Let’s talk about a little thing I like to call “drug-shaming”. You may have heard of it, or simply noticed its presence. It likes to lurk among the alternative health and natural living communities, its origin often benevolent but its consequences toxic. It may hide in the most conspicuous places, and yet few of us have dared to slap a label on it. You’ve probably experienced it yourself or perhaps you’re guilty of it (it’s okay- I know I have been in the past).
So what is drug-shaming?
It’s those little things we do to shame others for taking prescription meds, and I know that might sound ridiculous. But especially in so-called “natural wellness” circles, popping pills can be looked upon with a rabid disgust, regardless of someone’s circumstances. And it’s not okay. I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of it, being someone who lives with my own set of health challenges, and I can tell you about the kind of horrible shame and pressure it puts on you. Take this hypothetical conversation:
You: Hey friend, remember a while back when I was having a really hard time sleeping?
You: I finally fixed it! My doctor gave me (insert Rx sleep aid here) and it’s working great! I feel like a new person.
Me: Wow. I didn’t know you were desperate enough to do that to yourself. You know those are really bad for you right?
You: Well, I dunno. I guess. But I feel so much better.
Me: You really should try to get off of those. Did you know (insert fear-mongering statement about Big Pharma, your distant cousin who got cancer, etc…)??
You: Yeah, I mean, I’ve tried lots of other options. But nothing was working for me until now.
Me: Are you sure? Have you tried (insert natural remedy here)? It works great for me!
You: No, but I’ve tried several similar things.
Me: You really should be on something natural you know. I can’t believe you’re willingly putting that poison in your body.
Does this sound vaguely familiar? It sure does to me. I even overheard a similar conversation in a health food store yesterday. Sheesh! Is this really the best way to promote natural or alternative remedies? To conjure up fear and shame? Yeah, I know it works for a lot of companies who want to sell you their products, but unless you are a pushy salesperson, why would you do that? To your friends and family most of all.
Now, a quick but important caveat here: I am in no way advertising my support of corporate pharmaceuticals or representing any of those giant mega biotech companies. I do believe that for most ailments, there is a safe, natural and effective way to manage or even eliminate them- this is why I am so passionate about holistic health. But shaming people away from using a drug that might be incredibly helpful to them is a rude and irresponsible thing to do.
First of all, drug-shamers presume to know exactly where you are in your life or what it’s like to live in your shoes. But we all know that in reality, this is downright impossible. Maybe you are acutely struggling with something and need that extra little push right now. Maybe you cannot afford the $45/jar miracle superfood elixir, but your insurance covers the prescription option. Maybe you really have tried everything else and the pharmacy is your last hope for a healthy or even semi-functional life (hello Ambien)?
Secondly, drug-shamers are essentially inferring that they know better than you do. But beware- it can be all too easy to slip into that role ourselves, especially those of us with long-term health issues! Trust me, I know that it’s tempting to share the miracle of the natural remedy that has dramatically changed your life, and I’m not saying that you can’t. It’s all about the delivery- it must be kind, compassionate, non-condescending, and non-pushy. After all, we’re all just doing the best we can, right?
There is a way to present information that isn’t condescending or shameful of someone’s present choices. Just ask any qualified wellness coach or health psychologist- fear, shame, and pressure do not work well in the long run to instill healthy habits (I’ll save this for another post!). Plus, if that person is seeing improvement with a drug, that is not the time to start pointing out the dangers of that drug or suggesting “better” alternatives. You’ll know this pain firsthand if you’ve ever had it happen to you!
I personally take three different prescription drugs and continue to take them because of the positive changes they’ve helped me make in my life. Yes, I’ve tried all the natural versions, and no, I’m not looking to get off them right now. You may think it’s strange or hypocritical for someone like me to be hitting up the pharmacy, but it’s really not. I still meditate, drink green smoothies, nosh on kale, use raw garlic when I’ve got a cold, and shun antibiotics. But there are some symptoms that I cannot fix (right now) with alternative or “drug-free” options.
And that’s okay.
So friends, let’s all stop using the words “addicted”, “dependent”, “poison”, or even “selling out” when it comes to prescription drugs. And if you’re on the receiving end, start pointing out that they are actually hurtful and that those words do not belong in any compassionate conversation about wellness.
And again- I’m not saying that many drugs aren’t harmful or that they should be the first course of action in most cases. It’s just that those words aren’t helpful or kind when dealing with people who are desperately trying to get better. How does it feel if someone tells you you are “hopelessly addicted to the toxins that Big Pharma was selling you”? Even if that drug was the one thing keeping your symptoms at bay so you could hold down a job? It’s just not cool, no matter how you slice it.
I’ve managed to surround myself with healthcare providers of all modalities that support my personal decisions about which medications I am open to and those I’m not. And I know I am in a very lucky minority. I hope for a day when we can all work together, regardless of training or medical backgrounds, for the betterment of patient’s lives. And that includes all the “alternative” and “natural” peeps as well!
What about you dear friends? Have you ever been the victim of drug-shaming? Or maybe been the one dishing it out without thinking?
Feel safe to share here.
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~