Mind Over Meds: Dr. Andrew Weil’s New Book

MindOverMed“How many medications do you take? How about your parents? Your children?” These are just a few of the helpful questions asked by Integrative Medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil. He addresses America’s huge problem of over-medication, appropriate use of medications, preventive self-care, and also alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, in his new book, Mind Over Meds. Subtitled, Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better – And When To Let Your Body Heal On Its Own.

Dr. Weil, and many others are alarmed by America’s overmedication and by the disabilities and deaths caused by improper use of pharmaceutical drugs. Americans now take ten times the medications they did in 1950. The doctor reminds us that most conditions get better by themselves and advocates a conservative approach to using medical care.

Dr. Weil gets to the central aspects of well-being immediately. Instead of the all-too-common short appointment ending with a prescription, he immediately looks at nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction. Breathing is one of his first concerns, typically ignored, except for a quick listen to the lungs, in a normal physical exam. Our behaviors and choices about food, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors are the primary bases of personal well-being. Appropriately, he is big on exercise:

Physical activity, if done prudently, is good for practically all health issues.

Nutrition is given equal importance, along with skills to reduce stress..

When I write a treatment plan for a patient, my first recommendations always concern diet: what not to eat, what to eat more of, how to change eating habits to improve health. As a primary treatment strategy, dietary change can be remarkably effective.

When faced with an illness, Dr. Weil encourages an attitude of self-reliance, prudent use of medical care, especially pharmaceuticals, and exploration of alternative medications. For example, upon catching a common cold, a bad outcome would be to quickly visit the doctor, pressuring him or her for gut-disrupting antibiotics, and infecting other at the medical office with your cold virus in the process.

Antibiotics are useless for colds (caused by viruses which antibiotics don’t) and for many other conditions for which they are over-prescribed. So important is this antibiotic problem that Weil begins his audit of commonly used drugs with these (sometimes lifesaving) pharmaceuticals. He also clarifies when such pharmaceutical drugs are totally appropriate. Other chapters discuss different drugs and people taking them, such as the aging and children.

One area the book slightly disappoints was the scant discussion of medical cannabis for substituting off many of these medications, and for providing effective treatments where pharmaceutical meds do not.

One the whole, this book should be must read for anyone before they use the medical care system, and especially before agreeing to a course of treatment with pharmaceuticals. Any patient will be tremendously empowered, and will be far safer, if they have this excellent knowledge base of how and how not to use medical care.

 

 

Your lungs on cannabis. Major study in JAMA finds no damage!

A major new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA finds no reduction of lung function in cannabis smokers. The research followed a huge sample (5000) over 20 years, including data on consumption of marijuana and tobacco cigarettes. Cigarette smokers were found to lose lung function over the two decades. Smokers of marijuana lost no lung function; intriguingly, they had slightly greater lung capacity than subjects who smoked nothing! This effect was attributed to the smoking technique of the cannabis users.

This research is in line with other findings on the relative innocuous (even healthful!) effects of marijuana smoke. Dr. Donald Taskin of UCLA is one of the planet’s most respected researchers on the effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs. After decades of studying possible cancer causing effects on the lungs, Dr. Tashkin published his results in 2005. Surprisingly, he found no increase cancer risk, even in heavy, long term marijuana smokers.  His data even indicated a protective effect of THC against cancer.

The article reports that Tashkin’s “own study of heavy, habitual marijuana smokers — people who smoked the equivalent of a joint a day for 50 years —  found no harmful effect on lung function.” Still, Dr. Tashkin cautions,  “The smoke in marijuana contains thousands of ingredients, many of which are toxic and noxious and have the potential, at least, to cause airway injury,” Tashkin says. “In an ideal world, it would be preferable to take it in another form.”

The inhalation of any smoke, from Marlboro cigarettes to the fumes of wood stove, is less healthy than breathing fresh air. Although cannabis smoke may be safe from raising cancer risks and not reducing lung function, using a vaporizer may still be a safer alternative. Virtually nothing is burned in releasing medical cannabinoids from cannabis by vaporization.