What if taking medication, prescription pills, supplements, and drugs makes health worse?
Who profits by selling us on the idea that taking pills helps us feel better? How can we know the truth without testing the results in our own lives?
Since I could walk, I took some form of a pill daily mostly in the form of a chew-able vitamin. At first glance, this might seem like a good idea to make sure I was getting all my vitamins and minerals every day. My parents felt they were doing the right thing after at some point having been sold on the value of taking supplements themselves which they have done every day I have known them with a vitamin in the morning.
The problem is that taking that vitamin every morning left me feeling like I could then eat whatever else I wanted that day. Ice cream? Sure. A hamburger? Why not? I already got what I needed in that pill this morning. Who needs fruits and vegetables for their nutrients and minerals when I already got them in that supplement?
Feeling like we can shortcut our body's nutritional needs leads us down a rabbit hole that many of us escape from only at the body's death. As long as I took my supplements, I consistently felt like it might be a "good idea" to eat fruits and vegetables but I really did not need to. My eating was focused completely on what I was being sold and what I thought I liked. What the food did to my body rarely concerned me.
When I started eating mostly whole plant foods after reading How Not To Die, I had the opposite realization. Why do I need to take a supplement every day when I am getting all I need out of what I eat? In seeing that, I finally broke out of what I now see as a lie that we are sold for profit. Selling people on the value of taking pills allows for huge profits because the supplements, pills, and drugs we take often cheap to make. If that is not enough, once we are sold on the idea of taking pills we are often giving up our own attention to whatever the pill is supposed to help with which leads to the mindset of take a pill to fix it being habit forming even starting with a supplement.
What if taking medication, prescription pills, supplements and drugs, makes health worse?
We have this assumption, at least in my culture in the USA, that taking things given to us will help with whatever problem we're having. My simple purpose of this is to ask, what if it doesn’t?
What if, universally, these pills and medications we put in our body, consistently make things worse?
I'm not saying there isn't one or two exceptions, but what if most of them actually hurt us more, actually screw the insides of our bodies up even more.
What if we consistently just switch one problem for another by taking them, and if we didn't take any medications at all, would we feel better?
Get the answers to these questions in this post or as a video from day 147 of Happier People Podcast on YouTube?
I've found that just asking these kind of "what if" questions has helped motivate me to take action on things in my life that I've often been unable to do anything about another way.
For example, I played 20+ thousand hours of video games in my life, and I often struggled with periods of addiction. The one question that motivated me to try not playing video games was asking, “What would my life look like if I didn't play any video games?”
I realized that I didn't even know what my life would look like if I didn't play any video games and I was curious to find out. Now I'm very happy four months later with how my life looks with no video games.
What would life look like without taking any medications?
What would life look like without taking any medications, supplements, pills, prescriptions, anything?
It might look like my life does today.
I don't take any pills, I'm not completely opposed to it under every single circumstance.
I have not taken any pills or supplements for maybe a year or so. I might have given up my daily vitamin supplement, six, eight, or nine months ago now. I don't take pain medications, even Advil or Tylenol. I also don't drink alcohol or smoke marijuana.
I pretty much eat food, and then drink ground-up tea. That's what I put in my body because these things have a long time of use in the human body. You can assume if they've been used for thousands of years that the body has at least had time to adjust to them.
Even things like alcohol, the body often has adapted to process that, even though it doesn't belong in the body. The body’s had thousands of years of experience with it, which maybe is why I'm an alcoholic and it just says, "No, no more for you!"
What I've found is that I personally feel better if I don't take any medications at all.
There are two different approaches to this.
First, I want to be sensitive. I've noticed that the more I’ve took pills in my life, the less sensitive I was. For example, I've used to have headaches and I used to regularly take Advil and Tylenol for those headaches. The problem was that those headaches were there to tell me to slow down, to do something different and by numbing the pain I wasn't getting the message, and guess what? I kept getting more and more headaches.
Now, since I stopped taking Advil, I realized that I need other solutions to help with the headaches. I've started getting massages. Now, guess what? I very rarely have a headache and when I do have one, I respect it.
I lay down, I sit down, I slow down instead of trying to push through it. A lot of us get to feeling bad because we push the limits on what our bodies want us to do.
