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Warnings for a Heavily Sedated Planet
Humans are teetering out of balance on a smorgasbord of overprescribed or abused drugs
Nicolas van der Leek (Nick)     Print Article 
Published 2008-06-14 11:10 (KST)   
In five years the global market for pharmaceuticals is estimated to top $1 trillion. Self-medication (over the counter medication) was valued at $90 billion in 2007, but is projected to increase to $95 billion in 2008 and to reach $135 billion in 2013.

While generic prescription drugs demonstrate the highest growth rate, the lion's share of the world's drug market belongs to branded prescription drugs, worth an estimated $553 billion this year. This in itself is illuminating.

According to The Guardian's Sarah Boseley: "Anxiety and stress have become acceptable diseases of the late 20th and 21st centuries, linked to fast lifestyles and taxing jobs 80% of GPs believe they are writing too many prescriptions for the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), as the class of drugs made famous by Prozac is known."

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Boseley, referring to a survey performed Dr. Foster (an independent medical research company), believes "the lack of other forms of help for those suffering from mild depression and stress leaves [doctors] no choice [but to prescribe antidepressants]."

This means that doctors rather than patients are behind a worrying mindset: treating symptoms with drugs rather than changing or even understanding the underlying thought and behavior patterns behind chemical changes in the brain.

Modern Mindset

While doctors certainly have a stake in culpability, the modern mindset of ordinary citizens is no less questionable. The average person is beset with troubling habits and delusions. It is primarily our narcissism that drives selfish and shortsighted short-term behavior. The result is that most people dwell in a fugue, a fog of unrealistic hopes, wishes and ambitions.

The Internet is an enabler for many of these fantasies, but instead of connecting people, most remain disconnected, isolated and disassociated.

Some of these behavior patterns -- specifically those lengthy periods sitting alone, hunched over a keyboard and a mouse or watching TV -- inevitably lead to obesity. This is a chronic problem in the United States in particular. And the obvious result of people becoming overweight and feeling unattractive is depression. According to the WHO:

- Depression is common, affecting about 121 million people worldwide.

- Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.

Of course, depression may also lead to obesity, or worsen as a result of weight gain. In any event, unhealthy habits (food, entertainment, work, etc.) have made it harder for ordinary people to remain healthy and balanced. When faced with a lack of energy, or unacceptable blue moods, low immunity or some other problem (insomnia, weight gain, etc.) attempts are made chemically to alter this level of homeostasis. Because behavior does not change, symptoms tend to persist, which tends to create a long-term dependency on these medications.

Cult of the Abuser

Our medication habits go far beyond questionable treatments for depression. Fat burners containing large amounts of caffeine are increasingly used and, in many cases, abused in order to speed up weight loss results. This mindset can only be described as "something for nothing." Feel better, lose weight, but don't break a sweat, just take a pill. Even ordinary caffeine is increasingly being abused.

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Caffeine is a bitter white crystalline alkaloid that acts as a psychoactive stimulant drug. It stimulates the central nervous system.

Ninety percent of Americans consume coffee every day, and many of these are also addicted. It's the perennial favorite pick-me-upper. It is a staple part of the everyday life of office workers everywhere. The popularity is obvious in the rise of global coffee chains like Starbucks, Seattle's Best and many others.

Besides use in fat burners, caffeine is also found in confectionary like ordinary chocolates. Caffeine is also the main active ingredient in energy drinks burners and beverages meant to enhance mental "vitality" and "boost energy." Caffeine is now linked to hippocampus-learning impairment, which causes long-term memory lapses -- hardly the sort of mental vitality most people are looking for.

Aspirin is also a cheap, common cure-all that most of the world's population uses at some time or other. Aspirin, thought to be safe, receives thousands of complaints on an annual basis. Chronic consumption leads to kidney stones, withdrawal headaches and mood swings. Even so, many use aspirin as a "comfort" drug to aid sleep and then become addicted to it. This also happens via its use as a cheap hangover cure and "make me feel better" drug.

Both of these apparently harmless drugs have an artificial impact on both the everyday human being's ability to function, and in ordinary mood altering.

Alcohol

Probably the most destructive of these conventional substances is alcohol. According to Wikipedia, 12 percent of American adults have had an alcohol dependence problem at some time in their life. In South Africa alone, consider these statistics from Sahealthinfo.org:

- Mortuary statistics (2002) -- Medical Research Council/UNISA: In major centers 45 percent of all non-natural deaths had blood alcohol concentrations greater than or equal to 0.05 grams/100 milliliters.

- Trauma unit statistics (2001) -- MRC: Thirty-nine percent of trauma patients had breath alcohol concentrations greater than or equal to 0.05 grams/100 milliliters.

