Recently, American virologists have come forth with what, to many, seemed to be the most hopeful message anyone remotely affected by HIV could hear: A toddler has been the first-ever person to be declared “cured” of HIV. While the news of this medical feat inspired hope in any who happened to hear of it, a much bleaker picture of Western medicine still goes undiagnosed.
Today, humans are plagued by a variety of pathogens ranging from bacteria to parasites and viruses, some originating from our own bodies. In fact, recent trends indicate a steady rise in the amount of autoimmune disorders, cancers and mental disorders. These alarming statistics seem to be lost under the microscope of developing cures rather than addressing the cause. With psychiatrists and doctors prescribing a pill for this ailment and another for that, medicinal reaction and side effects can be compounded upon each other and eventually lead to very negative results.
The development of a pill-popping society in America is bound to destroy any hope of a true cure to the nation’s most pressing health issues. Individual body chemistry does not respond in an identical fashion within each person, especially in terms of psychiatric medicine. With side-effect lists stretching on for what seem like eons after the standard sleep medicine commercial, it’s no wonder that many Americans struggle with the same issues that the medicine is supposed to alleviate, even after taking the pill! The reported side effects of the anti-depression drug Zoloft include fever, sweating, confusion, fainting, hallucinations, tremors, vomiting, loss of coordination, headache, weakness, seizures, stoppage of breathing, dizziness, constipation, dry mouth and insomnia, just to name a few. And yet we willingly continue to dump dose after dose into our bloodstream, hoping that one day we can finally be considered “normal.”
Not only have we become complacent with medicine, but we have also allowed pharmaceutical companies to dictate what medical conditions deserve enough attention for drug research. Many pharmaceutical companies choose to ignore conditions that they consider cosmetic in favor of manufacturing medicine that will return more profit. Sadly, many autoimmune disorders and ailments that affect the elderly are not considered profitable enough to produce medicine for. Companies will target teen acne, which is a big market because many teenagers are already concerned about their appearance, and chemotherapy drugs, which often start at an expensive price. However, these medicines will be far too general to cover any real issue relative to the problem.
For example, hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone, is typically treated with a daily pill of replacement steroids and hormones that varies in intensity. Patients must have blood drawn monthly to check hormone levels and then report back to their doctor to have their medicine levels adjusted. This random guessing game of medicinal intensity leads to unintended side effects such as extreme changes in weight, hot flashes and a general feeling of malaise. In many patients, the ups and downs of thyroid treatment prohibit them from enjoying the things that they normally would enjoy, and for what? The companies that market these medicines couldn’t care less about health as long as they sell product.
Furthermore, the reliance of Western medicine on antibiotics has created a perfect-storm scenario for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to rise again and re-infect entire populations. Already we have encountered antibiotic-resistant infections that should raise concern. Normally treatable sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise with new resistant strains. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus cases have risen because the bacterium has become resistant to typical antibiotics that would normally cure staph infections. The truth is that unchecked usage of antibiotics in the past has set us up for failure in the future.
While the HIV cure case was certainly a medical miracle, Western medicine has serious problems when it comes to addressing a majority of other issues. With a culture so obsessed with alleviating the symptom and not the cause, drugs that could very well be detrimental to our bodies have been produced in mass quantities, leading to the question: What pill should I take next? This self-inspired hypochondriac state of mind has only fueled the very thing that might be making us worse.
Vaughn Shirey is a freshman computer science major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected]