Medicine is Not Poison: Don’t Fall Victim to the War on Science!

Recently, while talking with some other folks afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis, I was made aware of a pretty disturbing incident. Several of them had been invited to a Facebook group that had the objective of convincing people to discontinue their disease modifying drugs (DMDs) in favor of only diet changes and marijuana use. I was, to say the least, appalled. It seems criminal in my mind to try to persuade someone to abandon their doctor’s recommendations like that. You may have heard on the news that science seems to be under attack these days (in fact, there was a march for science recently to help raise awareness about this issue). It now seems that science is being vilified in the MS community as well. It feels like every day that someone new is claiming that medication is bad and must be abandoned. Sorry conspiracy theorists, I’m here to remind you that medicine is not poison!

Diets and natural remedies

People calling for natural ways to stop MS is not something new; these strategies have been around for decades. This disease is incurable, and medications to slow its progression have only really emerged recently. With so few options for so long, it’s no wonder that people would try anything to stop it. The thing is, after all of these years, there is zero proof that any of these practices, like simply changing your diet, have any effect on disease progression. Some people swear by them, however, it’s important to remember that just feeling good and not having any symptoms does not mean that the disease is gone. Even a clean MRI is not a sure sign that the disease isn’t still active. People love to talk up the Wahls diet, which, again, isn’t proven. Most people don’t realize that Terry Wahls had extensive chemotherapy and physical therapy before she credited her diet as her lifesaver. As far as a good diet is concerned, of course, we should all have a good diet and take care of our bodies. You will feel much better in general if you eat healthier foods and exercise more, but that doesn’t mean that your disease is stopped. Never confuse feeling good with what might actually be happening under your hood, and remember how invisible this disease tends to be.

Medical marijuana is often heralded as another lifesaver by many. I admit, I’m a daily cannabis user, it’s changed my life. However, I understand that it helps me deal with my symptoms. In no way do I expect it to stop my disease. There is zero proof that marijuana can stop MS progression. This again highlights that we need to not confuse the treatment of the many symptoms that MS can cause with treatment of the actual disease. Medical marijuana is excellent when used alongside a disease modifying drug.

Not everyone can take medication

With anything, whether it be a medication or even a particular food, not everyone will react well to it. Like any medication, MS treatments have the potential for side effects. For some individuals, the side effects can’t be tolerated at all. For others, the medications will not successfully halt the disease. We are lucky though, to have more and more options coming on the market. Finding the right DMD can be a very long and rough process, which unfortunately sometimes leads to people prematurely stopping all drugs. It’s important to remember that it can take a lot of trial and error to find the right and tolerable medication, and even then, you may never find a medication that works for you. That doesn’t mean the effort wasn’t worth it! It should also be pointed out that many side effects can be dealt with and anyone experiencing them should talk to their MS specialist before they decide that they are too much to deal with.

Lack of symptoms does not mean you shouldn’t take medication

There are many people who see their MS as “mild”. They’ve had a couple relapses and day to day, they are mostly healthy. They may see no need to take a disease modifying drug. In my opinion, that is completely the wrong attitude and shows a lack of understanding about both the disease and how these medications work. I’ll end up saying this a lot in this article, but you have to separate the concepts of disease and symptoms. Regardless of what symptoms you experience on a daily basis, the disease can still be active. The myelin around those nerves can still be eaten away without you noticing it. You don’t often notice the destructive damage the disease causes until it’s already done. Most people who have Relapsing-Remitting MS should realize this. Sure, those relapses seem to come on suddenly, but the disease has been working inside you to cause that relapse for a long time before it happens. Thus, feeling great and having few symptoms is not a good reason to stop medication.

This entire article is such an important topic to me that I worry I am not able to do it justice. I consulted Laura Kolaczkowski, one of the other experienced writers here, to ask for her thoughts on this, as I know it is an important subject to her as well. Laura had this to say: “My primary concern is we know MS is always progressing – sure we could have very mild MS and never be bothered with major symptoms again. But for most people, that is not the case. Ten or twenty years later, the effects of not being on treatment are going to be apparent. We might not lose leg or arm function, but will we have protected our brains? Atrophy occurs with age, and is accelerated with MS – cognitive ability is pretty high up on my essential functions list.”

No, you aren’t poisoning yourself

One of the common tropes that conspiracy theorists like to put out there is that you are poisoning your body with medication. You hear this with anti-vaxxers and now with a similar crowd in the MS community. Please don’t fall for that. I understand that side effects may make you feel bad at times, but don’t discount these marvelous innovations as being bad for you. A disease modifying drug that slows the progression of an incurable disease is not poison, it’s medicine. The human lifespan has increased dramatically over the years because of medications; calling medication poison is absolutely ludicrous. Do not let one (or even a few) person’s bad experiences with side effects prevent you from recognizing the massive benefits of these medications. I again asked Laura what she thought, because I know that she has dug deep and researched many of the studies regarding not only DMDs but also alternative treatments, like diet modifications. Here’s what she had to say: “Unless there is a problem with allergic reactions, the adverse effects of these DMDs are minimal and there are long term safety profiles available to show they are not poison and they are not dangerous, which is often part of the anti-DMD faction’s claims. The distrust in science and medicine these days concerns me because this has crossed over from just wanting to know more and questioning, to people making claims without evidence”.