Taking medications to numb the pain allows us to push even farther away, which then whenever you have to come back to center may mean a drastic recall in terms of a hospitalization on a huge sickness.
That's exactly what I got for most of my life. I used to just throw down an Advil whenever I felt bad. In fact, I often would have weak side, take a bunch of Advil because I’d get drunk, I'd have a hangover, I'd throw down a bunch of Advil to get through the day. I'd take maybe one day off, and then I do it all again the next day or two. I got desensitized where I could take three or four different Advil to get the same effect it used to take to get one.
What I've noticed consistently is that the people who don't take any or almost no medications are healthier, happier and have the kind of lives I want. The people I know, who consistently take a lot of medications are less happy, less satisfied, and have more health problems. That's just what I've noticed personally.
Depression and thinking about suicide
Look around and ask what people are doing. Look at different periods of your life. I've had a lot of days when I've had depression, and not feeling just a little bit bad, but feeling like I really wanted to kill myself, like I couldn't stand this disgusting body anymore.
I'd be thinking about suicide for hours like, "Maybe I jump off a roof, well, that's 10 stories, you might not die, you might just get disabled, you might land in a bush. Well, maybe, I'll go buy a gun." I did go buy a gun, and then, "Well, should I use it?"
I had lots of days depressed, and thank God, I never got medications for it because one little thing I've seen recently is that most of the people who went on shooting rampages have been taking psychiatric medication.
It seems to me that a lot of these medications simply double down on whatever problem we're having. If you just don't do anything about the problem, it will often regress to the mean. I've had lots of problems, little temporary annoyances that when doing nothing about them, they regressed to the mean.
I've had some calluses on my foot that were annoying, and simply changing shoes and doing nothing else, they regressed to the mean and went away. A lot of our things like depression reflect that we are making choices in our lives that we don't like. Depression is a sign that a different approach needs to be taken like to stop going to that boring job you hate every day and maybe you wouldn't be depressed. Stop doing all these things that are causing you to be depressed.
For me things like watching porn would lead to me being depressed, and if I stop watching porn, I stop getting depressed. A lot of the solutions are really simple, but when we take medication, we essentially double down.
If you play Blackjack the objective is to try to get your cards as close to 21 as possible. When you get an 11, it's often desirable to double down. This means you double your bet and you only get one more card.
If you get a 10 and hit 21, this looks like a really smart decision. You get that 10 that comes out, you are at 21, and you win unless the dealer manages to pull 21. In case you push, you get your money back. Doubling down in that exact situation seems to work very good. What happens if you get it too though? You’ve got 13, unless the dealer busts, you lose. Lots of time doubling down in Blackjack causes you to lose you money twice as fast especially if you make poor double down decisions, like I've seen lots of people do with Blackjack table.
The dealer will have up a 6 and they'll double down on a 9, and they'll end up with 11. Then they're all mad when the dealer has 17 and takes twice as much of their money.
What medication seems to do to a lot of us is double down on whatever original problem. You're depressed, okay, you're going to get some medication that's going to double down on your original problem. You'll be numbed out most of the time, but then you'll really lose it. Whenever you short circuit your medication and go past that or when you mix up alcohol and other drugs with it, then you actually will go shoot somewhere up instead of just thinking about it. Or you actually will take your own life instead of just thinking about it.
I'm grateful that I've experienced most of the depression in my life in an unaltered state or in a hangover where thankfully, I was so sick, I could barely move, which is a deterrent from actually taking any kind of action. I'm grateful today that I very rarely have depression in my life and I am almost certain, based on looking at others around me who have similar problems and how they deal with them, that if I had started taking medication, I would have made things considerably worse.
How are you so happy?
I frequently get people ask, "How are you so happy?" We associate things like taking medication with being happy. The normal state of a human being is happy and taking medication often makes it challenging to get into that normal state in exchange for being numb.
I know a lot about being numb and self-medicating, because I self-medicated with alcohol for 11 years. It is much more powerful than some medications, not as powerful as others. It was very effective at self-medicating. I used to use alcohol to change how I felt, to numb the pain of my existence.
