Why I Don't Take Medicine
I'm aware that admitting / proclaiming that I don't take medicine sets me up to be bucketed in with the nutty religious people who handle snakes and let their kids die on rare occasions before allowing them to go to the hospital.
That's not me.
My policy is to not take drugs unless it is a life or death situation. I've never even swallowed a pill.
I consider our current understanding of science, including medicine, to be both totally amazing and also way behind the wonder of nature. When I learn about how nature solves problems, I'm amazed at the beautiful simplicity.
When I see how medicine solves problems, I'm normally extremely wary.
What drug doesn't have side effects? How many drugs that people take have side effects that we aren't even aware of? How many of them circumvent natural bodily processes to the extent that we can't possibly understand everything that goes on as a result? How much of older medicine seems barbaric now? How much of our medicine will seem that way soon?
Then there's the immune system, which has been meticulously evolved over our entire existence as a species. Is it possible that our immune system has learned a trick or two in all these years? And MAYBE, since a core component of the immune system is it's ability to learn to heal, we should just let it do it's thing and build it's repertoire?
I'll let my immune system get a little target practice and build an internal pharmacy, rather than throwing it for a loop with some pills every time I get a cough.
Now don't get me wrong, if it's the choice between me dying and me taking medicine, I'll go for it. Body processes be damned, I'm not ready to leave.
But when the choice is between any level of discomfort and taking medicine, I'll take that discomfort.
As an example, about ten days ago I noticed a small rash on my leg. No big deal.
The next day the rash was bright red and very itchy. Upon closer examination I realized that it was behind my knee, on my upper calf, and on my thigh in a couple places.
The next day it was so itchy that wearing shorts hurt. At least it's not spreading, I thought.
The next day it spread to the top of one foot and the bottom of the other. It was getting bubbly and very painful.
The bubbly rash on the bottom of the one foot was the worst part and made it very painful to walk.
The rash was so bad that I decided that once I got to Hong Kong I would see a doctor to make sure it wasn't going to kill me eventually.
Then it spread to my chest and hands.
But I noticed something - the first places the rash showed up were by far the worst. Every new location was a bit more mild than the last.
I'm no scientist, but to me that seems a lot like my immune system learning and getting stronger. The rash on my chest was itchy but never bubbled up.
Now the rash is all but gone. There's just a slightly red patch where it was on my foot. I didn't even go to the doctor because it was almost healed by the time i got to HK.
Meanwhile, I didn't have to compromise my body by slathering it with steroid cream, and I will probably never get that rash again.
Other than chewable aspirin that I accepted as a kid because I didn't know better and because they tasted like candy, I've only taken medicine once. Oh, and I did the eyedrops (but not the pain medication or the valium) when I got my eyes lasered.
I was in college and got a sore throat. That expanded into a full blown fever and cough.
It was strep throat.
After a few days my throat swelled up so much that it was brutally painful to swollow. Then my whole mouth and gums swelled up to the point that chewing was agonizing.
I went to the doctor.
"It's strep. You need to take this medicine."
"I don't want to. How long will it take to go away on it's own?"
"If you let it go on for a few more days it will kill you and it will not go away by itself."
I was pissed, mainly at my immune system for not handling this one, and agreed to take the pills.
A day later I returned and got chewables instead because my attempt to swallow a pill left one pill missing under a cabinet and the dining room table covered in water.
I took the chewables and the strep went away.
I wouldn't necessarily tell everyone not to take any medicine, but I'd suggest not taking it unless it's absolutely necessary, with you being the arbiter of what qualifies as absolutely necessary.
I believe that as a result of not taking medicine I have a super immune system. I tend to get illnesses last, if at all, when I'm around sick people, and I always recover very quickly.
Awesome article. I myself will usually just let a headache pass on its own.
However, your stance on medication seems to be in direct contradiction to the theories you follow, most particularly those in "The Fantastic Voyage." Ray Kurzweil takes 250 pills per day, plus who knows what other treatments. In that book he says that the human body is far less than perfect, and that we should use modern science to make it even better
If not medicine, what about vitamins? I mention this because you said you have never swallowed a pill, so I'm assuming not.
Especially for somebody who wants to live forever and is getting cryogenically frozen, I thought that perhaps resveratrol or any other good pill would factor in your lifestyle - at least a multivitamin. Cutting yourself off from the "totally amazing" science that is available today - in either medicine or supplements - seems like a wasted opportunity.