MS is a horrible disease. We’re in the fight of our lives and not everything is going to be easy. We aren’t simply taking aspirin to fight a small headache here. I grew up with a grandfather that had MS, and he didn’t have access to the DMDs we have now. I watched how MS ravaged him, I saw how disabled he was, and I was there when he passed away due to complications from MS. Left untreated, this disease can be absolutely nasty. It slowly but surely steals parts of you until there’s nothing left to steal. I can only imagine what he would think if he knew that some people have access to medication but refuse to take it.

No matter what, make the decision on your own

While I’m obviously in favor of science and medicine, the most important thing to remember is that the decision is yours and yours alone. Always remember how different we are from person to person with this disease and that it’s important to investigate everything on your own. Be wary of people on the internet and social media trying to sway your opinion. While those places can be great sources of information, they are more and more filled with people trying to push their own agenda. These people don’t really have an active interest in your well being. No matter what you decide with regards to your treatment, please discuss it in detail with an MS specialist before proceeding.

As I mentioned earlier, having grown up witnessing what this disease can do when left untreated, I feel I have a duty to write this article. We need to stop the war on science and medicine, the risks are too high. Please remember that how you feel is not a good indicator of your disease progress. Please trust in the years of work that have gone into developing these treatments. I want to again thank Laura for her input, this was just too important of a topic for me to talk about on my own.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (19)
  • Jade1956
    1 year ago

    But please let’s not fall victim to the fallacy that medicine makes a difference. Surely, symptom medication helps. But as for the disease slowing medications consider the fallacy. they tell you the drug is slowly your MS. How do you know? how do they know? I know some things that 30+ years with MS tell me. When you are diagnosed you must have an altar at which to worship, an altar that holds your faith and justifies your faith. That altar is medicine. You take the shots and you tell yourself you’re slowing the disease. They don’t tell you when they recommend those shots or the new pills, how many years are being taken off your life. You might ask. It might change your mind about the altar at which to worship. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have done the shots. I would have used the symptom medication, but in retrospect, I worshiped at the wrong altar. Most of us do. But when we are terrified and need a God in the MS world to assure us that all will be well, we RUN for those shots and pills, believing we are slowing the disease. But the belief is a fa.llacy. You don’t know how fast it would have gone without the shots. Neither does your doctor. It is a fallacy to believe we can slow a disease we don’t even understand.

  • jn99
    1 year ago

    Thank you for this article. It can be such a challenge when you are scared by the diagnosis and the proposed treatment regimen to be confronted by well-meaning friends (and strangers) whose aunt’s brother-in-law’s friend’s relative had MS and successfully treated it with this or that far-fetched substance or mind-set. I was diagnosed in 2004; I’ve been giving myself daily copaxone injections. My skin is a mess and I have had more of the ‘rare side-effect’ (feels similar to a panic attack) than I can count, BUT my MRI’s have not shown appreciable progressive damage to my brain. So I will deal with the side-effects, I will continue the modafinil (for fatigue), and I will continue to exercise when I can and eat reasonably well. I’m doing okay, and I am not going to stop my dmd to find out what might happen without it. Thanks again for your article.

  • kkcurtis
    1 year ago

    Thanks for the article; I think the most important thing is for everyone to find what works for them and not judge or try to “educate” people who do not ascribe to their plan. However, there is one thing that really upsets me with the medical community. Every neurologist I have had on this journey has strongly pushed for DMDs but are also weary of using other drugs to help with the symptoms of ms. DMDs are quite expensive and have a myriad of side effects, from the benign to outright scary. So if a patient wants to try a stimulant to help with the fatigue or an opioid to help with the pain, why do they all of a sudden want us to use diet and exercise to combat these symptoms? Now I know that there are individuals who these drugs may not be right for, but for those individuals where these drugs may be helpful, why the hypocrisy? This is where I get weary of the medical community-wanting to push these expensive drugs with some serious side effects yet dismissing our use of other medications that are extremely cheap and have been around for years. I understand that every person will react differently to a medication, but that is why you should have a good medical team around you. I am one of the fortunate ones to have a team of doctors who listen to my concerns and are willing to try different things, but I hear from so many who are not as fortunate and it makes me question where their doctors’ interests lay.

