Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'd Like a Pill to Fix This...

Fast food medicine from a "doc in a box" seems to be the order of the day. We demand instant gratification. We text people because we don't want to wait for them to get out of a meeting. Worse, people answer these texts- while they are driving, and SHOULD be focused on the road.

Not surprisingly, people are demanding this same instant fix in medicine, and doctors are providing it. Got heartburn? Grab the purple pill. Can't sleep? Here's a sleeping pill. Too tired in the morning? Slam back a Starbucks. Caffeine and alcohol causing heartburn? Back to the purple pill! And...repeat.

Let me give a ridiculous example to illustrate my point. Say you decided it was fun to pick up a rock and hit your knee with it ten times per day (work with me, here.) Not surprisingly, your knee begins to hurt. You go to the doctor, and he or she prescribes a pain pill. Is this going to solve your problem? No, of course not! The problem is NOT the pain, the problem is you hitting your knee with a rock.

So, why is it any different when you go to your doctor with heartburn, and you get a prescription for an acid blocking pill instead of education to at least temporarily wean off caffeine, eliminate alcohol and nicotine, and avoid ibuprofen? (Hopefully, you'll get both, but I think we all know most people will pop the pills, get relief, and continue the habits that caused the problem.)

We've got to tackle this problem from both sides, and look for true solutions- not Band-Aids! Patients- ask your doctor if there are exercises or other behavior modifications that would help fix your problem before you try a prescription medicine. Please try NOT to ask for the pill that you saw on a commercial last week. Doctors- we need to spend the extra few minutes to offer these solutions, rather than grabbing our prescription pads immediately.

BOTTOM LINE: Many medical problems can be solved (and most improved) without taking a prescription, so make sure you understand the CAUSE of your medical issue so you can actively be part of the solution!