What I've found is that without self-medicating, I'm forced to deal with the pain and despair of life. Dealing with that pain and despair, that has allowed me to walk into a place of daily happiness and serenity.
I get lots of people who ask, "Are you on something? You must be smoking something." How I am is the natural way a human being is supposed to be essentially. If you look at children, this is how children who haven't been horribly abused and neglected, and deprived are.
My daughter is a year and half old and she is happy almost all day every day except for brief periods of getting upset with something which quickly pass. That's pretty much how I am most of the time. I'm like a child. I'm happy most all day, every day with no additional pills or substances. Then, sometimes I get a little frustrated, I cry and whine, piss and moan about for often maybe 1, 5 or 10 minutes, at the longest usually now an hour or a few hours, and then it passes, and I'm back to happy.
What I've found is that there's some desire in me to be sick, and that even with nearly three years of sobriety and going to AA every day, and seeing how much better my life is without self-medicating, there's some part of me that wants to do it anyway. There's some part of me that loves being sick, that loves self-medicating, that loves to just zone out and check out. I'm lucky that I only rarely had a doctor's permission, because that's a powerful mental thing. There’s no doctor that ever told me to drink.
Hurting my back as a police officer
When I hurt my back as a police officer, they gave me things that produced a similar result to drinking. Thank God I didn't get addicted to them, probably because I thought drinking was a lot more fun. I thought mixing the drinks up and all that was more fun than just taking a pill and getting high that way.
I called my mom that night and I was sober at the time for like a month or two.
Mom asked, "You're drinking again?"
I responded, "No, why?" and she's said, "Well, your speech is all sore."
I said, "Well, I just took the medication they gave me."
Guess what happened?
I stopped taking the medication they gave me weeks before it ran out.
Because my back was healing slower.
At least in my experience, taking these pain medications numb the pain. I've struggled with back pain in my life for several different times, which I've got a very good explanation for that in my stand-up comedy, along with getting injured at work.
I have a couple of times gotten into that horrible loop of taking medication, and then things didn't get better.
So what's the solution?
"Go back to the doctor and ask for more help."
No, the solution for me was to stop taking the damn pills.
Once I stopped taking the medication my back quickly got better both times. When I was taking the pills at night, my back was getting screwed up in positions, which if I would have not taken the pills would have hurt too much to sleep in that position, but with taking the pain meds, I slept in positions that screwed my back up even more, and then I kept having worse and worse back problems. I very rarely know people who have ongoing chronic pain who don't take pills for it also.
In my personal experience taking pills for chronic pain makes it worse, and I've got plenty of experience with knowing other people qualitatively with this same result. It's just like drinking alcohol, at first it provides a little bit, if not, for me it provided a lot of immediate relief, but overall, it makes things worse. Every drink I took made my life worse. I took tens of thousands of them, and my life from the first time I drank alcohol to the last time, was almost unrecognizable.
I was a fairly healthy normal kid with a few little issues and after 10,000 drinks I was pretty F-ed up.
I'm doing a stand-up comedy on all these messed up stories that I made as an alcoholic, even that ended up before that.
What I've noticed is that when I have pain, it's there to tell me something, it's there to tell me, "Look, Jerry, you need to do something a little bit of a different way."
I've had some pain because I go for an hour-long walk every night. I've changed shoes, I've started trying to walk a little bit different ways.
When I have pain now, I try to respect that it's telling me something.
If I get a headache today, it's because I'm handling my day piss-poor, and that's the truth in my life. If I'm getting a headache, it's often because I'm stressed out or alternatively, sometimes I'll get a headache just because I exercised and went to the gym. If I didn't go exercise, workout or something, and I get a headache, I'm all stressed, I'm all messed up, I need to slow down and relax.
This is what I do. I get a headache, then I slow down, lay down on the couch, "What am I doing? I've made this problem."
Now, if you take pills for it, like I did for many years, it just gets worse. I used to have lots of stress, tension neck headaches, very frequently. In fact, I remember one of my rationalizations for drinking was that I'd rather drink alcohol to deal with my headache than Advil.
Most of the time it worked, sometimes it made the headache a lot worse. Chronic pain is brutal though to break the cycle, because if you've been taking something for 10 or 20 years, it's not a simple matter usually of just cold turkey stopping, you may need some serious help, especially if your doctor's been giving it to you for 10, 20, 30 years.