  • LuvMyDog
    1 year ago

    I was diagnosed with RR MS 35 years ago. I have never taken a medication for MS. My wonderful doctor always told me for the 23 years he took care of me that exercise and a positive attitude were the best things for me. He always complimented me on my strength, but told me, keep lifting those weights, keep using the weight bench for your leg extensions, keep moving…or you won’t be able to. I followed his advice for many years. He retired and I haven’t been able to find what I consider a decent, knowledgeable and compassionate neurologist since. As I got older, I skipped a lot of the exercise I always did and I can see the results. I’ve lost a lot of muscle, I am no where near as strong as I used to be and my stamina is on a scale of 1-10, maybe a 5. Not everyone can take medications for various reasons, I chose not to because of a heart problem. A friend who had never taken med’s for MS started on one and immediately had a heart attack. She never had any heart problems prior. Yes, some medicines ARE poison.

  • PS98107
    1 year ago

    Because of a proper diet, I haven’t had a relapse since before 2012. That’s five years. Again, I have never medicated for MS and I was diagnosed in 2002. diet and exercise are everything. watch the documentaries Forks Over Knives and What The Health. We are what we eat!

  • Loopey
    1 year ago

    I have been on the same DMT since my diagnosis in 2012 and have had no new lesions since then. The disease has progressed and I feel bad a lot of the time and I never know if it is a side effect or just the MS. My first symptom was dizziness and double vision and the dizziness is all day, every day. I have been told over and over that there is nothing that can be done for it. I will keep taking my meds because like others before me, I watched the disease ravage my mother and she died of complications of MS before there were any DMT’s.

  • PS98107
    1 year ago

    Until the world gets to the point of the safe use of T-cells for treating/curing MS and other diseases, the ONLY effective treatments for MS is proper organic (mostly plant-based) nutrition with 0 dairy and persistent exercise. Unfortunately though, we live in a country that throws medicine (a band aid) at everything that happens to us and all of it related to our mostly unregulated Western diet of processed foods. All meds do is prolong it and meybe provide temporary relief. We are all indeed different/individual but our human bodies run on the same natural chemicals and oils we get from nutrition. That is a fact!

  • Kym
    1 year ago

    I am one of those folks who decided not to try meds right away. I wanted to control my disease with diet and excersize. I just had my 2nd relapse in one year and realize it’s time for medication.
    I read and heard so much negativity about the side effects of meds. When I get released this week I am going to revisit the conversation with my neuro.

  • MJ1981
    1 year ago

    Everything you wrote, a million times over. There definitely is a war on science, and a very vocal section of people that insist that anything “natural” must be better for treating any disease, including MS, cancer and pretty much everything else. I was diagnosed with MS two years ago, and the huge amount of information on treatments available online was so overwhelming. I chose to go with the treatment plan my neurologist suggested, mainly because I trusted someone with years and years of schooling, research and practice under their belt, vs. online strangers who only had a degree in Googling. The first DMD I started was Copaxone, and unfortunately the side effects were too much for me to handle, so I started on Betaseron, which has been much better for me. Thankfully, no new lesions had shown up on my most recent MRI, and I feel pretty good most of the time. Like you said in your article, eating and drinking certain foods, marijuana, exercise, etc. are all great add-one to a treatment plan, but we have decades and decades of research and studies for a reason-to thankfully have medicine that we can take to reduce symptoms, keep our disease from getting worse, and just give a better quality of life.

  • Julie
    1 year ago

    I see it on social media (bad place to read about your ailments). People encouraging others to stay away from standard treatments in lieu of natural treatments. It may sound promising and more attractive than giving yourself a shot every night or every other night or whatever treatment you are taking.

    The real problem comes with people that are newly diagnosed and are reaching out for anything that will help. So much misinformation is thrown their way right and left. It worries me. And then you have people like me that is tired of the shots. I have been talking to my neuro about the problems I am having even with taking Betaseron I am still progressing.

    So we are looking into the new drug just approved for Progressive MS. It’s an infusion every 6 months. This sounds interesting to my drug jaded heart because as much as I hate taking drugs, it’s more appealing to me than more progression of this hated disease. I will continue to fight on. Good health to all, Julie

  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    1 year ago

    Thanks, Devin, for wading into this topic … actually for jumping in with both feet. I could cry when I read people who say ‘I didn’t want to take a DMT and now I can’t ____ (fill in the blank).’ I respect an individual’s right to choose but want everyone to do so with a well informed perspective and not filled with the misinformation that is every where these days. – Laura

  • Stespike
    1 year ago

    Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. So many people fall for that it makes me sad. Voices of reason are not heard loud enough. On my blog (stespike.wordpress.com), a lot of people send me offers everyday to get me to buy some miracle product… Beware of people selling you hope!

