1.20.2013

"Medicines that Kill", by James L. Marcum, MD

It is no secret that our society today is largely an unhealthy one -- pardon the large pun.  We are fat, we suffer from depression, cancers are killing young and old alike, and we eat on the run from fast-food vendors.  The two leading causes of death for men, as listed by the Center for Disease Control (2008) were heart disease and cancer.  Those two led unintentional injuries, chronic respiratory diseases, and stroke by an overwhelming margin.  The top killers for women (2008) are identical, leading stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, and Alzheimer's by an overwhelming margin.

But Dr. James Marcum makes the case in his new book, "Medicines that Kill", that those CDC-named top killers actually be a distant second to an even more lethal one: Medicine.  It sounds strange that a medical doctor would point accusing fingers at an element of the medical field, but it only lends him credibility. 

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES: Dr. Marcum gave numerous real-life examples throughout the book of the pitfalls of medications. Consider Brenda's story.  She's 43 years old, stands 5'4", and carries 295 pounds.  She revealed to him how overwhelmed she had become.  She lost her marriage because her husband became an alcoholic.  She began eating and gaining weight, so her blood pressure increased.  As a result of a prescription to lower blood pressure, her legs swelled.  So she was prescribed a diuretic, which negatively reacted with the previous blood pressure medication.  On and on the story goes until Brenda is prescribed a whopping 16 medications, all combating problems onset by prior medications. 

Dr. Marcum helped Brenda evaluate her life and its trajectory, took her through a series of medication step-downs, and she has conquered her initial weight gain, weighing half of her starting weight.  Marcum writes, "Instead of funding weight-loss pills, how about promoting weight-loss programs?  Instead of sleeping pills, how about finding out why patients don't sleep well and getting at the cause rather than treating a symptom?  Instead of medicating pain, let's find out what is causing the pain?" (p.75)

CONSIDERATIONS: Throughout the book, Dr. Marcum repeatedly asks his readers to consider first the root causes of the pain, and then to ask whether or not the sought-after medication is more harmful than the initial problem itself.  Additionally, he asks his readers to educate themselves on the harmful side-effects of medications.  He reminds his readers that we have grown too dependent upon medications, including the easy-to-obtain over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

He writes, "Having blind faith in pharmaceuticals is more than just dangerous -- it's naive.  Why would we ever think that medications can cure illnesses that develop as the result of a lifetime of bad habits?  Why would we look to a pill or a potion to dig us out of the physical or mental hole we've been digging, sometimes for decades? ... We're not overweight for lack of diet pills.  I have never seen someone with type 2 diabetes cured by a medication. ...  Sometimes we're sick because for many years we've lived unhealthy lifestyles and thought we could get away with it." (p.29)

IMPACT: After reading "Medicines that Kill" I was challenged in my own right to consider whether or not it was truly beneficial to consume vitamin I (Ibuprofen) as much as I do.  I have various aches and pains from years of beating my body at work and in the gym.  But after reading that one of my trusted stand-bys Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID's) and Acetaminophen can be just as damaging to my liver as other doctor-prescribed medications.  The problem, is that these easy-to-obtain medicines (cold and headache medicines, for example) are just that: easy to obtain and uncontrolled.  I will reconsider next time I have a head or chest cold, or when my body aches.

2 PARTS: The book is divided into two practical parts: The Problem, and The Solution.  The Problem tells the obvious issues associated with over-medicating, while The Solution presents his biblical approach to medicine.  He teaches a system of 7 laws -- good nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, air, rest, and sabbath -- that he found tucked away in the 7 days of creation in Genesis.  Theologically, I found the 7 laws to be very loosely connected to those 7 days of creation, but "Medicines that Kill" was not intended to be a theological -- nor a scientific -- treatise.  Regardless of one's beliefs, Marcum appropriately encourages his readers to take control of their lives, to start focusing on right solutions, and eschewing the harmful ones.

READABILITY:  The book is easily readable by us medically untrained-types.  It's not a scientific treatise one would find in professional journals.  Marcum admits the scientific data and research are not there, but experience and logical observation supports his premises.  The stories are multiple and enlightening. 

"Medicines the Kill" is a new book that ought to be read by at least one member of every household.  Dr. James Marcum is the co-host of Heartwise Ministries.

RATING: I give "Medicines that Kill" 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Blog Network (Tyndale House Publishers) in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine. I was not threatened or coerced to provide a positive review.

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