Ingrid Peschke, media and legislative advocate for Christian Science in Massachusetts, has written a blog post on health. You can also read this post at Metrowest Daily News on her syndicated blog, “Health Conscious.”
Smiling people dance in a field of summer flowers under a blue sky without a care in the world. Then a fast, cheerful voice-over begins listing some pretty awful symptoms that could occur if you take the drug being advertised.
Only the United States and New Zealand are permitted to directly advertise pharmaceutical drugs to consumers. These advertisements list side-effects that often sound far worse than the targeted problem. You’d think consumers would say, “No thanks, I’d rather just live with my condition.”
But what if people feel they have no choice?
A new study by the Mayo Clinic reveals that almost 70 percent of Americans are being prescribed at least one prescription drug. (US Becoming A ‘Medication Nation’ With Rampant Use of Prescription Drugs.)
To compound this problem, a Boston Globe article, Warning Patients of Drug Side-Effects May Trigger Symptoms, raises the question of the nocebo effect, sometimes referred to as the “evil twin” of the placebo effect.
Globe health reporter Deborah Kotz writes, “Recent research has demonstrated that when doctors and nurses inform patients about a laundry list of symptoms that a drug can cause — such as headaches, anxiety, dizziness, and nausea — they may unintentionally trigger these symptoms via the power of suggestion . . .”
The placebo effect, simply put, is a non-pharmacological procedure, such as a fake surgery or administering a saline solution or sugar pill, that produces an improvement in the patient’s condition. It’s not the pill or procedure that helps the patient, but the patient’s mental state that produces the result. The nocebo effect is just the opposite, producing a negative effect simply through the power of suggestion.
Increased administering and spending on prescription drugs is now reportedly the fastest-growing drug abuse problem in the United States.
Despite these disturbing trends, there are some signs that people, in growing numbers, are seeking relief from illness and pain through modalities that are more natural and don’t produce side effects. One of these is prayer.
According to Discovery Fit and Health, “Prayer is the number one complementary medicine for Americans, more than vitamins, herbs or therapeutic exercise like yoga.” And studies show that at least half of the American population prays about their health. (Read: The Positive Health Effects of Prayer, Huff Post.)
In his book, Prayer Is Good Medicine, Dr. Larry Dossey writes, “If the evidence favoring prayer is valid, as many experts believe, are physicians justified in ignoring it? If prayer works, how can we physicians justify not informing our patients that prayer may help?”
Prayer is certainly a prescription for health without negative side-effects. Take for example, Andy’s story.
Andy always thought he wanted to study medicine. He took pre-med classes in college and he was interested in what helped people get better. But he was uncomfortable with the prevalent use of drugs in medicine and their accompanying side-effects.
He had always been interested in the mental aspect of healing and welcomed learning about different ways this was applied, including the placebo effect. Just before he finished college and had to decide whether to go on to med school, he started reading a book written by Mary Baker Eddy called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. He thought the book would provide insights related to the mental aspect of healing he was so interested in.
What Andy discovered in his reading was something even bigger. Beyond simply the mental aspect, the book explained a spiritual component to health and healing related to divine laws that were more powerful than the physical laws he’d been studying in college.
Although Andy was accepted to several medical schools, he ultimately decided not to pursue a career in medicine. He found that relying on a spiritual practice for healing was very effective. He began to trust more and more in the divine laws of healing he was learning about, rather than in the various medicines he’d routinely taken since childhood. Before long he stopped taking these medications all together.
Andy says, “If anything there’s always been a beneficial side-effect and never a negative side-effect” from his prayer-based approach to health.
Dr. Dossey concluded in his book that “prayer is making a comeback in medicine.” And perhaps for good reason.