  • kpat1971
    1 year ago

    Devin,
    Thank you for such a great article! I was diagnosed in May of 2000. After my diagnosis and Solumedrol I was put on Copaxone. I was not very compliant, and decided that since I “felt great” that I didn’t really NEED to take anything. So I stopped taking anything for a few years. Then I went on Rebif after an MRI showed new lesions. I have been on DMD’s since then and was on Tecfidera for a few years as well. Thankfully I haven’t had any new lesions in quite a while. But sadly the disease is progressing. I have blamed myself for making the decision to stop taking DMD’s and being naïve. Of course, I do understand that there is no way to fully know whether that is why the disease progressed.

    I had to switch to a new neurologist this past January because my other one retired. The new guy is an Neurologist that specializes in MS. Under his care I stopped the Tecfidera and had my first infusion in June of Rituximab. He uses this quite often for his MS patients that have continued to see disease progression while using other DMD’s, and has seen a lot of success with the disease no longer progressing and some have seen improvement of symptoms. So far I feel pretty good. Haven’t seen any real improvement, yet. I will go again in December for another infusion. But I feel very positive about this treatment.

    Thanks again for the article! I found myself agreeing with so many things you spoke of.

  • OKgal
    1 year ago

    Devin, your article is spot on and I would encourage anyone newly diagnosed to read it. “The decision is yours and yours alone” is quite a poignant statement. Being diagnosed is tough on the emotional psyche, but when researching and trying to find factual information is difficult when one is struggling with the diagnosis itself. When reaching out and joining groups of individuals also with this disease, it’s quite daunting to see the various inaccuracies of posts made by the so-called “agenda” pushers. Some of those “agenda pushers” are actually promoting things which could be dangerous to a person’s health without close monitoring by the evil MD’s. I will never understand why a person would waste their and a physician’s time by “not being a lab rat” for a simple visual clinical exam.

    This being said, I’m about to undergo such an exam in a few short days. It is an already scheduled existing appointment, but I did have an odd set back occurring a few weeks ago and reported it. I was hoping to be able to explain it away as an odd side affect of the DMT I’m currently taking. The response surprised me. He is concerned about the MS and it may be time to explore new treatment options. Mulling over this surprise response, I’ve concluded his reaction is definitely in the right direction. Reporting a pulmonary problem when the patient’s (me) pulse and blood pressure are normal can and should lead to looking into a possible/probable MS attack. Will an MRI be necessary for him to suggest a change in therapy? No, it will not. Do I fear needing to go on a stronger medication? Absolutely, and I’m okay with feeling the fear and embracing it. Why? It’s simple. I trust my neurologist and his expertise in the field. The trust took a long time to achieve, but I do know he has his patient’s best interest at heart. I have six short days to review the options available before discussing. I will go prepared and we will go over it together. The decision is not easy, but in the end, it is my decision. He is merely the one to give the go ahead and then, once again, continue monitoring my MS.

    Once again, you post an article during a time when I need to see it most. Thank you!

  • ellisa
    1 year ago

    Hi can you give me the information about the article you are talking about it. My son is waiting for his appointment with the Neurologist for a possible ms diagnosis. I just trying to get information about it to help my son. It has been very difficult time for him an for all of us. Than you my e mail ellisa14@hotmail.com my name Sandra
    Sorry now I know what article you talking about. Thanks any way

  • ellisa
    1 year ago

    Hi can you give me the information about the article you are talking about it. My son is waiting for his appointment with the Neurologist for a possible ms diagnosis. I just trying to get information about it to help my son. It has been very difficult time for him an for all of us. Than you my e mail ellisa14@hotmail.com my name Sandra

  • kpolive4
    1 year ago

    My first attack was optic neuritis in 2005. The second one came in 2011 when I went numb from my waist down. MRIs taken for both attacks showed no lesions, and I went undiagnosed. In 2016, once again I went numb from the waist down and lost function in my arms. This time? MRIs showed lesions everywhere, including a nice big one in the corticospinal nerves, which is why all four limbs were affected. Hindsight shows I had mild symptoms in between, but nothing that couldn’t be explained away. So even though on the surface I was “asymptomatic”, all kinds of damage was happening behind the scenes. I do follow the OMS Program which helps me with fatigue and cognitive symptoms, but for sure I also take a DMD (fully supported by OMS, by the way).

  • Mascha
    1 year ago

    Thank you for your great article. This subject really got to me,especially the Wahls diet that really frustrates me. The fact she had chemo explains a lot.
    I was diagnosed (2nd opinion) end of 2016 by a MS specialist/neurologist. I found him great. He diagnosed me as RRMS but mild course. He found no need to put me in a DMD. He believed my course would be the same if on DMD or not.
    Your thought?

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks Mascha! If you’ve had more than one opinion saying you are ok without medication, then I’d defer to them. We are all so different, and if anything, when people read this, I hope they understand that. That what works for one person, may not work for another.

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