Who is the American Doctor?

Many of us do whatever we can to avoid going to the doctor. But when we have a problem we can’t solve by ignoring it, or obsessively checking WebMD, we have no choice but to make the call.

When we arrive at the doctor’s office, we try and manage our mounting anxiety.

“Please tell me it isn’t cancer. I’ll eat better, get more sleep and stop drinking. Please not cancer.”

We’re relieved when the doctor finally arrives 20-40 minutes later. Finally, we’ll get some answers. He examines us, asks a few questions and writes us a prescription, the kind with the childproof cap.

“You’re in pain?,” says the doctor.
“These pain pills will help.”
“High blood pressure?”
“Take this one.”
“Diabetes, we have a pill for that too.”

It seems doctors today are playing the game “Concentration”  with our health. You know the game where you put a bunch of cards face down and have to remember where its pair is. Only their version is matching your condition with the right pharmaceutical.

Not all MDs (medical doctors) are hooked on prescribing drugs. No, many are just busy. Some doctors book patients every 15 minutes. How can they possibly have time to get to the root cause of our problems when they operate under such strict time constraints?

And it’s not all their fault.

We eat crappy food, are disconnected from our bodies, don’t exercise, drink too much coffee, soda and alcohol, are chronically stressed out and don’t sleep enough. And when we get sick, we don’t want to change any of it. We want a quick fix, a pill, and doctors are happy to oblige.

But what if something serious happens? The pills that used to pacify us suddenly become some kind of life sentence, a substitution for the real answers. When we experience a wide range of side effects, we suddenly realize this cycle never ends because if one pill doesn’t work, there’s always another one.

The only exception to this game is when the health issue is really complicated. If the doctor doesn’t have the answer, we’ll still get a prescription, but it’s likely for a psychiatrist because if it’s a problem they can’t solve, it either doesn’t exist or we’re a hypochondriac. We’ll most likely get a referral, and another, and another, and another.

When the answers really matter, we begin to see how limited our current medical system is.

DES daughter on Flickr @Creative Commons

Our image of the MD is changing. No longer is he the trusted man in the white coat with all the answers. But who is he? Is the average American doctor in danger of becoming nothing more than a living, breathing pharmaceutical pad and referral machine?

Of course medication is life-sustaining for those who really need it, but many don’t and often it’s the only option offered. Real health takes more than the 15 minutes.

So maybe we have to find the courage to challenge our doctors to do more than medicate us, or, gulp, we’ll have to search for answers beyond the white coats.

But where and how? How do we know the difference between effective alternative treatments and . . . well, quackery? Are the lack of real answers in our current medical system forcing us to choose between a system full of pills or system full of question marks? Are we giving up science for guesswork, false claims and hope?

It can take a little more effort to find qualified partitioners on the fringe, but the good ones (and there are many) get results without prescription drugs. The good ones see positive outcomes and have information to share. The question is, will the doctors listen?

This is not to say that practitioners on the fringe have all the answers and doctors don’t. It’s that sometimes the fringe can push the mainstream medical system forward in a way it wouldn’t on its own.

We have to do our part too because real health isn’t smothered in cheese and washed down with soda. Our bodies aren’t made to digest processed foods, artificial ingredients, too much fat, salt and sugar without suffering negative consequences.

In the end, we have to find the courage to seek answers wherever they may be, fringe or not, because one thing is clear – we need our health, not some version of it brought to us by “Big PhRMA” with a ton of side effects and no way out.

“Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women, four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined. Stopping this epidemic in women – and men – is everyone’s business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs.” – former CDC director, Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

Environmental Illness Network on Flicr @Creative Commons

Learn More
NPR – “Drug-Company Payments Mirror Doctors’ Brand-Name Prescribing”
Healthcare Packaging “Big Pharma to Blame for Opioid Epidemic?”
CNN – “Doctors must lead us out of our opioid abuse epidemic”
The New York Times – “Labels Like “Alternative Medicine’ Don’t Matter. The Science Does.”
U.S. News & World Report – “Integrative Medicine” 

Feature image courtesy of Alex Proimos on Flickr @Creative Commons.