Thursday, December 1, 2011

Doctors, Pharmaceuticals, and Why I'm Leery

A few weeks ago, I heard a television promo that was meant to be alarming. It was regarding the next “Dr.Oz” episode, and it featured a voice-over that could have brought a person out of a coma: THE INSOMNIA CRISIS, it began. And then: WHY DO WE HAVE IT?

(Loud promos, maybe? Just sayin’.)

Seriously, though, I could answer that “insomnia question,” and perhaps I will in another post. But right now, I want to talk about doctors.

I do not think that they are God.

Not even when they come with the name of OZ.

In fact, I think when a doctor’s name is “OZ,” it’s a little creepy.

In fact, I should tell you (and Oprah) that I avoid doctors whenever possible.

I also turn off the radio when there’s a story about some current epidemic and its manifestations.

I figure, if I don’t know the manifestations, then I won’t exhibit any.

I figure, I’m best off not harboring fear.

And in my opinion, doctors – and pharmaceuticals – primarily exist to fill us with fear.

…Okay, okay, I admit it. I have an issue with doctors (and pharmaceuticals).

Let me tell you why.

When I was a junior in prep school, my mother still took me to the man who had been my pediatrician. Nothing wrong with that scenario. It made sense to all of us.

Problem was, though, said pediatrician was weight-obsessed. He had charts on his walls, and he seemed to worship them.

At the time, I was probably about 15 pounds over what his chart recommended for someone my age and height. And, in his eyes, this made me “fat.”

Never mind the fact that I was built strong and could maneuver a 1200-pound horse over a course of 3-foot jumps. No… I was “fat.”

So, said doctor prescribed a pill – new on the market. It seemed a miracle drug.

Mom agreed to the prescription, and so off we went.

Off we went, into a semester when I would quickly drop a great deal of weight but not remember what I learned in class. Off we went, into a semester when this drug – this drug that was constructed to “tell my brain” that it wasn’t hungry – would prevent me from eating. Off we went, and several months later (after I’d stopped taking the drug), I developed unusually swollen ankles that caught the attention of a nurse on staff at my prep school.

And so off I went, to the prep school’s doctor…

The prep school’s doctor ran a few tests, and then, he called my mom.

When he made that call, he had probably assumed that she knew I’d been sent to him that day. (She didn’t.)

“We’ve ruled out heart failure!” he told her, over the phone.

“Great,” she said, completely at a loss. “On whom?”

The prep school doc filled her in, and once he had clarified to Mom that he’d run some tests on me, he also let her know that he wanted to put me in the hospital for a day or two. For more tests.

And so, to the hospital I went.

I was a senior at that point. I’d just turned 17.

I don’t remember the tests or the details.

I do, though, remember the bottom line.

Prep school doc found the test results inconclusive, and so – because he had to draw a conclusion, I suppose, he decided that I was “carrying around too much weight.”

And so he prescribed more diet pills…


Okay, my first point: doctors who are working with minors should NEVER be allowed to prescribe diet pills. Ever. Diet is behavior, which is therefore wed to psychology, and while psychotropic drugs have their place, individuals should always and first be encouraged and empowered to change their behavior without drugs. Moreover, a drug that instructs the brain to tell the body it isn't hungry is inherently disrespectful of that brain.

I think that’s what pisses me off most about the whole pharmaceutical franchise. It is the lack of respect. It is the drug companies saying, “You don’t have the capacity to change who you are, but WE do. We can change you! We can help you!”

Powerlessness is not a prescription I want to fill, thank you very much.

Okay, my second point: that drug that my pediatrician put me on when I was 16? That drug – that drug that was oh-so-new to the market – was Pondimin, which turned out to be the fatal half of Phen-Fen.

The fatal half.

I’m lucky to be alive.

I still have a photograph taken of me from the summer I stopped taking Pondimin. Never have I looked so swollen, from head to toe.

And I was only 16 at the time.

I’ll reiterate what I said before: doctors should not be permitted to give “diet drugs” to minors. Ever.

I know, I know, the obesity epidemic is intense these days among children and adolescents.

But still: it’s not about drugs. It’s about behavior and paying attention.

That is our charge.

Change our behavior and pay attention.

I’m not saying that all pharmaceuticals are bad and no one should take them. But: if it is in our power to make the changes that otherwise inspire a drug prescription, then we should.

And if we don’t?

Then incompetent doctors and profit-seeking pharmaceutical companies will continue to have all the power.

Haven't they had enough already?


Cynthia said...

So glad you are better. Sorry you had to go through that. Everything in moderation. :-)

Jacqueline Howett said...

I don't believe in any meds. I believe food is meds. I'm a homepathic at heart. Eat lots of fruit and veges, beans, and nuts like walnuts. Cut the sugar and stay away from as much processed food as possible. Drink plenty of water and add lemon juice or lime and I swear you'll never have a weight problem.

Its called living like you were detoxing your body daily, the organic way. Before long, you will be doing some of these things that will in turn, during time, take you to the next leval.

The ocassional cake with icing etc., should'nt then be a problem!

Living a healthy life they say is also about interacting socially, like tennis pals etc., not that I do, but I hope too. Enjoying life out there with others in real life-yeah?

Coffee in moderation as this makes your kidneys work too hard. Always flush with plain water.

Some home excerise with light dumb bells for five mins a day is what I do when sitting too long at the computer, and a very short walk.

By the way, your blog reads like a novel. Its good! Maybe you can't see it. But if you start putting in some shape with 'he said, and she said,' and the drama flow, you just might see it.

Have a great week!

Marie said...

You go girl, I totally support your way of thinking...thank God you lived through that, gesshhhh, that makes me sick to hear...Not sick enough for a Dr. or a drug though, ha!

cj Schlottman said...


I'm so glad you survived. This is an important message, and I want to spread it around. Mind if I link to it from The Red Sweater? You have inspired me to write a post about my own encounters with doctors when I was a teenager.

Thanks for opening this door for me.


Linda Medrano said...

Katie, I am very happy to say that my doctor is a very "less is more" kind of guy. He seems to take the "Do no harm" mantra very seriously. There are times when meds can improve or even prolong our lives, but the idea that any idiot would give diet pills to a teen is beyond me. If we were talking about 100 pounds over weight, maybe more drastic measures make sense, but for 20 pounds? This is absurd. Still, I can't blame a parent for trusting what a doctor tells them. Today, I doubt this would be happening. At least I hope it wouldn't.

Andrea said...

It's really hard to understand what these guys were thinking, but let me just join the chorus of happy readers who are glad they didn't knock you off with their goofy ideas about how you ought to look in order for them (and their charts) to be content. You're beautiful, Katie.