Last week I read an article in the London Metro newspaper about the EU’s recent move to ban many herbal / Chinese remedies from being sold / promoted / practised in European countries. The UK government have declined to participate in this movement, instead opting to institute a requirement that all such practitioners register themselves with a new regulatory body so that their activities can be monitored in case something dangerous does come up.
The article stated that there are many doctors up in arms over the UK’s decision, claiming this law basically says ‘quacks’ are okay. A conflicting viewpoint was put across that really it ought to be the patient’s choice which sort of treatment they take, either herbal or pharmaceutical. The article also noted that one such herbal remedy under contention is St John’s Wort, as used in the treatment of depression.
I think the key here is ‘choice’. Last I checked, the US and UK supposedly invaded the Middle East under the pretense of bringing ‘democracy’, yes? And I appreciate that a little government intervention is necessary from time to time, but when it comes to our health, shouldn’t it be up to us what we put in our bodies?
Many of my good friends have neurological conditions. One such friend was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder a couple years ago. He tried prescribed medications for a while, but they only seemed to make him worse, so he stopped, and started exploring his options. He struck upon a vitamin regime that did not cure his symptoms, but it did improve things greatly for him. Unfortunately, by that point so much damage had already been done at his job, due to his condition going undiagnosed for so long and due to his colleagues being small-minded and not accepting / understanding him once the diagnosis was made. My friend has been severely bullied at work for a long time now, and the abuse built up to a point where he just couldn’t handle it anymore. He felt so low, he went back to the doctor, and in his vulnerable state, he agreed to try a new prescription.
He went on a course of Sertroline (Zoloft in the States) – something I took myself, many years ago, and which had greatly detrimental affects on my mental health. In my experience, I was a guinea pig for this ‘miracle drug’, and when things went wrong, the doctors were suddenly uncontactable. In my friend’s case, he sank lower and lower over a period of six weeks, until one morning his partner found him slicing open his own wrists. Thank God my friend does not live alone, else he would have died. Instead, though, he was rushed to hospital and saved.
One could argue he was depressed anyway, so how can you say this was caused by the drug? Except my friend has never been suicidal before – and if you look around the internet, you will see there are several class action suits being filed in connection with this and other such drugs due to unprecedented violent acts on the part of patients taking these prescriptions – and when I was taking the drug myself, after sinking into a suicidal state unlike anything I’d ever experienced before (not to mention developing schizophrenic symptoms), I read in the list of side effects contained in the medication box that this ‘anti-depressant’ and ‘anti-anxiety’ tablet could, in fact, cause ‘anxiety’ and ‘suicidal ideation’.
The day before my friend started self-harming, he had gone to see his doctor again and told him how depressed he was feeling since taking the drug. The doctor’s reply was to increase the dosage! And might I add that never was there any suggestion to see a psychologist who could help him work through his pain, even alongside the medication. This, too, has been my own experience: unless I begged for a psychologist and absolutely insisted upon it, it was not given to me.
I’m not saying the drugs don’t work for everyone. But I have spoken to many fellow diagnosees (if there is such a word!), read many books on these subjects, and have tried a variety of medications myself. The general consensus seems to be that for some people these medications work – for others, it is helpful to take the drugs on a short-term basis alongside some other form of psychological therapy, so that they feel a boost in spirits and clarity to enable them to focus on the therapy and learn the long-term techniques to help themselves. For others still (myself included), the drugs do not have any affect on the actual condition, but they do induce a lot of nasty side effects.
Another point to mention is that I believe we focus so much on the diagnosis, we forget about the ‘little’ things, like sleep and diet. For instance, I have started on a vitamin regime (similar to my friend’s) that has meant at long last, I sleep at night and I wake up refreshed. This has in no way cured my symptoms – but just getting that sleep has de-stressed my body and mind so much, my symptoms have become much more bearable. I also tried a year of talking therapy and discovered that much of the pain and volatility within me was due to experience, not the diagnosed conditions themselves. Through this therapy, much of my frustration and unhappiness was healed.
The point is: it should be our choice. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live in a nation governed by people who decide what we’re allowed to put into our bodies in the name of health. There is a reason these chemical compounds are called ‘drugs’ – they have the potential to be dangerous, depending on who takes them and for how long.
I think people often view doctors as all-knowing, but it’s so important that we step back and remember the human body is not a machine. You can’t call up Tech Support when something goes wrong, have them run a few diagnostic checks and come out with a foolproof solution.
Just last year I developed some kind of infection that required antibiotics. I was given a basic prescription, and within 15 minutes of taking the drug as prescribed, my temperature shot up to 105F, I lost feeling in the right side of my body and my chest started seizing up. I was in absolute terror. My husband threw warm wet flannels over me to bring down the temperature, and slowly I came back to health. We spoke to a nurse who said it was a result of the drug, because apparently you shouldn’t take that particular pill if you have neurological conditions – which no one bothered to check when giving the prescription. I spoke to a doctor who prescribed a new drug and his response was, ‘There’s nothing wrong with the antibiotic – that should not have happened to you.’ Yes, but it did happen. But he just kept saying, ‘It shouldn’t have.’
Doctors do not have all the answers, despite how advanced they are. They particularly do not have all the answers when it comes to the brain. I would also argue there is a huge issue of spirit involved, when delving into matters of the psyche, i.e. some scientists believe everything is down to chemical reactions, and others believe there’s something more to it, something beyond the body. There’s no way to prove it either way.
So do I think the UK government has just said it’s okay for ‘quacks’ to practise in our nation? No. I believe they just reaffirmed our right to choose – which is just how things should be in a so-called democracy.
I just pray we keep it that way.
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