Also, I thought that as a vegan you would be supplementing for B-12, as it is notably exempt from vegetarians. Yes, there is some research that certain multivitamin formulas could increase the likelihood of prostate cancer - but on the other hand, the Earth's soil has been so depleted of vitamins and minerals that we could never get the same nutrients our caveman ancestors got without supplementation.
What are your thoughts on this?
I completely agree with Jas. I've never taken medication even when I was younger. The only time I did was when I had my appendix removed and the scar was infected. I was only 7 years old. This article made me realize I'm not the only one! :)
Btw I am only 17 and I have the worst immune system..oh well I don't and never will like the idea of taking medicine.
Wow, you are all such amazing principled people for saying no to the drug industry. Please note my extreme sarcasm. The only thing your post tells me is that you have never been ill. I know some people attribute their good health to their avoidance of drugs, but this opinion is supremely insulting to those of us with debilitating chronic illness. It may not be life or death, but I physically could not function during the day without taking a lot of pills. Don't get me wrong, I would be ever so pleased if I didn't have to. People don't take meds because they want to, it's because they have to. Your comments about illness make me feel like I'm not strong enough or something to resist temptation.
I severely compromised my immune system by taking metronidazole, one of the most powerful antibiotics around, for more than a year and a half, but this side effect was completely worth it, since I would have spent my entire high school career on the bathroom floor otherwise. I'm sure if you actually had health problems, you would be more than happy to take the prescribed meds. The same thing goes for painkillers. Everyone gets headaches, sure, good for you if you can bear them without Tylenol, but please don't assume that everyone who takes narcotics is a drug addict. If you have never been in such pain that you can't move or gone a month without eating solid food, than your blog should be about how lucky and thankful you are.
Thanks for this post. I was actually thinking the same thing. I dont take medicines, vitamin supplements or even energy drink. I rarely get sick. I cant even remember the last time I acquire a flu.
I believe that immune system has a mind of its own and that it can be trained. Too much dependence on medication just make the immune system look for it and eventually wont function without the help of drugs.
There is no harm in taking drugs, thats for sure, but only if taken rarely and when really needed and when the time comes that you would need the help of drug, it will work better since your immune system doesnt have the ability to resist such unfamiliar substance. But for headaches, rashes, some sort of body pain etc i think its better to resort for some other remedies. For example, most rashes occur as a sign that your immune system is working for you.
I absolutely agree. I stopped taking antidepressants AND the contraceptive pill because I want my body to remain as close to it's natural state as possible. I feel that in terms of depression it is necessary to find the root cause which for me was a mental thing not a physical thing, and then take action towards improving my outlook on life. Antidepressants are a good short term fix but in the long run you really need to learn how to naturally overcome the depression. As for the reproductive system I don't think it can be very good for the body to be pumped with fake hormones to prevent the reproductive cycle from taking it's natural course (there are less invasive ways to prevent pregnancy). I also try to avoid antibiotics as I want my body to build its own antibodies to each and every virus that comes around. I wonder what all these medicines are going to do in terms of our future evolution, perhaps only make us weaker?
I have a close friend that takes every single tablet or treatment possible as soon as he starts to notice any kind of symptom and as a result he has the worst immune system. It could very likely be simply because of his mental stance on his health, having the mentality that there is always something wrong with him and that he needs treatment all the time will very likely cause health problems to physically manifest. In the same way my old mentality that everything always seems to go wrong in my life is most likely what caused my depression to begin with, and by changing my perspective and being grateful for what I DO have rather than what I don't have I have been able to overcome my depression. Negativity attracts negativity, and positivity attracts positivity. You are what you think.
I will quickly add that my high school teacher overcame being a paraplegic (after an accident) by maintaining the positive mentality that he would one day be able to walk again, despite the doctors telling him that he would not. He has a tiny limp but aside from that he is completely healthy. :)
It probably has A LOT more to do with the mind than we give credit for. I like somebody else's post suggesting to thank your immune system, I will add that to my meditative practice. Healthy spirit, healthy mind, healthy body.
I think you are absolutely spot on my friend. I have an almost identical philosophy (and I find those who do not, just don't get it). Stay strong, and keep up the great work. Thanks for the blog post.
This is exactly how I feel. My parents never understand why I won't take medicine and I can never seem to explain properly. Next time I'll just show them what you've said cause it explains my feelings towards medicine perfectly.
