I’m feeling a bit stroppy at the moment, not because of anything going on in my life but as a result of reading the papers, and not even matters that are really news – because I steer clear of political and current affairs on the whole, this being not that sort of a blog.
Two items in particular have caught my eye – one, that nearly 200 women a day are admitted to hospital in this country, suffering from prescription or over-the-counter drug poisoning caused by painkillers, tranquilisers and anti-depressants. Many women have been addicted to prescription drugs for years – I remember a while ago, a friend who’d been through marital breakdown and come out the other side, saying that she was now happily single, relieved to be free, enjoying life – “Still can’t kick the happy pills, though,” she added. Another who, when desperate with a sick husband, elderly mother in failing health, son whose wife had left him because she was bored, taking their daughter with her, went to the doctor and, instead of being told ‘Of course you’re depressed and anxious, with what you’re going through, that’s normal,” was prescribed anti-depressants that she’s been addicted to ever since, though they’ve long since stopped any beneficial effect unless she ups the dose.
I am not talking about people who suffer from clinical depression or mental illness, but ordinary people who are, for a while, in desperate straits and, instead of being helped to cope, are drugged instead. I’m highly sceptical about any drug that is prescribed just to get you through a difficult and stressful time – and I’ll include HRT while I’m about it. Some people go through early menopause and some people have extreme symptoms. The rest of us don’t need medication. If you want it to stave off ageing, fine, that’s quite understandable if you’re in your forties or early fifties (earlier is certainly unusually early) but if you just find the hot flushes inconvenient, bear in mind that you’ll get ’em anyway, just as soon as you come off the meds, and you’ll be in your sixties by then and it’ll be just one more symptom of ageing that you can do without. On the other hand HRT is not addictive and too many of those other drugs are, and have dreadful side effects.
And if you’re agin prescription pills, what about supplements? Companies that sell vitamin and mineral pills are being taken to task for unproven and unrealistic claims, and about time too. It’s even being discovered that those who take supplements regularly are likely to die earlier than those who don’t. And I’m not a bit surprised. Not that I think everyone gets all they need from their diet, but because those who buy into the spiel are the ones who already take care of themselves – or the more intelligent intellectually but pretty stupid ones, who don’t. That is, a young person who smokes, drinks too much, lives on junk food but knows that’s daft and believes a multi-vitamin pill undoes the damage. It doesn’t. Just eat better. It’s not hard. The other group comprises those who already eat sensibly, sometimes excessively *sensibly* (cutting out major food groups and chomping on loads of indigestible raw vegetables?) but take all the supplements going into the bargain. They’re the gullible ‘worried well’ that the supplement-producing companies rely on.
I’m pretty fit and well on the whole, and I’ve taken supplements in the past and would again, but only for a specific purpose for a limited time. For example, when I was a little anaemic and not allowed to give blood, I took a liquid iron supplement. It was fine for a couple of weeks and then I wasn’t able to bear the thought of taking it any more. The same happened next time I took it, after an operation when I’d lost some blood. I wasn’t able to finish the bottle. I took it that I didn’t need it any longer and the supplement had done its purpose. But taking them all the time for years on end is not natural, it’s overdosing and I’m not at all surprised that it’s now being found to be harmful.
Be sceptical, know that if you’re being charged money (or the NHS is) then someone is making a profit out of it and if you believe their claims without completely disinterested and objective evidence, you may be led up the garden path. Without a paddle (if English isn’t your first language, please ignore that completely bewildering mixed metaphor).