It's Not Good For You -- Yet
(January 29, 2019)#
Alternative medicine can be a frustrating business. Everyone SAYS they don't like drugs and surgery and want to cope with their health issues in a less drastic fashion, but Drug-and-Surgery Land is indeed where most people end up. That’s true for many reasons, at least a couple of which would make clever newsletter headlines. But one important reason is that as soon as someone finds out that they have a health problem, they get scared. And when people are scared, they don't want to get all fancy, but want to act well within their comfort zone.
Here is a definition for “comfort zone”, which should make things a bit clearer. It’s “a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.” Whew! That is a fancy way of saying that people like to do what they’re used to doing, because it makes them feel safe.
But, what people are used to is not the entire story. In affluent societies like ours, people get bored easily and quickly. Novelty is appealing, even when dealing with scary health problems. Nothing TOO new or different, of course. But something a little spicier or hotter than what they’re used to, maybe. Something that might work better than everything that they already know about - that can sound pretty appealing.
So someone with a health problem is at least a little bit scared, and want a treatment that they’re comfortable with. But not drugs and surgery, because those things are unpleasant and, moreover, suggest that they are REALLY sick. It should be something that sounds healthy in itself, but that’s new and unusual enough to hold out the promise of a possible miracle.
And nothing meets the criteria of new yet familiar, healthy and possibly miraculous like a new kind of Pill.
Americans feel instinctively that pills are good. We’re comfortable with pills. We LIKE pills. You were sick, the doctor gave you a pill, you took it, you got better. (Maybe it wasn’t the pill that GOT you better – most health problems eventually go away by themselves, so doctors get credit for all kinds of things that they’re/we’re not entitled to – but the pill usually gets the credit.) When you were a kid, your mom gave you pills to make you healthier (kids' vitamins). She also gave you pills to fix you when you got sick. So you KNOW that pills are Good.
Therefore if you’re sick, or you are afraid of becoming sick, you’re ready to take a pill of some kind. But since you don’t like drugs and surgery, that pill shouldn't be a medication. A new kind of pill, that ‘s not a medication, that might possibly work better than anything else that’s come before – who knows? -- is just the ticket for most people.
But. The thing about New Pills is that they never, never, NEVER have much actual evidence to support the reason you are taking them. By definition. They just haven’t been around long enough to be studied properly. This has been the situation with vitamin D, vitamin E, beta carotene, resveratrol, and every single other one of the umpteen “miracle” substances that have come on the scene boldly and then abashedly departed. NONE of them lived up to the hype. That’s not a good track record to hang your hopes on.
What those losers have in common with the current crop of great white hopes, and what they will have in common with every one that ever comes along, is that there is just enough evidence to SUGGEST that MAYBE they might do the trick. There’s been one study. Or, one celebrity’s testimonial. Or one lost tribe’s shaman who says they've been using it for 3,000 years. Or something else that sounds exciting, and sexy, and hasn't been made ho-hum yet by any of that boring evidence or research that those dumb SCIENTISTS are always talking about.
A great example of this is CBD oil. If I may reference myself:
A little bit of evidence. A whole lot of hype. And a lot of worried, often desperate, people who are willing to pony up $50 each to give the new miracle a bit of a tryout. Because what have you got to lose?
Here are a couple of other examples:
There is some very interesting work done on each of these. There is no solid evidence for either of them.
What’s better than taking a New Pill, if you really want to fix something and aren’t just looking for something trendy to blow some spare cash on? Two boring things, which I will discuss next time. In the meantime, stay warm.
--dr. diane holmes
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