Thinking Beyond Opioids and Street Drugs
Chemical dependency is often viewed narrowly, as dependence on drugs. The phrase itself conjures up images of meth labs in trailer parks, and homeless addicts shooting heroine in dark alleys. But most of us know deep inside that this is only one tragic aspect of a much deeper problem. In recent years, we are also giving attention to dependence on prescription drugs, partly in conjunction with awareness of alarming death rates associated with opioid pain relievers. There is a growing awareness that essentially all drugs have unwanted side effects. Disease sufferers are increasingly turning to nutritional, epigenetic/nutrigenomic, and microbiome friendly health solutions, hoping to reduce their own dependence on chemicals. Some forward thinking individuals are challenging the very concept of treating the sick with drugs, noting tragic statistics surrounding deaths induced by pharmaceuticals.
In its broadest perspective, dependence on chemicals is impacting not only our personal health, but also the health of our economy and our environment.
Even those who consider all drug use a dependence on chemicals are only looking at a small portion of the problem. In its broadest perspective, dependence on chemicals is impacting not only our personal health, but also the health of our economy and our environment. The chemicals that we use to power our vehicles, heat our homes, preserve our foods, sanitize our living spaces, and cleanse, screen, or tattoo our skin are creating a world that is diminishing not only our quality of life, but also the lives of microbiomes that support all other biodiversity. These microbiomes quite literally give rise to life itself.
It can be argued that a large percentage of the mass extinctions which have led geologists to define the Anthropocene epoch are either directly, or indirectly related to the extraction, synthesis, and utilization of chemicals. Even mainstream media like Newsweek and CNN took note of the recent study by Hallmann et. al. indicating a more than 75% decline in total insect biomass over the last 27 years. Newsweek quoted one study author, Dave Goulson, as saying “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon.” Insects are not the only ones impacted. A recent letter in the journal, Nature estimates more than 3 million people die annually due to chemical pollutants in the atmosphere.
Steps You Can Take to Become Less Chemically Dependent
The good news is that we do not have to sit around hopelessly watching this demise. We have viable and proven alternatives to the most commonly used chemicals. We know how to heat and cool our homes with little to no fossil fuels. We know how to generate electricity with renewable sources. We know how to prevent, treat, and even cure disease with simple nutritional and lifestyle changes. We know how to grow food that is both free of synthetic chemicals and nutrient dense. We can preserve it in ways that do not compromise nutrition. We even know how to create clean living spaces without chemicals.
Make good food choices
Because we eat daily, and because food is essential to our health, changes we make in our food choices may be the most rapid and powerful changes individuals can make to break free of chemical dependency. You, as an individual, have the power to choose foods that are grown with, or foods that are grown without toxic chemicals. You, as an individual, can choose whether the foods you buy are fresh, local, and nutrient dense, or depleted of nutrients, shipped halfway around the world using fossil fuels, and delivered to you in a plastic (fossil fuel derived) container. You even have the power to grow your own food-in containers, in your back yard, on your farm, or in a community garden. And because food choices have profound long term impacts on your physical health and on your demand for pharmaceuticals, you alone have the power to choose foods and supplements that ensure your long term health.
Learning where your food comes from is critical for making food choices that reduce chemical dependence. Reading labels is inadequate, because labels don’t contain enough information. In fact, it can be argued that a century of relying on labels and packaging to assure you that food is safe and nutritious has led to a global epidemic of chronic disease. Labeling laws simply can’t address the holistic issues of where food was planted, how it was cultivated, harvest and post-harvest practices and other factors that impact food safety and nutrition. Most of the micronutrients and trace minerals cells need to survive are not even included in food labels! Remember, if your health and energy are low, you are probably depleting your cells of the nutrients it needs to survive. As nutrition and energy become depleted, the temptation to rely on the quick fix of chemicals-legal or illegal, increases. If you want to know how your food is being grown, you only have a few options:
-grow your own food, or support a community victory garden.
-get to know your farmer and the food you buy.
-follow your favorite food companies closely enough to know how they are selecting and quality checking their food.
Control your Living Environment.
Ensure that your home, yard, and garden are free of toxic chemicals that can compromise your health. Use safe, biodegradable cleaning agents. If you worry that your kids or pets will be poisoned by household cleaners, you are buying the wrong kind.
Influence Your Community.
Build networks, reach out to others, and build influence. Celebrate the achievements of your neighbors and family members. Promote positive efforts that benefit the local community. Building strong social networks helps to alleviate dependencies that drive individuals towards chemically based solutions.
Seek Alternative Health Care First.
Consider chemical options only after you are certain that your nutritional, emotional, and lifestyle needs have been addressed.
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Fight against policies and social programs that force limited options upon many. Whether polices are forcing growers to place meaningless labels on food, or defining the preventive measures individuals must take to reduce disease, such policies always favor industries most able to lobby legislatures and pay lawyers. This burdens the remaining majority of individuals with the cost of implementation, while leaving most blind to cryptic fine print in the bills. It is much better to protect the public through awareness and distribution of information that relies on individuals to make free and rational choices.
Gain Control of Your Health, Your Time, and Your Money.
The stress created by long work hours, financial worries, and health needs drive many to dependencies that undo even the best efforts for a chemically independent lifestyle. Even a long commute to work contributes to dependence on fossil fuels. By working close to home and taking charge of your own life, you promote independence, not only for yourself, but for those around you.
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