General Health

Drawbacks of alternative medicine

Negative outcomes

The Institute of Medicine states that the following consequences could emerge from the use of alternative medical methods:

  • “Economic loss, which causes financial loss but poses no risk to health;”
  • Indirect harm that prevents patients and their families from accepting and properly managing their medical conditions, or excessive expectations that cause a delay in appropriate treatment;
  • “Direct harm that harms patient outcomes.”

Interactions with conventional pharmaceuticals

Even when used with conventional medicine, biologically active forms of alternative medicine pose a risk. Examples include the use of shark cartilage, oxygen and ozone therapies, bio-resonance therapy, immuno-augmentation therapy, and insulin potentiation therapy. Among other issues, some herbal medicines can have hazardous interactions with chemotherapy medications, radiation therapy, or anaesthetics used during surgery. Associate Professor Alastair MacLennan of Adelaide University in Australia ended up giving the case of a patient who almost died on the operating table after failing to mention that she had been taking “natural” remedies to “build up her strength” before the procedure, including a potent anticoagulant that almost killed her, as an illustration of these hazards.

MacLennan provides ABC Online with yet another potential mechanism:

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Last but not least, some patients develop cynicism, disappointment, and depression as a result of switching from one alternative medicine to another. When the placebo effect wears off after three months, they are disappointed and move on to the next one, where they are disappointed and disillusioned. This can lead to depression and make it difficult to treat the patient with anything ultimately effective because you may not get compliance because they are depressed.


Alternative medicines are typically not tested at all for unfavourable side effects, in contrast to conventional treatments, that are tested. Any treatment that affects a patient biologically or psychologically, whether traditional or alternative, has the potential to cause harmful biological or psychological side effects. The fallacy of “That which is natural cannot be bad” is occasionally used to dispute this truth about alternative medicines. Patients in certain patient categories, such as those with poor renal or hepatic function, are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of alternative treatments.

Homoeopathy is an exception to the general rule about adverse effects. Homoeopathic products have been subject to FDA regulation since 1938, but in “many considerably different ways from other medications.” Homoeopathic medicines, sometimes known as “remedies,” are incredibly diluted, frequently far more so than is necessary for even a single molecule of the original active (and potentially harmful) substance to be present. On that front, they are therefore deemed safe, but “their products are exempt from good manufacturing practice requirements related to expiration dating and from finished product testing for identity and strength,” and their alcohol concentration may be significantly higher than is permitted in conventional drugs.

 Treatment delay

Alternative medicine may deter patients from receiving the best care available. People who have had success with one alternative therapy for a minor condition might be persuaded of its effectiveness and encouraged to extrapolate that success to another alternative therapy for a more serious, potentially fatal condition. For this reason, adversaries contend that treatments that use the placebo effect to gauge success are extremely risky. The potential cost is described by mental health journalist Scott Lilienfeld as “unvalidated or scientifically unsupported mental health practises can encourage individuals to reject viable therapies.”Spending a lot of time and money on useless treatments may leave people with very little of both and may prevent them from getting treatments that might be more beneficial. In conclusion, even benign treatments have the potential to have unfavourable side effects. Four children lost their lives in Australia between 2001 and 2003 as a result of their parents’ selection of inadequate naturopathic, homoeopathic, or other complementary therapies over conventional treatments.

Unconventional cancer “cures”

It has always been “There are numerous therapies available outside of traditional cancer treatment facilities that are based on ideas that are not present in biomedicine. These alternative cancer treatments are frequently labelled as “unproven,” which implies that the necessary clinical trials have not been carried out and that the treatment’s therapeutic effectiveness is unclear.” However, “Ineffective alternative cancer treatments have been tested in several high-quality clinical trials. It is time to declare that numerous complementary cancer therapies have been “disproven,” rather than using the term “unproven,” to describe these treatments.”






 Yash Batra

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