Will Pills Solve Our Ills?
It’s an all-out assault: American television viewers are barraged daily by commercials for prescription drugs. It seems there are pills for every ill: obesity, allergies, arthritis, depression, sexual dysfunction, high cholesterol—the list goes on.
The message: Life will be better with drugs.
The commercials then rapidly list a myriad of common side effects: nausea, dry mouth, perspiration, drowsiness, diarrhea, upset stomach, insomnia, throat inflammation, muscle pain, dizziness, fatigue, indigestion, headache, constipation, cough and loss of appetite.
In 1997, the Federal Drug Administration (fda) clarified drug advertising regulations. Expenditures on direct-to-consumer drug marketing then exploded, from less than $800 million in 1996 to over $2.6 billion by 2001. Medical Marketing & Media reported that prescription drug advertising ranks number one in expenditures for syndicated television programming (July 1).
American consumers are swallowing hard—hook, line and gel cap; between 1997 and 2001, they doubled their purchases to $155 billion (National Women’s Health Network, July 1). According to results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year, in any given week, 81 percent of Americans are taking some type of medication and more than half are using medication requiring a doctor’s prescription.
But, does medical science have the cure for the nation’s ills?
Heartburn and Obesity
One of the most common commercials seen on American TV is for heartburn or acid reflux drugs. About 25 million Americans experience daily heartburn. Many have turned to drugs, which actually short circuit the digestive process, to alleviate the effects of the problem.
Dr. Ramesh Gandhi, president of the Dayton, Ohio, Digestive Specialists practice and instructor at Wright State University’s School of Medicine, explains, “The underlying problem isn’t excess acid production, but being overweight or smoking or having a malfunctioning sphincter [the muscular valve between the stomach and the esophagus]” (Dayton Daily, Aug. 3). Dr. Mark Walsh, a gastroenterologist and also on the faculty of the Wright State University, says doctors agree that losing weight is usually the best way to keep acid from entering the esophagus. He said, “Most of the people I see for heartburn have gained about 20 pounds” (ibid.).
Heartburn is often the result of an ever-increasing lust for food, particularly junk food. For most, however, even when they know wrong diet and overeating is the cause, a permanent change in eating habits is not considered an acceptable solution. “People restrict their diets if they know eating something will give them heartburn and keep them up all night,” Dr. Walsh said. “Then they go on Prilosec or Nexium or whatever, their heartburn’s gone and now they can eat more.” Doctors advise changes to lifestyle and diet. “But, in general, people don’t follow them. Once they take the drug, it works, and they say, ‘Why do anything else?’” said Dr. Gandhi (ibid.).
Drugs are also becoming the treatment of choice for weight problems, promoted by adverts promising miraculous results without any effort whatsoever. Lose weight while you sleep! Supercharge your metabolism and lose 10 to 20 pounds in the next 60 days! Eat what you want and lose weight. Win the fat war once and for all—even if you lack the will power. For the 120 million overweight or obese American adults, such rhetoric is a dream come true. No self-control is required, no exercise and no need to make lifestyle changes. Just pop a daily pill and away go the effects of broken physical law.
Many have opted for this method. Sales of diet pills and supplements more than quadrupled from 1996 to 2000, going from $168 million to $782 million (New York Times, Oct. 29, 2000). Why should people exercise self-control when they can pop a pill, circumvent the effects of their actions and go right along with life the way they want it? So the reasoning goes.
Depression is another revealing problem area.
The National Institute of Mental Health (nimh) reports that nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffers from a depressive illness, and more than 3 in 20 Americans will experience serious depression in their lifetime. Science and the medical community believe that the culprit is a biochemical change in the brain. While a biochemical change usually does occur, the question is why? Science does not provide the answer. Rather, it offers drugs. Feeling down? Having trouble coping with your life’s stresses and problems? A trip to the doctor will send you home clutching a cure: anti-depressants.
Of course, drugs don’t eliminate the source of the problem—they merely alleviate the physical, biochemical effects. Addressing the use of drugs to treat depression, Theodore Dalrymple, a physician and psychiatrist practicing in England, said, “By actively discouraging other, more constructive approaches to life’s problems, without producing any benefit other than the avoidance of painful choices, it is very possible that ssris [Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors—the class of antidepressants to which Prozac belongs] actually add to, rather than reduce, the sum of human misery. I very rarely see a patient who is in a dreadful personal situation, in which it is inconceivable that he or she should be happy, who has not been prescribed these drugs. …
“By the very fact of having been given a prescription, they are encouraged to believe that help is at hand, and that all they need to do is swallow it daily, when what they need, in fact, is character, resolve and a sense of purpose in life” (National Post, Canada, Aug. 13).
In the U.S., nearly 10 percent of teenagers suffer from depression; 4,000 teens a year are killing themselves. Why? Is it simply because they lack anti-depressant drugs vital to their mental well-being? These youths, along with 18.8 million U.S. adults, have serious problems in their lives that drugs will never address. Despite all the advancements in drug science, statistics from the past decade only prove that the problem is rapidly growing.
What then is the real answer?
