Alternative Medicine

Think outside the capsule: the benefits of complementary medicine

Dominique Hlavac, Talon staff writer

“It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions but hard to get one single remedy.”

This Chinese proverb may be ancient, but it could have come from some of the early critics of modern medicine.

Over the counter and prescription drugs are so readily available now, that they are often used when not necessarily needed and can cause dangerous side effects. Many forms of complementary medicine such as traditional Chinese medicine, chiropractic and even simple lifestyle changes, are often overlooked but can alleviate the same symptoms and provide long-term relief without the side effects of modern medication.

Modern medicine has come a long way from its early days; so much so that we have developed a medicine for almost every ailment known to us. It is a truly great advancement in science and technology that can be used to bring health and wellness benefits to many, but are we misusing it?

According to a National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey (NHANES), conducted over the last 10 years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in 2010, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44 percent to 48 percent, the use of two or more drugs increased from 25 percent to 31 percent and the use of five or more drugs increased from six percent to 11 percent.

No doubt that some of these drugs being used are very necessary and can even be lifesaving in some cases.

But what constitutes a drug being ‘necessary’?

Why the rise?

Why this rise in use of prescription medication? One theory has to do with marketing and the way the American culture addresses the issue of medicine,

“Our culture has been educated that way,” said clinical nutritionist Craig Hartman, “educated and told that pharmaceutical drugs are the way to go.”

Another theory is that the advertising methods used by drug companies have become more prevalent.

“I think it’s just a combination of people wanting a quick fix and drug companies putting it through advertising that they can provide that quick fix,” said Dr.Jon Hallberg MD.


This is a stick up: your money or your life?

“Call your doctor if you develop fever, stiff muscles, and confusion as these may be signs of a life threatening reaction. Or if you have uncontrollable muscle movements as these could become permanent. High blood sugar has been reported with Seroquel XR and medicines like it and in extreme cases can lead to coma or death. Tell your doctor if you have a history of low white blood cell count or seizures, your doctor should check for cataracts.

Other risks include increased cholesterol and triglycerides, weight gain, dizziness on standing, drowsiness, impaired judgment and trouble swallowing. Use caution before driving or operating machinery.”

The selection above is taken from a real commercial for an antidepressant drug called Seroquel XR. Side effects of pharmaceutical drugs are the ways that our body pays for the medication. Do the benefits really outweigh the rises?

Health insurance also plays a huge part in the pharmaceutical industry. Insurance companies will pay for prescription drugs, but not for forms of complementary medicine.

“Well insurance will pay for your antidepressant… so it doesn’t cost much” Hartman said, “whereas if you did traditional supplements for your depression, they aren’t gonna pay for that so it’ll cost you more.”

Here at Minnehaha, like any other business, the school has to provide employee health insurance, but what does that mean for the tuition price?

“As a very general rule-of-thumb, most employers, including Minnehaha, will budget for an increase in the cost of health insurance of about eight to ten percent annually,” said Minnehaha director of finance and operations Jim Wald.

Pharmaceutical companies also put money into lobbying the government and lobbying doctors. According to the Pioneer Press review of reports made to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, drug companies paid just under $10 million to consultants last year. The companies in total spent $182,271,492 in lobbying to congress according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The alternatives

Whatever the cause may be, overuse of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs is a problem that can have a drastic effect on a person’s overall health and their long term wellness. For example, over the counter pain medications such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen or Aspirin can cause damage if they are taken in excess,

“If you take [too much] aspirin,” Hartman said, “it’ll cause erosion of your gastrointestinal lining, the mucous membrane. So you’re more prone to ulcers.”

So are there any options for treatment other than taking a pill?

There are many methods of treatment that you probably have never considered or even heard of: chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine and herbal medicine just to name a few. The main difference between these complementary forms of medicine as opposed to traditional healthcare is that they look at the individual person instead of looking at only the symptoms.

However, modern medicine and complementary medicine can work together.

“Some doctors may argue with me but… [referring to it as] alternative always makes it sound like it’s adversarial,” said Hallberg, “that it’s us or that…but I think a lot of times, they work well together.”

There are many ways that one could benefit from choosing complementary forms of medicine. One of the benefits they have to offer is their lack of harmful side effects,

“you’re just helping your body naturally and help it eliminate the pain on its own.” Said acupuncture assistant at Complete Oriental Medical Care, Carolyn Kolodziej.

Different types of complementary medicines work very differently, but strive for the same goal: relief of pain and overall health.

Chiropractic care focuses on the spine, specifically the alignment of the vertebrae in relation to how it affects different areas of the body.

Many people receive chiropractic care for more than just back pain; migraines, allergies, degenerative arthritis, asthma, sports injuries and muscle tightness just to name a few.

“I see improvement as soon as I leave the chiropractor,” sophomore Dane Birkeland said, “I feel better.”

Modern medicine can’t always fix the problem.

“We look for the magic pill way too often in our society, rather than addressing the true problem.” Said Hartman.


About Dominique Hlavac

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