Welcome to medication nation:
Tampa (AFP) – One third of Americans are taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as birth control pills, antacids and common heart medications, that may raise the risk of depression, researchers warned on Tuesday.
Since the drugs are so common, people may be unaware of their potential depressive effects, said the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“Many may be surprised to learn that their medications, despite having nothing to do with mood or anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression, can increase their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms, and may lead to a depression diagnosis,” said lead author Dima Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Of course, a depression diagnosis then leads to more medication, which often leads to more medication to deal with the side effects* of the first medication, which is itself dealing with the side effects of an antacid. It’s estimated that one in four American women in their 40s and 50s are on antidepressants. That is an astounding number.
But it’s not just antidepressants. It’s estimated that 70 percent of Americans take a prescription medication every day, while the elderly take five or more. Open a magazine or watch TV commercials and you’ll hear about more medicines than you knew existed and why you need them. But it’s just marketing**. We don’t need most of them, what we need is to be a healthier people.
If your doctor says you need a medicine, listen. Get the best medical advice you can. But don’t be afraid to ask if there’s a better way to deal with your health issues. Your doctor will likely say, “Well, if you dropped 40 pounds, your high blood pressure would probably normalize.” Or he’ll say, “If you did x-and-such, you might not need this cholesterol medicine.”
It’s easy to take another pill. It’s far harder and yet much better to change the habits that are giving you health problems. I challenge you to establish new habits in their place.
Habit 1: lose the weight. Americans are the fattest people who have ever lived. Most of us are overweight and millions of us are obese to super morbidly obese***. Obesity correlates to higher levels of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, i.e. many of the most common ailments for which Americans take medications in the first place.
Make it your goal to lose a pound a week. One pound of fat is roughly 3500 calories, which works out to a little more than a donut a day. One pound a week also works out to losing 50 pounds in a year. And 50 pounds will go a very long way to reducing your need for medications.
Habit 2: eat better food. Have you ever really read that list of ingredients on the back of your food container? It’s astonishing the number of chemicals, sugars, and acids that are added to the actual food you expect. Compare the ingredients list of your favorite frozen chicken pot pie to a recipe for homemade chicken pot pie. Which do you think your body will prefer? Making your food from scratch is good. Growing as much of your own food as you can is even better.
Consciously eating better food instead of merely counting calories, points, or portions will go a long way toward establishing Habit 1. It will also go a long way toward your body developing fewer conditions that demand medication.
Habit 3: exercise. You know you should. Turn off the TV and go do something, anything. Watching that screen for three hours a night is not just killing your body, it’s killing your soul as well.
Habit 4: deal with it yourself. You probably need medicines for serious ailments. Like I said, listen to your doctor. But there are plenty of minor ailments that you could buy medicines for but don’t need to. Some antacids can lead to clinical depression. A tablespoon of baking soda mixed into a glass of water will not. But it will fix your heartburn, assuming you still have heartburn after eliminating the bad food that causes it in the first place.
Men, we have two choices. We can consciously live healthier lives, or we can unconsciously get sucked into an expanding vortex of drugs and side effects and drugs for those side effects.
Let me challenge you to be below average for once: make an effort to take fewer medications than your peers. You’ll probably live a longer and happier life.
* Including Celexa, which side effects can include drowsiness, ejaculatory disorder, nausea, insomnia, diaphoresis, suicidal tendencies, agitation, diarrhea, impotence, sinusitis, anxiety, confusion, exacerbation of depression, lack of concentration, tremor, vomiting, anorexia, xerostomia, agitation, blurred vision, confusion, fever, increase in the frequency of urination or amount of urine produced, lack of emotion, loss of memory, menstrual changes, skin rash or itching, trouble breathing, behavior change similar to drunkenness, bleeding gums, breast tenderness or enlargement or unusual secretion of milk (in females), chills, convulsions, diarrhea, difficulty with concentrating, dizziness, fainting, drowsiness, increased hunger, increased thirst, irregular heartbeat, lack of energy, lethargy, nosebleed, overactive reflexes, painful urination, poor coordination, purple or red spots on the skin, rapid weight gain, red or irritated eyes, redness, tenderness, itching, burning, or peeling of the skin, shivering, slow or irregular heartbeat, sore throat, stupor, sweating, swelling of the face, ankles, or hands, talking or acting with excitement you cannot control, trembling, shaking, or twitching, trouble with holding or releasing urine, unusual or sudden body or facial movements or postures, and unusual tiredness or weakness. There are more.
** Ask yourself why they encourage you to ask your doctor about a specific medication, rather than listening to your doctor’s advice about a specific ailment.
*** Americans are so fat we have to keep inventing new categories in which to store our fatness.