Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fooling with Brain Chemistry

America, the home of the free and formerly home of the brave, has turned into a nation of anxiety-ridden, depressed and otherwise mentally unstable citizens. Tom Cruise, dedicated Scientology dude who is noteworthy for acting and becoming known for his medical opinions, received almost universal condemnation for sharing his belief that Brooke Shield's problem could be helped with something other than drugs.

With 60% of adults consuming some form of medication and children catching up at an alarming rate, America can safely be called drug dependent. While Mr. Cruise tersely informed an alarmed Matt Lauer of his extensive research into the area, thus his informed opinion, I thought it might be nice to look at some actual research.

That's right, drugs used for treating Parkinsons, have been shown to cause compulsive gambling, and even compulsive sex, compulsive eating and compulsive alcohol abuse, which stops when the drug is no longer used.

The drugs causing these ailments are called dopamine agonists. They work in the brain (mostly the limbic system which moderates emotions) by keeping dopamine receptors more receptive to dopamine a neurotransmitter (also called "information substances" by more cutting-edge doctors). Dopamine works to control movements, is involved in rewards and desire, and much more.

Psychotic people are given dopamine blockers, for example. Cocaine greatly increases dopamine and thus pleasure. So do amphetamines.

All these drugs monkey with brain chemistry. All have side effects.

I have many concerns about medications. Today, I'll discuss one: Because of the need to make money on patented drugs is so huge (it costs $500 million to bring one drug through trials and to market), low-cost, sensible alternatives are not even considered.

Take Lorenzo's Oil. On the same day that we find out that dopamine medications CAUSE the unfortunate side affect of another disorder--addiction--in some people, a doctor has finally confirmed (17 YEARS LATER) that a simple mix of olive oil and rapeseed oil prevents, slows and in some cases, halts a rare disease called adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). Lorenzo's parents and others in the community have known this for 17 years now. Today it's official because a doctor did a study confirming years of clinical obviousness.

How many other disease's could be prevented, slowed or cured by simple treatments? Well, until substances like rapeseed oil, butter, rosehips and other gifts of nature can be patented and owned by drug companies, you'll have to depend on frustrated parents, friends and alternative physicians for their opinions and observations as studies won't happen.

So while there is no question that medications help some people, there are questions to be raised about the system that promotes expensive medications while ignoring low-cost, low-tech easily available alternatives that have NO SIDE EFFECTS.

Next time, we will list drugs and treatments that were the "standard of care" until tons of research confirmed deadly side-effects.

One good thing about Mr. Cruise's remarks and Ms. Shield's vigorous rebuttal is that this debate needs to occur. No question, we are an over-doped nation. No question, lots of people need health solutions. No question, new answers need to be considered besides more medications.
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