I came across a young gentleman today who, on a post about the awesome detoxifying properties of the liver, decided to weigh in with his own expertise. Don’t take painkillers, he says. They’ll ruin your liver. Take natural stuff instead.
Turned out his ‘natural stuff’ was weed, which he was taking, with the apparent approval of his doctor, for a chronic pain condition. Well and good, his choice. It may even be working for him. But that’s not really relevant. What’s more relevant is that he’s telling others to make health care choices based on his anecdata, with no scientific research or medical consensus to back up his claims.
This sort of thing goes on all the time. Sometimes it’s relatively harmless, like recommending someone some vitamins when they’re feeling run down. Other times it’s fatal, like recommending someone some vitamins when they have cancer. The one that worries me most personally, is recommending something ‘natural’ to people instead of stable long-term psych meds.
It doesn’t take much for a psych patient to come off their meds. It’s not fun taking medication every day, especially when you’re doing well. It’s frustrating, living with the side effects they almost invariably cause. If someone inserts the idea of an easier way, a more natural way, a way that doesn’t make you feel like a walking automaton for half of every day, then it’s damn tempting. It doesn’t take much of a nudge to tip off course.
There are probably many other diseases that have this temptation. I can imagine diabetics would love to live without needles and blood tests and pain. Mental illness sufferers are just the ones I know best. And I know that the ‘natural’ path is dangerous.
If you have a client who is unstable without their medication but stable on it, then you have a person who only needs to take their pills, and they are functioning members of society. Telling them that this special rainforest herb will make them well with one treatment, or with only one pill a day is misinformed at the very least. If you have a formula that’s working, then changing it without the close supervision of a doctor is not advisable.
It’s so tempting though, the natural, gentle way to healing. But it’s more often than not a lie, and the mentally ill can easily walk out very very unwell. It’s cruel and stupid to float that kind of hope, the kind that has no evidence, especially to those already on a stable regime that works for them.