Over the years, many people have righteously challenged Big Pharma, arguing that it causes more problems than it solves, and is ultimately concerned with profit. Our current conventional medical system prioritizes symptom diagnosis and maintenance over prevention and cure, and thereby supports the mass dissemination of the pharmaceutical industry’s products. This contrasts with alternative forms of medicine, which focus on a holistic overview of the individual, and healing the root causes of illness. Herbalism and naturopathy are examples of this second approach. These approaches believe that such ailments as anxiety, depression, and digestive disorders can be treated with herbal supplements, diet, and relaxation techniques, as opposed to medication.
Although they are well-intended in their advocacy against dependence on Big Pharma’s medication, I have found through my own experience of working in the natural health industry that many of their arguments fall short, and cannot be generalized to people facing significant health challenges. Some of the spokesmen for this industry make it very clear that conventional medicine has its place in emergencies and more serious interventions; however, others have allowed their own personal, pragmatic biases to oversimplify the beneficial results that natural remedies can have for people.
When I was younger, I leaned towards anything dubbed "natural," as I was highly skeptical of Big Pharma’s symptom-prescription philosophy. However, over the years, I realized that the statement, "between a rock and a hard place," is highly applicable to many health situations. I’ve met people with life-crippling anxiety disorders—people who cannot even fathom the idea of eating, let alone, "eating a proper diet." People do not explicitly sign up for the negative side effects of prescription medications; they weigh it as a cost worth the management of their symptoms. And for many people suffering from anxiety, the fear of facing another panic attack creates a desperation that cannot be quenched by taking vitamins, sedative herbal supplements, meditation, or breathing exercises.
Through my months of working at a health food store, I attended trainings about natural health products, and listened to various company representatives rave about how these products are safer and more effective than pharmaceutical medications, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and benzodiazepines. A deep question arose within me: What makes a natural health product fundamentally better than a prescribed medication? We must investigate products—dig deeper, and find out where the facts are coming from.
Blair Scott is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, who loves writing poetry. In recent times, she has become interested in the analysis of various sources of health literature, and how consumers come to terms with this multitude of information. Blair currently works at a health food store, but aspires to become a freelance contract writer and editor.