The health story that had everyone’s attention at the beginning of the year was the threat of swine flu. We all watched as the threat level inched up to pandemic. Yet, although millions of people have caught this flu, only a few tens of thousand have died. But there is still interesting news about the pattern of deaths. The people most likely to die are young and, almost without exception, they are obese. Frankly, if you carry excess weight, this flu is a killer, which raises a more general question for you to chew on. No matter what you might choose to believe, the majority of people are overweight because of their lifestyles. They eat too much and exercise too little. So, the US is a country where individual liberty is the most important quality of life. It’s up to every one of us to take personal responsibility for what we do and the consequences of those actions. So what personal responsibility should we take for our own health? Further, if we are against big government, should people who do not take care of their health just be allowed to die if they do not have enough money to pay for health insurance?
The latest statistics show that, as a nation, we spend about 16% of the gross domestic product on health care. This includes the cost of medications and is double the average in countries around the world. But we are not a healthy nation. Counting the number of prescriptions fulfilled through real world pharmacies, we consume more sleeping pills and antidepressants per head of population than any other nation. That’s before we start guessing how many drugs are purchased on the internet. We are seriously overmedicated. The results are easy to see. Many drugs cause insomnia as an unintended side effect. So we all walk around like zombies and beg our doctors for relief. So now comes the difficult decision. Do you reduce the dosages of the drugs you are taking, or add ambien to the mixture to offset the side effects? The rational answer is to do without the first drug altogether. If it is interfering with your sleep and making you feel worse, you should stop taking it. Adding a second drug to balance out the side effects of the first is more expensive and potentially going to make you dependent on one or both drugs.
When there is very clear scientific evidence showing meditation and relaxation techniques as a completely effective treatment for insomnia, there should never be a need to take sleeping pills. People should go through the simple training program and emerge better able to control their sleep patterns. As a result, their general health will improve. But, as with everything, there are problems. The marketers have managed to convince the majority of us that drugs are the best form of treatment. We are taught to dismiss psychology as a waste of time. Worse, private health insurance often will not pay for the training sessions. At a time of recession, this leaves many with no choice. There is only enough to buy ambien and not enough to pay for training in something we do not trust.