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Staying Medication Free in the US

About 80% of Americans take OTC medication, and 50% are on some sort of prescription medication. It’s not for me to say if this is good or bad. But in my practice, I attract a group of patients whose goal is staying medication free. Let’s unravel that a bit.

Prescription Medication Usage in the US

The most commonly prescribed medications are:

  • atorvastatin (cholesterol)
  • lisinopril (hypertension)
  • levothyroxine (thyroid)
  • metformin (diabetes)
  • albuterol (asthma)
  • amoxicillin (antibiotic)
  • fluoxetine (antidepressant)

And quite a few healthcare experts believe that we are overprescribing these medications. Which, naturally, puts many patients on guard. Their goal is not to make it into the overprescribing statistic.

Because these medications are cheap and because they are tied to lucrative ICD10 billing codes, it creates a false incentive for the healthcare system. With the patient caught in the middle of it.

You aren’t bad for taking a prescription medication you need.

Are Prescription Medications Bad?

I don’t believe prescription medications are bad. You aren’t bad for taking them, and you aren’t weak for taking them. Being on medication is not a sign of a failing body.

These are powerful images to burn into the occipital lobe. Your definition of health is and should be different from that of another. What you want your body to do for you is different. To meet that goal, what are you willing to do or not do?

A prescription medication is a chemical synthesized in a lab, almost always derived from a natural substance. It is meant to affect one single pathway in your body.

When you lift weights, you are doing something unnatural and synthetic—an intervention meant to create one particular effect. The side effect is potential biceps tear and soreness, while the intended result is preventing muscle wasting.

Staying Medication Free

If the goal is to stay medication free, focusing on the top 7 list mentioned above would make sense. If you can avoid taking those, then you’ll likely stay med free. Again, is that a worthwhile goal? It’s worth figuring out.

Hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, depression, sinus infections, asthma, and hypothyroidism, with the last 2 likely not so bad since most patients don’t mind taking meds for such conditions.

The first five conditions are mostly lifestyle conditions—we know that to be true. Of course, genetic conditions cause them, and no matter what lifestyle changes you make, you may still have to deal with them.

What is the accomplishment if you can somehow stay medication free? Are you healthier? Feel better? More productive? Suffering less?

Taking Unnecessary Medication

Taking medication you don’t need will undoubtedly have unnecessary side effects. For example, if your blood pressure is high because you don’t get enough sleep, taking an ACE inhibitor like lisinopril will only crash your BP when you are actually rested. This will make you feel rather exhausted during moments of rest.

Statins have been reported to cause fatigue and numbness and increase the risk of developing diabetes. But why would you take a medication when you don’t need it?

A good physician can help you determine your risk of developing a complication from a particular condition. Based on that, you can be fairly certain whether you need medication.

Side Effects of Necessary Medication

If your blood pressure is so high that it’s destroying your kidneys and brain vessels, lowering your blood pressure should make you feel better and improve your life quality.

If the plaque in your arteries is causing vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction, then lipid-lowering medication prevents further buildup and reverses those conditions.

The side effects you experience are much lower than the side effects of the disease itself. That’s where medications shine.

Overprescribing in the US

Digital Nomad Health’s first task is to assess patients’ health risks of developing diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and cancer using our internal risk tools. Next, we review their medication to cut out unnecessary prescription medications. This is a much tougher task than you’d think.

Imagine being the doctor who takes the risk of telling the patient they don’t need medication. Should something bad happen, who would be held responsible?

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