“Where are we headed - a numbed down, dumbed down, zombie population?” asks pharmacist Doryce Sher. Doryce takes us on her experience in the journey of dispensing pills through the eighties up to now, and points out the dangers of indiscriminate pill popping.
I qualified as a pharmacist in 1980 during the peak of the pill revolution. When I studied during the 1970’s the course still included compounding and plant based medicines, weighing grams and parts of grams, blending the powders into creams, or powders to swallow, each dose wrapped in folded papers. Within a short space of time when I began working in retail pharmacy, I became a pill counter, and a master reader of doctor’s handwriting. As the ease of the ready-made pill caught on with the medical profession, the numbers of scripts dispensed in a day rocketed. I last compounded a cream in the late 1980’s and that was a rare prescription.
I dispensed ‘shopping lists’ of drugs. On one script it wasn’t uncommon to see a hundred sleeping tabs, a hundred pain pills, sixty Schedule 5 potent vitamin pills and, indigestion tabs. The 1980’s saw the sharp rise of a ‘pill for every ill’ concept.
After the 2nd World War, pharmaceutical companies recognised the value of mass producing medication, in particular, aspirins, paracetamols, indigestion tablets and antibiotics. It made sense – clinically and hygienically producing medicines meant mass production and ease of availability. Sleeping tablets became popular and pain pills were regarded as miraculous. Unfortunately original good intentions have shifted and we now have evidence of pharmaceutical companies re-launching formulations in a modified form. As original patents expire, companies actively seek ideas for new pills to market.
If we look at the vast Indian and Chinese populations both of them up until the middle of the last century were nations of healthy people. When western diets and medicine arrived so did heart disease, inflammatory diseases and obesity. The USA is arguably the most unwell nation in terms of heart disease, obesity, insomnia, depression and anxiety, not to mention they are a nation in pain. They make up 5% of the world’s population yet consume 60% of western medicine available on the planet.
Until recently we accepted without question a ‘pill for every ill’. We were led to believe if the medicine or drug is prescribed by a doctor, it is safe, we trusted that because a medicine is registered, it is safe to use. We also believed that drug addicts are people using cannabis, heroin and cocaine. However lurking in the ‘pill for every ill’ mindset, a culture of dependence on sleeping tablets and pain pills has grown with the result that they are the most abused tablets in the western world including South Africa. Pain killers containing codeine are still sold over the counter as are other dangerously addictive (and bad for you) pain pills. Certain of these are banned in Europe, USA and Australia but are sold and marketed to our less aware and vulnerable population. Because we live in fast paced, stressed, quick fix times the ‘pill for every ill’ seems to be a wonderful short term solution, but long term they are causing havoc. People taking sleeping pills are finding they don’t work as well as when they started, so they increase the dosage. The same happens with pain pills. This is a sign of physical dependence - the body adapts and requires more of the same drug for the desired effect.
More worrying is the psychological dependence. I hear people say, “I take two pain pills every four hours - I HAVE to take them otherwise I get a headache” or “I can’t sleep without my sleeping tablets,” and “I went back to my doctor and he gave me a six month repeat with stronger tablets.” Doctors are pressured to prescribe. Besides dependence there are other dangers in taking too many pain pills: they have damaging effects on the liver and kidneys; and they can mask pain that may indicate something wrong in the body which is then overlooked. Generally, people have forgotten to question and think about the pills they flippantly take. Some self medicate without regard to the dangers. Fortunately, we have the Trailblazers who break free from the masses, question the status quo and start anew. They are usually followed by the rich and famous and then eventually, the masses. These trendsetters are questioning modern day medicines and the need for antibiotics for their children. They are exploring meditation, prayer, yoga and natural methods of sleeping better. They are going for massages and reflexology and using vitamins and health supplements. They use aromatherapy, homeopathy and common sense. They eat healthy and build up good immunity. They exercise and they rest and watch comedy. Before you unthinkingly take a pill try some of these wellness approaches. We are what we eat; what we drink; what we think; and what we believe, and our state of health reflects these four factors.
did you know?
In 1970, in the USA, two billion tablets and capsules were prescribed and dispensed. Only one generation later in the year 2007, statistics showed a staggering 113 billion tablets and capsules dispensed.
BE PILL SMART
Visit a doctor to discuss the pills you may be taking and make sure you really need them all. Be aware of the side effects and dangers. Do not share pills with friends and family. Do not carry on taking pills after the prescription has finished. If it is an antibiotic, finish the course and don’t save them for another time. Remove all expired meds, tablets and capsules that nobody uses. Take unwanted meds to your pharmacy to dispose of. Explore the use of healthy alternative methods for illness conditions.
ILLNESS AS INFORMANT
Someone once said: “Illness is a conversation between you and God.”
Very often pain, illness or discomfort is a way for us to be informed of an imbalance in life, of something we need to change or adapt. Getting rid of the symptom without acknowledging the lesson can lead deeper into imbalance.
DISCLAIMER: Not all medicines are bad for you; do not stop taking what has been specifically prescribed for you. Please note this article constitutes my perspective. Doryce Sher
Doryce Sher is a registered Pharmacist, Aromatherapist and Reflexologist who is passionate about making people aware that they have choices. After ten years in retail pharmacy, Doryce followed through on her deep belief that medicines originally came from plants, and while there have been incredible medical advances, nature still has rich resources of active ingredients. She founded Aromatic Apothecary in 1992 making quality, therapeutic products using natures’ essential oils.