I don't know anyone who's been taking pain medication a long time who doesn't need some help or who can just easily quit unless it's just a little bit, an Advil here and there.
It's challenging when someone you trust like a doctor tells you to take these medications, you take them and your personal experience with them is that they don't do good things in the body.
How do we end up getting prescribed these medications?
It's not that doctors are evil people, doctors are good people trying to help, and the doctors have learned in school, and are told, “These medications will help people. If someone's depressed, give them these."
"These research studies have proven that people are happier when they take this medication."
What I've learned in getting my master's degree and learning a lot about the same research methods that are used in all different disciplines of science, is that I can make a study come out however I want it to.
I could get almost any pill and make a study that showed that the pill was good for you.
Basically, there's a bias.
When you're the researcher, you expect to find a certain thing.
I did a study in college: Do people who commit crimes offline tend to commit crimes online as well?
I believed that they did based on my own experience, and guess what I found?
I found the same thing, that people who committed crimes offline, who did things like underage drinking were also more likely to download music illegally.
People who committed major crimes like felonies offline were also more likely to get involved in major crimes online such as hacking, cyber-security things.
Of course, the study came out that way because I designed it. I thought it'd come out that way and it did.
Now, give me billions of dollars, give me all kinds of resources and I'll prove to you that I'm right.
I'll put something in a pill and prove to you I'm right, "Well, Jerry, what about double-blind random studies?"
Now, there's a very simple way to handle that too.
You do many different studies and by luck, by chance, one will come out how you want it.
Companies which seek actively to deceive
According to Tony Robbins’ book, "Money Master The Game," this is how mutual funds show that they have a high return rate. What mutual funds do according to Tony Robbins’ book, is they set up a whole bunch of different mutual funds.
They'll set up a ton of them. Then, the ones who by luck come out ahead, because if you set up a whole bunch of different funds, you give a whole bunch of different people the chance to run them. Just by luck, someone will pick a bunch of winners. Those winners are then selected to represent the whole company.
Now, this isn’t every single mutual fund. Just as whatever I've suggested isn’t every single pharmaceutical company. However, these are general trends. When you get presented a mutual fund package, guess what?
It shows you the best of the best. You don't see all the losers. If they showed you all of the data, there's no way you'd invest. If they showed you all of the losers along with the winners, it would show you the truth that you get to experience, if you invest your money that way as millions of Americans have.
There have been hundreds of millions, if not billions or trillions of dollars taken out of people's savings by investing with companies which seek actively to deceive, to take the best of what they do and present it as if it's the whole.
It's very easy to do the same thing with medical research. It's very easy to just do a bunch of studies and all the ones that don't prove your point, we're just going to ignore those. Let's take that one that for some reason, even though is a double-blind randomized trial for some luck. Look, this pill helped in that one. It raised things up a significant percentage.
Often the percentages quote is really low too. Like 5 or 10% improvement. Why the hell would I want to take something that has such a low rate of return?
Then as a doctor, you get presented all these, all the best of the best.
“Well, look, this pill raises up 5%. This pill helps patients 10%,” and then lots of doctors get commissions. You give out pills and you make more money. The whole system itself is set up to take your money.
Sick people are profitable
The health care system is just like any other financial business system.
Its goal is to survive. Therefore, there's no need for any evil people in the system. There's no need for evil people. The system is set up to survive. It wants to continue existing as it is just like anything else that's alive. If you think the health care system is alive, then it makes perfect sense. It seeks to take the most money from the most people possible just like any other business. Sick people are profitable people.
You take that first pill because often you just had a little depression or maybe you considered suicide. If I'd gone to a therapist, I'd be on all kinds of medication if I'd been honest about all the stuff I was thinking. I probably would have done something horrible on that medication as well.
You may take all these medications when there's often what may be a minor problem or a major one disguised in a few symptoms. For example, you hate your job and you hate your whole life, then this comes out as a depression. Instead of changing what you do in your life, taking a pill seems very tempting.
