The popularity of alternative medicine in the United States is concerning. Researching more about AM’s topic is crucial because an ever-increasing amount of Americans consume these products (Wagner, 2020). Specifically, according to Wagnar (2020), “one-third of all US adults use complementary health approaches of various types” (p.400), making the topic worth studying. Nonetheless, the question is worth exploring as American Citizens widely use the AM. Alternative medicine seems to have various cons associated with it because of the limited research, unreliability, and risk associated with choosing it as the only treatment.
Alternative medicine or AM is a term used to describe different therapies that are not defined as traditional medicine. Some of the main are of AM include biological treatments, such as purely natural products, probiotics, vitamins, diet therapies, minerals, and more (Wagner, 2020). Moreover, AM includes meditation, yoga, and some martial arts, as well as body manipulating practices that include massage and acupuncture (Wagner, 2020). Overall, alternative medicine is all practices and supplements that are not qualified as traditional, according to the US government.
Firstly, alternative medicine is not appropriately researched, which might have adverse effects on patients. According to Johnson et al., the information about the benefits and utilization of non-traditional medicine is limited (2017). The topic is so understudied is partly due to the data protection of patience as some are hesitant to share the information of AM usage with their healthcare providers (Johnson et al. 2017). Moreover, there is little evidence whether the reported cases of AM usage were the primary therapy or only complementary (Johnson et al. 2017). This is important because the full effect of using AM cannot be thoroughly investigated if it was used only as an addition to traditional drugs. Thus, the supporting evidence of the positive impact of alternative medicine was not carefully studied because of the data scarcity.
Despite the lack of research, the production of alternative medicine and the ingredients used are inconsistent. According to Wagner, AM in the United States is usually labeled as food items rather than medication, which makes clinical tests barely possible (2020). Therefore, the usage of AM is unreliable because of the “lack of standardized, regulated, high-quality processing and a shortage of rigorous clinical trials” (Wagner, 2020, p.402). Similar to AM, various natural products are used as ingredients for conventional medicine; however, before being sent to the market, they are being checked for safety, which is not the case with AM. Therefore, the unreliability of being is presented through a lack of clinical evidence, as it is not treated as medicine by the government.
Risk when used as the only treatment method
Lastly, using alternative medicine in the treatment had been associated with more significant fatality risks. The 2018 study by Johnson et al. suggests that cancer patients using only AM as their primary treatment were at higher risk of death. In contrast, the patients that did not use AM or combined it with conventional treatment were more likely to survive (Johnson et al., 2018). The usage of AM is especially critical when being used for seriously ill patients that need extensive, conventional therapy. Thus, using alternative medicine as a primary treatment is more likely to result in death rather than combined with traditional medicine.
In conclusion, alternative medicine is being widely used in the United States. The practices include various supplements, such as vitamins, and the use of physical methods such as massage. The research suggests that there are many cons associated with AM. Primarily due to the limited research is done on the topic. Moreover, the AM considered being less reliable than traditional medicine due to the lacking of clinical trials. Lastly, using the AM as the primary treatment of acute illnesses is widely associated with the overall fatalities rate.
Johnson, S. B., Park, H. S., Gross, C. P., & Yu, J. B. (2017). Use of alternative medicine for cancer and its impact on survival. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 110(1), 121–124.
Wagner, S. (2020). The United States healthcare system: Overview, driving forces, and outlook for the future. Health Administration Press.