Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pop A Pill

As I knew it would be when I wrote it, my opinion on fibromyalgia sufferers and their new drug, wasn't received very well. Americans have become so used to popping a pill for whatever ails them, that when you tell them that it won't work, personal attacks will surely follow.

It isn't that I have a lack of compassion, it's just that in the long run I don't see a successful outcome. What I do see is a lot of people making money off of other people's suffering. Instead of lifestyle and behavioral changes, pop a pill. Instead of putting yourself in another person's shoes, pop a pill. Instead of living your life, pop a pill.

Three years ago I was suffering through a bout of depression and was considering taking an antidepressant. Life didn't look like it was going to get better (and it hasn't) so I thought maybe if I just don't let it bother me so much, maybe it will go away. I wallowed in that for a few weeks and then one morning I turned on the computer and there was this story about a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

I spent most of the morning looking at maps, calculating distances and reading every piece of news on the disaster. Tsunamis have always been one of my biggest fears so I knew how devastating it was likely to be. With each hour the news got worse.

I called a former friend but she said she didn't feel like getting up yet (it was after 1pm by then) and that she didn't think it was that big a deal. Hey, it was only 283,000 people, no biggie. I remember looking at the phone and thinking, wow!

What I couldn't remember, was what I was depressed about. It just wasn't that important. No matter how much my life sucks (and it does), it doesn't suck as bad as the majority of the people in the world. At least not yet and hopefully it never will. Not all depression is that easy to ignore.

The drug companies won't miss me because they have so many other willing customers. Never mind that the side effects are sometimes as bad as the original problem (Alli, I'd rather be fat than poop my pants) or that it could be fatal (Vioxx), cause heart defects (Fen-phen) or birth defects (Thalidomide, yes it's back and it's being used for leprosy).

PZ Myers likes to bag on woowoo medicine (chiropractic, acupuncture, etc, sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't but I read him every day) but so called traditional medicine has its own problems. Like any other profession you have good diagnosticians and bad ones. Doctors, plumbers, electricians, acupuncturists, mechanics or computer technicians, if you can't diagnose the problem correctly, it can't be fixed. By way of example, how many episodes has House tried out more than one diagnosis before he gets it right? Always makes you glad you weren't the patient, doesn't it?

People are more than charts and statistics and western medicine likes to disregard that. Chinese medicine, properly practiced, is supposed to take the whole person into account. This includes their living arrangements, eating, sleeping and sexual habits, as well as their perception of themselves. So when I see people buying into the Lyrica propaganda, my BS meter goes off.

FMS in Chinese Medicine is usually considered to be a wind damp problem and most have some heat involvement. Wind is used to describe the migrating pain and damp (like a swamp) for the headaches, dizziness, numbness and tingling. What makes it so difficult to treat is the heat. If you clear heat too fast, the dampness becomes more predominant and exacerbates their pain symptoms and if you drain the damp too fast, the heat flares higher and sleep becomes nonexistent which makes their emotions even more unstable.

The side effects from Lyrica mimic some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and that can't possibly be good. The weight gain will definitely exacerbate the symptoms that are related to dampness, so those FMS sufferers will not see the improvement they hope and may feel that their situation is worse than before.

Regulating the sleep cycle and not by using pills, increasing exposure to sunlight and changing certain habits are likely to have a more beneficial effect than popping a pill, but that requires active participation and let's face it, popping a pill is much easier.

And if that one doesn't work, there are bound to be others. Excuse me while I go put on my flak jacket.



  1. Hi again Deb. You have the right approach to depression imo. There are more than 6 billion people on the planet, and 99.999% of them would allow you to chop off an arm if they could have the North American lifestyle- even at the poorest level. There is a certain type of person who likes to wallow in the self pity. Whether this is a chemical imbalance that can be adjusted internally or not, I'm not sure. It can't hurt to imagine your self in the shoes of the vast majority of the planet though.

  2. Some people really weren't happy with my opinion and they let me know. It's just been my experience and it's based on my observations. Which just so happen to be part of the skill set required to be a good physician. From any type of medicine.

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