That initial sequence of taking the pill sets in motion the need to keep taking more pills that keeps you sick. At least, in my experience, and then that cycle often requires a gigantic amount of pain to break. If you look at the data, you won't believe how many people are dying from taking things that are prescribed to them and that's just direct death. If you count the side effects, it's absolutely unbelievable.
There's no need for evil anywhere because the system is set up to produce sick people who are dependent on medication, who then are extremely profitable. That's the whole health care system we have today. It’s set up to keep people sick, to keep them needing medication, and then to make a maximum profit. There's no evil in that. That's just at least how I see it.
There are other ways to look at it. The health care system is set up to help people. If you break your leg, the health care system is set up to help you. Sure it might be nice to numb the pain of dealing with a broken leg right away, but what about when you break your leg and you get hooked on prescription pain meds for the next 10 or 20 years?
Why does that happen?
Why doesn't the broken leg just get fixed without all the pain meds?
You see, when you ask questions like, what if taking all these pills and medications hurts me? At least in my life, it has encouraged me to look and learn more.
Why does anyone want me to take a pill, anyway?
Why do I believe pills are good for me when I've been evolved to eat things that aren't pills?
Why do I like to shortcut things?
Instead of just eating right, why do I want to take a pill to make up for eating wrong?
I used to take a daily vitamin supplement that had all these different vitamins until I realized that if I simply ate healthy foods, if I balanced my diet out with different fruits and vegetables, they had all the vitamins in them anyway.
I used to take a daily vitamin supplement for my whole adult life to enable me to ignore healthy eating. Then, I could eat whatever I wanted without regards to whether it had any vitamins in it or not.
This often happens with pregnant mothers.
"Your iron's low. Here, take this pill," which often then, according to some of the pills I've heard of have side effects.
Why not just figure out what foods naturally have iron in them and eat them instead of taking a pill which costs money, which someone then is making a profit off giving you the pill?
You see, telling someone to eat right as a doctor is not very profitable. Keeping them sick and giving them pills over and over is profitable, and it's not that the doctors are bad. Most of us do what we're trained to do. If you go to medical school and they teach you to give out pills, and they don't teach you the value of diet, they don't teach you all these other elements of well-being that are taught in Eastern cultures and other cultures around the world, then you're not a bad person for doing what you've been taught to do.
When you see that evil really is founded on this idea of separation, then there's no evil in the world. It's simply people doing their very best.
I hope sharing this with you today is useful. I realize that if I've hit close to a nerve, you probably didn't make it this deep in. I hope if you have someone in your life who's in this cycle, it helps being loving and understanding with them because it's not as simple.
I've told some people in my life who are taking a bunch of medications every day.
I say, “Look, why don't you just try not taking this.”
They respond, “Oh, I can't do that. I can't. I have to. These meds help me.”
What if they don't?
What if the medications are what keeps you sicker?
I can't help the people in my own life who are hooked on all these medications, often taking 10 to 15 different medications every single day. I am not able to help them, but I am able to think about these things for my own body.
I'm grateful for that because I've self-medicated for a long time. No one could tell me to stop until the pain was so great that I realized I was getting close to finally going through a suicide. I realized that there was no more room to keep doing what I'd done before. It's either time to do better or time to die. These are my options and I decided, "Well, I'd like to do better. I'll do whatever it takes to do better."
I'm grateful today to have this experience to share with you. I hope it's helpful. I hope it's been shared and loved.
There's not any evil people doing wrong or doing bad. The world is full of people doing their best, going to work, trying to do a good job, loving and trying to help other people.
Sometimes it takes individual awareness of how best to help yourself rather than depending on all these other people to show you what's the right way to do.
Even with what I've shared, I don't know your exact situation. I hope this is helpful in your life though.
My exercise for today is to remember that as I talk about and think about all these things, I don't know the right answer for anyone else.
I'm lucky today to be able to get through my day happy and not to make my own life worse somehow. I learn by hearing other people's experience. I hope I've done a good job sharing that with you.
If I haven't, well, I did my best. I tried.
Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful day today.
Please note, I am no doctor, I have a master's degree in criminal justice, where I did learn a lot about quantitative and some about qualitative research methods. The same that can be used in other areas. I'm just sharing my own personal life experience here because I hope this is helpful for you.
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Jerry Banfield with edits by @gmichelbkk