Is Our Society Becoming too Medicalized?
Sickness is a part of life. Whether it be a common cold or a detrimental condition, everybody experiences some form of sickness. If you are residing in the developed world, you probably consumed medicine, visited your primary care physician, or perhaps even tried home remedies to treat an illness. New York University defines the term medicalization as the “process in which health conditions and behaviors are labeled and treated as medical issues”.
Within the last century, scientific research and technological innovations have enabled us to gain a better understanding of the illnesses humans encounter. As a result, we are more aware of the causes for most diseases and have developed treatments to battle it nowadays. Other benefits of medicalization include classifying conditions that previously wasn’t considered a disease. For example, eating disorders weren’t considered to be a disease in the past even though millions of people suffer and die as a result of it. However, once eating disorders were medicalized, treatment became available to combat it.
Despite the positive attributes of medicalization, modern American society seems to be taking the process to the extremes. There’s one important question: are we medicalizing too much? As a society, we are eager to receive quick treatments. Unfortunately, this results in us medicalizing too much on unnecessary tests and procedures. Furthermore, the level of unnecessary treatment is increasing because doctors feel pressured to carry out such tests in order to avoid lawsuit for not doing enough. In fact, research done by Johns Hopkins Hospital concluded that 21% of all medical tests and procedures are unnecessary.
This is especially applicable to cancer patients who are often directed towards harsher treatments because they weren’t informed about alternatives. Radiation increases the risk for side effects. People are being inundated with unnecessary procedures such as blood tests, CT Scans, and surgeries that barely offers any benefits. It’s important that we refrain from over treatment that may actually end up harming the patients.
Additionally, there’s a problem with over diagnosing illnesses such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to a study conducted by Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 30-60% of children are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and receive medicine such as Ritalin for treatment. The same study revealed that 1.1 million children are incorrectly diagnosed with the disorder in the United States. This is extremely risky because children are being prescribed medications they don’t need. One of the factors may include pharmaceutical companies paying doctors to prescribe the medicine that they manufacture. Nevertheless, this is how over medicalization can negatively impact our society and clearer methods of diagnosis need to be implanted.
The United States have made tremendous advancements in medicine. However, overmedication can have a detrimental effect on our society if we don’t put a stop to it. We spend more than any other first world nation on healthcare, but our life expectancy is still lower in comparison. This indicates that something must be done to tackle overmedicalization and over diagnosis of certain diseases.