The nimh reports that 3 to 5 percent of American children—as many as 2 million—have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or adhd. This disorder manifests itself in symptoms such as distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Medical science has concluded the problem to be a chemical imbalance taking place in the brain. So, do 2 million American children simply have a chemical imbalance? If so, why? Is the imbalance the root cause of the problem, or the result of a deeper problem? The medical community leaves this question unanswered. Why bother, when drugs such as Ritalin can artificially boost the deficient chemical levels and all will be well—that is, as long as the child stays drugged?
Warwick Dyer, a British behavioral expert, completed a five-year project to help children whom the medical community deemed adhd. His method was to teach the parents and put them in loving control of the children instead of allowing the children to rule. After five years of teaching simple, fundamental parenting skills used for generations, he had a 100 percent success rate. He concluded that it is up to parents to take more responsibility for their children’s “disorders” and move away from the chemical hammer of prescription drugs.
Mr. Dyer asserts that it is “clear that a lot of symptoms ascribed to such disorders are in fact easily confused with basic behavioral problems that don’t need to be treated with a drug.” He states, “You need to give your child what they want—love and attention—but on your terms, not theirs.” Mr. Dyer claims, “The problem is that a lot of parents simply aren’t being parents. In the last 20 years, parents … have stopped being in control of [their children]. They have tended to examine how they were brought up and reject what they thought was bad, but they haven’t taken on what was good. Children are instinctively artful and will try to put themselves in control of their parents. I put parents back in control” (New Zealand Herald, July 21).
Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist in New York, concurs. “I don’t think the answer is drugging our kids. Instead, we should be figuring out what their problem is. There’s no substitute for caring enough” (San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 31).
Do parental control and child rearing have anything to do with chemical imbalances in the brain of a child? Scientists would laugh at such proposed connections.
Science’s solutions come with their own Pandora’s box filled with problems.
The Associated Press reported that studies have estimated that 2 million Americans are hospitalized annually from drug side effects, while 100,000 actually die! (Dec. 14, 1999). According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, adverse reactions to prescription drugs result in roughly three times as many fatalities as do automobile accidents, making prescription drugs the number-four killer in the U.S., after heart disease, cancer and stroke (April 15, 1998). Fda drug chief Dr. Janet Woodcock stated, “There’s no doubt the toll of deaths and injuries, and the economic costs of adverse drug reactions, is really staggering” (Associated Press, op. cit.).
These problems emerge for two main reasons: one, doctors don’t read warnings; and two, though drugs are tested on a few hundred to a few thousand, they end up in the mouths of millions, most of whom are taking an untold combination of other drugs, or are subject to physical or biological factors, the combination of which leads to unknown adverse reactions. These factors place consumers in a game of Russian roulette when seeking drugs to “cure” their ills.
Then there is the massive issue of a new, little-known epidemic: prescription drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this affects the lives of an estimated 9 million Americans. Dr. Jean Lennane, who was director of Drug and Alcohol Services at Rozelle Hospital in Sydney, Australia, during the 1980s, observed that tranquilizers and hypnotics used to treat anxiety and insomnia, touted as non-addictive, created countless addicts. She noted two distinct groups. Those who were pure abusers, and—the much larger group—those who had never had drug problems but became hooked by taking the normal small doses of one of these types of drugs (Weekend Australian, July 26).
Such abuse is now being greatly exacerbated by the Internet, where powerful drugs can be obtained with just a credit card at the more than 300 online drug pharmacy websites. Often, medical history, a doctor’s visit or prescriptions are not necessary. It’s a fast, shameless way to prolong addictions (New York Post, Aug. 10).
Finding the Answers
Let’s face it: Drugs are not the real answer to our ills. Drugs never have dealt with root causes of ailments. Drugs will not stop Americans from eating heaped plates of fatty and starchy foods, nor will they instill the self-discipline to exercise. Drugs will not solve the shattered lives of young children whose parents fight or are divorced. Drugs will not fill the void of a missing father. Drugs will not teach parents how to properly rear their children. Drugs will not solve man’s hatred toward his neighbor. Drugs will not heal lives shattered by rape, incest or abuse. Drugs will never remove the actions that have brought about disease. Drugs will never reveal to man why he exists, give him a relationship with his Creator, give him the hope that will remove all depression. Mankind needs the answers that address the root of the problems, so they can be dealt with properly and not swept under the carpet.
The root cause of these problems gets down to right living vs. wrong living.
The Prophet Jeremiah lived in a society crumbling from the curses of wrong living. He concluded, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Though most will laugh this to scorn, the fact is, the true solutions to all of these problems is laid out by the Creator of mankind in His Word, the Bible. If you really wish to prove or disprove this fact, you need to understand your Bible. Yet most people become confused when attempting to read it.
This need not be so. If you wish to unlock your Bible and see the answers for yourself, ask for our free book Mystery of the Ages and read it along with your Bible. It will illustrate to you, in the pages of your own Bible, the answers to the seven great mysteries of life. Then you will begin to see that the answers to all of man’s horrific problems are, indeed, addressed in God’s Word.