Healthy Alternatives to Prescription Medications
Abuse of prescription medication is a serious problem facing society today. According to Seppala and Rose (2010), approximately fifty two million people in the United States of America have used prescription medications for non-medical reasons once or more times in their life. Opiates, which are useful in the treatment of pain, and central nervous system depressants useful for the treatment of sleep disorders and anxiety are leading in the list of the most abused prescription drugs (Seppala & Rose, 2010). Many people who get addicted to prescription medications, such as opiates, experience progressive changes in their drug use, rather than a full-blown addiction right away. There are, however, effective natural alternatives to prescription medications. This essay discusses functions of opiates and central nervous system drugs, how people become addicted to them and some of healthy alternatives to the prescription medications.
Opiates are medications that are used to relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals that reach the brain, and affecting brain areas that control emotion, hence diminishing painful stimulus effects (Seppala & Rose, 2010). Morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, OxyContin and codeine are some examples of opiate drugs used for pain relief in a clinical setup. While hydrocodone drugs are prescribed mostly for injury-related and dental pain, morphine is used mostly before and after surgical procedures to reduce severe pain. Codeine is commonly used for mild pain (Seppala & Rose, 2010).
Functioning of opiates involves attachment to the protein receptors located in various parts of the body, such as the spinal cord and the brain. Their attachment diminishes the perception of pain. They may produce mental confusion, drowsiness, constipation and nausea and may sometimes depress respiration, depending on the amount of drug taken (Tomkins & Sellers, 2001). They can, however, elicit strong euphoric effects, which are later followed by strong feelings of wellbeing when they are taken in large doses. Individuals who abuse opioids take the drug in large doses or more frequently than prescribed with the purpose of intensifying their experience. When taken in correct doses, opioids are safe and effective in the management of pain. When abused, they can lead to serious respiratory depression and in extreme cases they may cause death.
Central nervous system depressants, on the other hand, are used to slow brain activity. They are useful for treating sleep disorders and anxiety. Some of medications that fall under the class of central nervous system drugs include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sleep medications and barbiturates. Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, are commonly used to treat panic attacks and severe stress reactions, while non-benzodiazepine, such as zalepon and zolpidem, are used to treat sleep disorders (Tomkins & Sellers, 2001). Non-benzodiazepines have fewer side effects than benzodiazepines and have a lesser risk of dependence. Barbiturates, such as Mebaral, on the other hand, are used in few instances to treat anxiety and sleep problems (Tomkins & Sellers, 2001).
Central nervous system depressants function by affecting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid. While different central nervous system depressants function uniquely, they all have the ability to inhibit brain activity through increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (Tomkins & Sellers, 2001). This causes a calming or drowsy effect that benefits those who suffer from anxiety and lack of sleep. When used in correct doses, the central nervous system depressants have many benefits. The longer one uses the drug, the higher he or she gets tolerance and the side effects seem to disappear. When the therapeutic effects are needed in a clinic set up, one may need to use larger doses. Furthermore, since the drugs function by reducing brain activity, when an individual stops taking them after long term use, he or she can experience rebound effects, such as seizures (Tomkins & Sellers, 2001).
While drugs can undoubtedly be used to save lives, the use of prescriptions is mostly to treat or mask symptoms. According to LaFrance et al. (2014), the most important thing in helping a body to heal itself is to fix the root cause of the health issue. There exist natural therapies that are more effective, cost much lesser and are much safer to use that prescription medication. One should, however, talk to his or her prescribing doctor before changing, starting or stopping medication. One should also work with a naturopathic doctor or any other holistic physicians who have knowledge in the use of natural medicines with conventional drugs during ones healing process. Issues of anxiety, sleep disorders, and pain caused by accidents and chronic illnesses are on the rise, and the number of prescriptions written in response to the health issues is also sky-rocketing (LaFrance et al., 2014). In many of these cases, individuals need to change towards healthier lifestyles and foods, exercise, detoxification, and relaxation work to create healthy improvements in their bodies with the aim of reducing or avoiding the need for prescriptive drugs (Trattler & Trattler, 2013).
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According to Trattler and Trattler (2013), anti-anxiety drugs are some of the most prescribed drugs today. A study has shown that people who use anti-anxiety medications have an increased mortality rate by thirty-six percent (Trattler & Trattler, 2013). When they are urgently needed, anti-anxiety drugs can save lives, but in less extreme cases one can use natural alternatives to treat his or her health issue if he or she starts working on the causes of the issue in the body. According to a naturopathic perspective, the causes of anxiety reactions in a body are life stresses and how one processes them, excess of caffeine and sugar intake, and poor sleep (Tomkins & Sellers, 2001). Existing naturopathic nutrients and botanical supplements that one can use to reduce reactions are magnesium, GABA, tryptophan, and lavender preparations (Trattler & Trattler, 2013). According to LaFrance et al. (2014), Wu Wei Zi, which is an herbal tea made from Schizandra Berries and has calming effect, can be used in place of anti-anxiety prescription drugs. Wu Wei Zi supports functions of the adrenal glands, which include the release of stress hormones and prevents them from overstimulation. Overstimulation enhances the release of adrenaline causing anxiety feelings, such as sweating. Wu Wei Zi is an important natural alternative to anti-anxiety prescription drugs because it also helps in fighting fatigue, aids functioning of the liver, boosts immune system, and improves ones mental clarity and performance (LaFrance et al., 2014).
Hydrocodone, such as Vicodin, is regularly prescribed for pain caused by many occurrences, such as sports injuries and dental surgeries. Hydrocodone can be very addictive and furthermore, ingredients, such as acetaminophen, may also damage one’s lungs. It is advisable to try some kinds of hands-on help as an alternative to prescription drugs. According to Seppala and Rose (2010), pain is caused by an interference of an individual’s body nervous system, and therefore, manipulating the spine, which is the body’s main nervous system channel to the brain, can help remedy the pain. Finally, the issue of sleep disorders can be addressed by using the natural alternative of amino acid glycine, which is primarily found in foods rich in proteins, such as meat, dairy and beans. Glycine has a calming effect, and once taken it collects in the master gland of the brain, the pineal gland, which produces melatonin, the sleep hormone. It enhances faster and deeper sleep without causing the hangover feelings in the morning that are associated with drugs.
In conclusion, while prescription drugs, such as opiates and central nervous system drugs, are lifesaving in critical situations, they are mostly used to treat or mask symptoms without getting to the root cause of the health issue. These drugs in some cases lead to addiction, which is life-threatening to the abuser. There are, however, much safer, less costly and much effective natural alternatives of reducing pain and relieving feelings of anxiety that involve getting to the root cause of the health issue. It is, however, necessary for one to consult his or her prescribing doctor before starting, changing or stopping any medication. One should also seek the help of a naturopathic doctor when using natural alternatives to prescription drugs.