- Alcohol and family violence (2000) -- MRC: Between one-third to a half of arrestees in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg charged with offences categorized as "family violence" reported being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the alleged offence.

Artificial Existence

While society and the media tend to compartmentalize substances, essentially any chemical that is used to enhance diet or homeostasis (usually in an extremely limited capacity) constitutes an artificial substance introduced into the body in order to affect "faster than natural" change. Thus, we might start at Aspirin, and on the way to Zoloft, we'd include substances we all consume every day: vitamins, birth controls, preservatives, colorants and cancer causing sweeteners in our food.

It's not a question of which chemicals or medicines we are using, but of which we aren't consuming with our daily bread.

And the more this subject is examined, the more it becomes clear that even those substances that claim or guarantee to improve our health cannot be relied on to do so. Shockingly, this is true across the pharmaceutical smorgasbord.

Boseley writes, "The findings are alarming in the wake of a decision by US drug regulators to demand a warning that some people might become suicidal on [antidepressants], and the decision by the British regulators to ban most of them from use in children for the same reason."

The Great Con

Vitamins and in particular antioxidants are now also suspected of having no benefits to extend longevity, and only limited benefit for those with compromised immunity. Double-Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling is largely responsible for perpetuating the misperception that vitamins can aid human health.

In the acclaimed 1970 book Vitamin C and the Common Cold, Pauling suggested 10 times the RDA for vitamin C could reduce the incidence of colds by almost half. His 1986 book, How to Feel Better and Live Longer, took these claims even further. Pauling said that mega-doses of vitamins "can improve your general health increase your enjoyment of life and can help in controlling heart disease, cancer, and other diseases and in slowing down the process of aging."

A Google search today on various vitamins brings up claims for cancer cures and other life enhancing benefits, most of which cannot be verified in clinical research trials.

According to Quackwatch.org's Dr. Stephen Barrett: "Although Pauling's mega-vitamin claims lacked the evidence needed for acceptance by the scientific community, they have been accepted by large numbers of people who lack the scientific expertise to evaluate them. Thanks largely to Pauling's prestige, annual vitamin C sales in the United States have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars for many years. The physical damage to people he led astray cannot be measured."

As it turns out, excessive intake of Vitamin C is carcinogenic and has also been linked to kidney stones. Researchers reviewing 68 clinical trials on the effect of antioxidants on life span reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that consumption of multivitamins (used singly or in combination) did not reduce the risk of premature death. Instead, the researchers concluded, a slight increase in risk of premature death resulted from using antioxidant supplements.

No Worries Drug

The so-called harmless recreational drug marijuana has recently been reported to have reached potency levels not seen for 30 years. Teenagers using this drug regularly are feared to increase their susceptibility to long-term mental disorders by 40 percent.

According to a Harvard Law Web site: "Marijuana is at the root of many mental disorders, including acute toxic psychosis, panic attacks (one of the very conditions it is being used experimentally to treat), flashbacks, delusions, depersonalization, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, and uncontrollable aggressiveness. Marijuana has long been known to trigger attacks of mental illness, such as bipolar (manic-depressive) psychosis and schizophrenia."

The site also notes: "Marijuana use can accelerate the progression of HIV to full-blown AIDS Patients with weak immune systems will be even less able to defend themselves against the various respiratory cancers."

Marijuana is commonly known as the precursor for further drug abuse (heroin, cocaine, etc.).

Marijuana is the perfect example of our drug delusion, where it is commonly used and believed to be "good." This fugue appears to have the majority of human beings trapped and thus not entirely "conscious." Many people see it as harmless despite the fact that it is closely associated with the opposite -- madness. Who can think of a worse side effect?

In the same way, the current planet-wide insanity is based on a "something-for-nothing" psychology. That we can somehow escape our troubles by ingesting a tablet. That by feeling better we somehow become better, and have a license to continue to act the way we have.

Instead, the old habits that cost nothing turn out to be the best. Eat balanced meals, get enough rest and sleep, exercise, and drink water. Our attempts to get around these basics are what get us into even further trouble. When your body is tired, when you feel unhappy, pay attention to those feelings. Masking the symptoms with medication does not solve the problem or change the unhealthy source behavior that causes it. The problem is our greedy sense of wanting and demanding more than what is a healthy balance for our bodies or minds.

The worldwide pharmaceutical industry is one of the most stable and profitable industries in the world, despite having to a large extent the opposite impact on its dependents. There is a growing sense now that on planet Earth, for human beings, the party that was an extraordinary period of personal wealth and self-indulgent excess is ending. We've been trying to deny the signs. Our burdened, drugged and distracted species is ill prepared for challenges that wait as we leave the era of cheap energy.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nicolas van der Leek

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