I had a doctor's appointment last Thursday that prompted me to learn about myself and better articulate what it is that makes me against drugs. I thought I'd share this because I suspect a lot of people have the same view and that it might be helpful for anyone else debating whether to take a pharmaceutical or not.
When the topic comes up, I typically just say "I don't like to take drugs" and that I prefer natural solutions, however, that's an oversimplification of what I really mean, which is that I don't like the things drugs typically stand for. These three things in particular:
1.) They don't solve the root problem, often "slapping a band-aid" on the situation by masking symptoms
2.) They have side effects and it's often a chemical completely foreign to the body
3.) The patient often becomes dependent on the drug (i.e. needing to take it for the rest of their life)
If a doctor is recommending that you take a pharmaceutical for a non-immediately-life-threatening condition, pause for a moment, and consider the above three points. If these three things come up as "not applicable" then congrats! You may have found yourself one of those rare drugs that will help you without screwing up the balance that the human body has so miraculously achieved through eons of evolution. Unfortunately, nearly all pharmaceuticals fail to meet all three of these criteria, and that is why I have felt so comfortable saying "I don't like drugs" as a blanket statement.
I should take a step back...we should FIRST be considering natural ways to fix things, because then there is no chance of 1, 2, or 3 being applicable. By taking drugs, we introduce risks, whether they be known (like the side effects you see listed on Warning labels), or unknown risks. Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made famous the phrase "unknown unknowns" in a speech about Iraq in 2002 - there are unknown unknowns when it comes to drugs too, because the body is so incredibly complex that we don't know the full extent of what we are doing to it when we add something unnatural. The body is capable of some amazing things, so before you add something unnatural, we should use food, habits, natural supplements, exercise, etc to fix our problems where possible.
A Real Life Example
Mine. It serves as an example, but also an update to those following along in my recovery.
That doctor appointment I had last week was with a bone density specialist in Manhattan named Dr. Joseph Lane. The two doctors I've worked with in the past, Dr. Sylvia Hesse (Orthopedic) and Dr. Ruth Johnson (Internist), have both been fantastic, but there are a few questions that they were unable to fully answer:
1.) Will my bone density ever be back to normal?
2.) How fast should I expect it to get better?
3.) Is there anything else I can be doing to make it better?
Dr. Lane was quickly able to answer number 1. His answer...my bone density will never be back to normal. The bone loss I've experienced is partially irreversible. If I take the natural route, I can expect to get from -2.0 standard deviations below the mean (where I am now, at the border of osteoporosis) to about -1.7, or -1.5 at best. At that level, he thinks I'd be able to resume normal daily living, but won't be able to train at a high level. Then he went to say that he thinks I could get back to -1.0, but only with drugs.
I knew he was going to say that.
He's a conventional doctor after all and the pharmaceutical companies have big bucks.
But I listened. He said that at -1.0, I would not be back to where I was before this mess (because "there are consequences [for what you've done]"), but that I could train at a high level again as long as I didn't do anything stupid (like have low testosterone or undereat).
Trying not to be skeptical, I prompted "so tell me about the drug." And what he said surprised me. He described a drug called Forteo that is almost identical to a hormone that our bodies already produce that prompts your osteoblasts to make bone faster, therefore outpacing your osteoclasts (which break down bone), thereby increasing bone density. I would take it for 2 years and then stop, supposedly keeping the bone density I've gained.
Ok, so that meets criteria number 1 because it actually fixes the problem, which is low bone density. It meets number 2 because it's not foreign to the body and has minimal side effects, and it meets number 3 because you don't become dependent on the drug. I didn't expect to seriously be considering any drug, but this one had me thinking.
Then the bad news. The drug is extremely expensive and not often covered by insurance. I could get 1-2 months covered, but after that no guarantees, and if I paid for it all out-of-pocket it would cost $3000 per month! That's completely unaffordable and not happening.
So then they told me about a second drug called Prolia, which is covered by insurance. It's completely foreign to the body and comes with a host of potentially serious side effects. It checks off numbers 1 and 3, but fails completely to meet number 2. That's out.
I went home with a lot to think about. The first thing I had to do was determine the validity of what he was saying with regards to bone loss being (mostly) permanent. I combed through the literature and asked favors of a number of my friends in the medical field to search as well. We found 2-3 case studies of women in their 20s who had lost their bone density due to the Female Athlete Triad, and then restored it using natural methods (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761891/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16177598), but we didn't find a single case study of a ~30 year old male who has been able to do it.
Favor: if anyone knows of any case studies where this has been done, please let me know!
Then I had a number of conversations with Lauren, my family, other athletes, friends, researchers and medical professionals, so that I could a.) hear their feedback and b.) have them act as a sounding board for me. To those who have helped me in that way, thank you!
I never thought I'd say it, but I'm going to take a drug. I'm going to see how much Forteo I can get covered by insurance and take it, even if it's for only 2 months. For those wondering, it's not banned by WADA. After that, I'll maximize the bone density gains I can make naturally and hopefully get to a place where my bone density doesn't affect my life and those around me, including our baby daughter who will born any day now!
I continue to reach out to bone density specialists so that I might discover something new to help me, but if Dr. Lane is correct that it's mostly irreversible, then I hope at least my story will convince others to take care of themselves. Check in on your hormone levels (both men and women!) and eat right, before it's too late. If you don't know how to keep your hormone levels strong, I may be able to help: http://www.ironmattbach.com/consultations and if you don't know what "eating right" means, then reach out to Nicci Schock: http://elevatebynicci.com/
Drugs have their place. Modern medicine has saved countless lives and should continue to be used in emergency situations, in situations where there is no natural fix, and when the drug meets all three of the criteria I outlined. That's my view. What's yours?