Today's media report that over half of all insured Americans are taking prescribed medications on a regular basis for chronic ailments. (The Morning Call, 5/14/08, p. A4)
A few years ago I would have counted myself in the other half, and I resented the automatic question by health care providers "What meds are you on?" The assumption that everyone my age would be on medications implied that pharmaceuticals are a normal part of life, a reality that would obviously benefit the companies that produce these medications and spend millions of dollars to relentlessly promote them.
Then slowly I began to take a few medications regularly, to control my stomach pain and my asthma. Eventually I added prescription pills for hypothyroidism and ointments for lichen sclerosis. I take aspirin for arthritic pain and to keep my blood flowing through plaque-lined vessels. Frankly I'm thankful for the relief I get, and for the ability to do the things I want to do.
But I'm still very uneasy with the normalcy of 'taking meds.' I would argue that we do not lead normal lives in today's fast-paced, competitive, polluted world, where our food, water and air are compromised in so many ways. Instead of taking medications we would be better served by improving the conditions in which we live, something that we can do to a minor extent individually. However the policies of our government and the lifestyle models that dominate our media must be changed by a larger effort, starting with the dialogue and consciousness- raising that this blog intends.
I know that my medications are at least in part related to my lifestyle. When I went to Brazil for two months this past winter, after six weeks of breathing the air of the high central plateau, walking at least a mile every day, eating closer to the land, including milk, cheese and meat from grass-fed cattle, and living without the pressures and alienation that I've experienced in my US life, I was off most of my medications: no anti-histamines, Advair, aspirin, Prilosec.