I agree and disagree with you. My whole life, well since I could make my own decisions when it came to medication, I wouldn't take it. Flu, colds, rash, allergies, cough, wouldn't do it. I just don't like the idea of taking medication that could affect my body or harm me in some way. It annoys me that people are so weak and careless they take medication for every little thing. It's ridiculous. The part of your article that I disagree with is the fact that it makes you immune system stronger. You probably already had a strong healthy active immune system in the first place. I get colds at least once a month maybe more. I eat well, I'm at a perfect weight and I'm clean. I just have a crappy immune system. I think you are given a completely healthy body initially or you are not. I really don't think not taking medication and toughing it out makes a difference in that respect.
Once I was cut off from my supply of medication after moving to college, I realized that I didn't really need any of it. I could replace acid reflux medication with milk at meals and a healthier diet, I didn't really need the allergy meds, and I could sleep off a migraine (I could probably sleep off a nuclear blast, since those things are painful). I don't even remember what else I was taking, but I'm pretty sure I don't need it anymore.
I really agree with this thing. I rarely take medicins. Only maybe some anti-coughing syrup when I was 12. And the past 3 years (I'm 19 now) I have taken paracetamol and some stuff called diclofenacnatrium. It was because I got injured at my knee (3 times) and it got all thick (fluid in the joint making it almost double the size). It also hurt like hell. So I would need to take those pills 3 times a day and then for 2 weeks. And most of the time I would get 3 the first two days and then after one week almost none anymore. And that's about all the medicin I ever had.
Also a comment to Noora, washing your hands is ok, but don't wash them like you have mysophobia. Some bacterials on your hands could also keep your immune system up to date.
However, I have one point of criticism on you Tynan. I'm studying molecular life sciences, so medicin could be part of my research in the future (I don't want to research aspirin or something, I want to research in medicines that are literally life saving). All the side effects medicines COULD have, will happen only on 1% of the people using them. Those medicines are tested and all the side effects are noted down. 'Normal' people don't get those side effects most of the time, but due to genetic variation, some people might respond differently to the medicine, causing the side effect. However, the more occasional side effects are necesarry evils of those medicines, and those would still need to be researched on.
But for the rest of it, this is yet again a great article ;)
A couple days ago, during a rest period of a workout, Leo asked me if I was different now than I was ten years ago. My gut reaction was to say that, no, I was pretty much exactly the same, but even a quick scan of changes in that time made me realize that I bear little resemblance to who I was. I asked him the same, and he's changed even more than I have in the past ten years.
The two big themes I noticed in the changes I went through were first that they would have been pretty much impossible to predict, and second that they were all good surprises. Of course, I'm a happy person and I'm certainly biased, so I would probably think the changes were positive no matter what.
Even knowing that we would have been incapable of predicting the changes that happened over the past ten years, we couldn't resist trying to make predictions for the next ten. That's how we spent the remainder of the rest periods of our workout. I decided I'd make my predictions public so that we can marvel at how prescient I was, or, more likely, laugh about how I was dead wrong.
At the end of each section I'm going to give some odds for each outcome. That way we can see how accurate my predictions and confidences were, and I can make longshot predictions without messing up the record.
Well, I've spent most of the last two days sick as a dog. On Thursday afternoon, my throat started to feel funny. Within two hours, I had a full-on fever and a massive headache. I felt like my body was on full alert and fighting heavily against a vicious attack of some nasty germ/virus.
I've been so weak that it's been difficult to even walk, and with every step I took, it felt like someone was pounding a hammer in my head. Migraine headache, sore throat, fever, weakness, nausea--this has all been quite an ordeal. All I could do was get myself to just lie down and try to rest. I had to call in sick to work and did not get anything else done.
It's Saturday now, and my fever finally broke last night. I'm still not at a hundred percent, but I'm getting there. My sister got me to take this severe cold and flu tea, and surely enough, it worked like a charm--bringing on the necessary reinforcements that my body needed to combat the bad stuff.
All of this hullaballoo got me thinking. There are people out there who live with severe disabilities and with chronic illnesses. They wake up everyday having a harder time out of life than those of us in perfect health. When your own body is its own nemesis, it must take an immense amount of will power to just try to live through each day. My heart goes out to these people.
I've just had a hellacious two days, but I know this could not possibly compare to what others with serious physical challenges deal with.