.

Cognitive therapy is the form of effectual therapy that essentially, focuses on the client’s thoughts rather than feelings or behaviors. These changes in thoughts aid to solve psychological and personality problems. In 1971, Arnold Lazarus discovered a process that cognitively restructures stress-provoking thoughts and replaces them with more constructive or realistic thoughts (Sarafino).

Another cognitive approach is designed to help clients solve problems within their lives. With problem-solving training, clients learn a strategy for identifying, discovering, or inventing effective or adaptive ways to address problems in everyday life (D’Zurilla,1988; Nezu & Perri,1989). This type of practice enables a person to clearly define a problem, which leads to generating a variety of possible solutions and choosing the best course of action. Evidence indicates that problem-solving training reduces anxiety and other negative emotions (D’Zurilla, 1988).
Some cognitive-based approaches use a variety of methods to help support people coping with any type of problem. Donald Meichenbaum and his colleagues have developed a procedure called stress-inoculation training that is designed to teach people skills for alleviating stress and achieving personal goals (Meichenbaum & Cameron, 1983)
Researchers have also examined the effects of various behavioral relaxation techniques on selected stress-related illnesses. Therapy can address a wide range of concerns such as depression, relationship crisis, parenting problems, emotional distress, career issues, substance abuse, significant loss, and clinical disorders or conditions. The key to therapy is to provide life-enhancing help in fulfilling aspirations for personal growth and self-improvement.
There are numerous relaxation methods that can be used in order to alleviate stressful feelings. Massaging for example, has several forms that vary in the degree of pressure applied, causing different sensations depending on the type of stroke that is applied. Surprisingly, massages have many health benefits. Massaging has been showed to calm the nervous system and promote a sense of relaxation and well being. It also improves blood circulation, which is

essential to delivering oxygen and nutrients to cells. Stimulation of the lymphatic system is caused by massaging, this improves the body’s process of waste removal. By stimulating the muscles through massage, it can prevent and relieve muscles from uncomfortable cramps and spasms. Also, massage therapy can also help with pain management in conditions such as arthritis, sciatica, and muscle spasms (Brown 2007). Studies also show that massage therapy can reduce anxiety and depression (Moyer, Rounds, & Hannum, 2004). It also helps reduce hypertension, some types of pain, and asthma symptoms; some evidence indicates that it may bolster immune function (Field, 1996,1998).
A type of therapy that is familiar to most but tremendously underestimated is meditation. Meditation is an altered state of consciousness characterized by a sense of deep relaxation and loss of self awareness ( Kosslyn & Rosenberg 2004). Mediators experience a “relaxed, blissful, and wakeful state” (Jevning et al., 1992, p 415). Like most other therapies, there are many distinctive forms of meditation that can specifically alter certain aspects of the mind. For example, there is ‘concentrative meditation’ which would challenge a person to concentrate on one single stimulus, while disregarding the rest of the environment. Another form of meditation is called ‘opening-up meditation’ which is a more advanced form of concentration that eventually develops skills to merge with the environment one is in. Regular meditation reduces tension and anxiety (Carlington, 1977) and decreases levels of stress (MacLean et al., 1997) as well as cardiac measures such as blood pressure (Barnes et al., 2001). Although meditation helps people relax, it has a broader purpose: to develop a clear and mindful awareness, or “insight” regarding the essence of one’s experiences, unencumbered by cognitive or emotional distortions (Hart, 1987; Sole-Leris, 1986). Meditation aims at the mindful awareness component that essentially helps individuals who suffer from chronic pain to release the cognitive and emotional distortions they have along with their pain. Still, the main question of concern for stress management is whether meditation is a useful procedure for alleviating stress in daily life. Research as generally found that it is (Lichstetin,1988).

Concentrating more on how to control the mind rather than depending on a substance can greatly improve behavior. Yoga for example, is a type of mental and physical exercise that prioritizes the mental use of concentration in order to have control over the mind. Practicing yoga can yield a vast array of benefits which practicioners often claim create a complete reversal of medical conditions. The benefits vary based on poses practiced, and the intensity (measured by awareness, not sweat) and duration and frequency of practice. Today, modern scientists confirm the benefits of yoga practice for general health and well-being. The following are a few general health benefits that can be gained by practicing yoga, relieves fatigue, boosts energy levels, boosts immune system, reduces stress, improves focus, alleviates insomnia, normalizes blood pressure, tones heart muscles, improves circulation, prevents osteoporosis, relieves arthritis, reduces gastritis reduces acidity, relieves stomach aches, improves sinus conditions, and can even alleviate addictions and eating disorders (Cirone, 2001).

Although alternative medicine sounds relieving for most symptoms, some people have doubts about what natural medicine can do versus chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery treatments used on cancer. Surgery is a more frequently preferred treatment because if the cancer is localized, surgery can be very effective. However, if not all the cancer is eliminated, the patient’s symptoms may disappear for a time-or “go into remission”- only to return at a later date (Sarafino 2007).

The other form of therapy is radiation, which in high doses damages the DNA of cells. Since radiation affects both healthy and malignant cells, the affected areas of skin may suffer irritation, itching, peeling, blistering, burns, or hair loss. Common side effects are diarrhea, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, mouth problems, sexual changes, swelling, trouble swallowing, urinary and bladder changes, loss of appetite, sterility, and reduced bone marrow function. Most of these side effects go away within 2 months after radiation therapy is finished. Late side effects may first occur 6 or more months after therapy and may include infertility, joint problems, lyphedema, mouth problems, and secondary cancer (National Cancer Institute 2007).

In the days preceding radiation treatment, individuals often worry about these side effects and report heightened anxiety (Anderson, Golden-Kreutz, & DiLillo, 2001). Out of all these side effects, none of them are beneficiary to the patient. How could someone produce a form of therapy that can simultaneously be highly harmful to the patient.
When chemotherapy is requested, patients receive powerful drugs usually orally or by injection, that circulate through the body to kill cells that divide very rapidly (AMA, 2003; Williams, 1990). A major problem with this therapy is that the drugs also kill many normal cells that divide rapidly, which can produce adverse side effects, including reduced immunity to infection, sores in the mouth, hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, and damage to internal organs (ACS, 2004, AMA, 2003). Although most of these effects are temporary, these are not suitable conditions for anyone during any time, especially if one is already physically weak from the cancer itself.

It is always important to know that “cancer is caused by the interplay of genetic and environmental factors, and that high stress can promote progression of the disease. Environmental factors include smoking tobacco, diet, ultraviolet radiation, and household and worksite chemical hazards, among others” (Sarafino 2007). By looking at the information provided earlier, it clearly states that alternative medicine such as cognitive therapies, meditations, or massages can significantly reduce stress and improve well being overall. The difference between natural medicine and prescription medicine is clear, although they both essentially ‘cure’ the person, except one consists of synthetic chemicals which are being forced into the body, causing the body to withdraw the poison by having severe side effects.

In conclusion, scientific studies can clearly show the emphasis of positive and negative effects caused by certain treatments. There are most definitely many other different varieties of alternative medicine that do not strictly have to adhere to prescription pills. Whether a pill is ecstasy, or just an aspirin, it’s still a drug and it still means that it can have influences on your thoughts and behavior. I think there is enough money being spent on pharmaceutical drugs, this money should be put to use by figuring out more positive, motivational changes that can be applied to behavior; instead of ignoring it and taking substances to numb the pain. Doctors at this time need to worry less about the money they make and more about the people they save.