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Dangerous Drugs - The Over Medication of America (Part 1 of 3)

Right now, approximately 44% of Americans are taking prescription drugs. Odds are nearly half of the people reading this article are medicated, and according to the government, one in six of you take three or more prescriptions a day.

We're popping pills to lower our cholesterol and blood pressure, end our pain and relieve us of anxiety. We live in the age of miracles where it seems there is, or soon will be, a pill to take care of everything. There may be a few minor side effects, like heart attacks, stroke or death. But that's better than actually eating right and exercising, isn't it?

Drug companies are preying upon the public by offering "Two Weeks Free" or "Ask your doctor if our drugs are right for you." Doctors are getting squeezed by patients demanding the latest fix, turning our healthcare system into a bizarre case of "users" (that's us) and "pushers" (the drug companies).

Things are starting to change. In September of 2005, Vioxx was pulled from the market after being linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In November, Dr. David Graham, of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Drug Safety, stated that the asthma drug Serevent, cholesterol drug Crestor, painkiller Bextra and weight-loss drug Meridia were all too risky to be prescribed.

What can we, the anxiety-ridden, depressed, sleep-deprived heartburn suffers do? Plenty!

If you're diagnosed with high cholesterol, studies have shown that medications such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor can reduce the risk for heart attack, stroke and death in people who have coronary artery disease or diabetes. However, it seems fatty foods, alcohol and smoking are responsible for 80% of a person's risk of heart disease and almost all the risk of diabetes.

Follow a diet designed to reduce fat and cholesterol (such as the Ornish, Pritikin or Mediterranean-style diets), and you could be freed from the potential dangers and cost of taking a prescription drug the rest of your life.

A key to the food plan is eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and omega-three fatty acids found in fatty fish. In general, each additional serving of fruit or vegetables added to your daily diet can decrease your risk of heart disease by 4%. Imagine that, a 4% decline with every serving!

Anxiety and Depression - Prozac helped define this category, but recently Zoloft, also made by Pfizer, has been making inroads. Other options include Xanax and Paxil.

Traditional talk therapy has had some success treating anxiety and depression, but insurance companies didn't like paying for a lifetime of sessions when a cheaper pill became available. Never mind that the side effects of these drugs included impotence, palpitations and chest pain. Ironically, some people who take these medications "may experience worsening of their depression and/or the emergence of suicidal ideation and behavior (suicidality)..."

An extremely effective option has begun to emerge, known as cognitive behavioral therapy. It replaces classic psychotherapy with a series of 12 to 20 sessions designed to break down distorted thinking patterns common in anxiety and depression while teaching coping skills so patients can reclaim control of their lives. Patient trials have been as effective as drugs in treating panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and adult depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy also teaches coping skills so patients can prevent a relapse.

Many cases may still need medication, but cognitive therapy can help some people kick the prescription drug habit. Make sure to find a therapist trained in the latest techniques.

Next issue, I'll give you some insights into drugs for chronic pain, hypertension and heartburn.

Part 1 2 3

CAUTION: DO NOT stop, start or modify any drug program you may currently be on without consulting with your doctor or health care provider FIRST. This information is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should NOT be used to diagnose, treat or manage any disease or condition.

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