I ran into my friend Kevin Quigley at the gym on Friday. “How have you been?” I asked. “I heard you’ve been sick.”
“I’ve been better, actually,” he said. “Apparently I just needed to stop taking my medicine. Ever since then, I’ve felt great.” He’d been on a shifting regimen of pills for sinusitis (and other symptoms) since April.
“Well, I’m not sure that’s science,” I said, “but I’m glad you’re feeling better.” And I meant it. Both parts.*
This is an evolution for me. The Professor Coldheart of eight years ago would have no patience for people who abandoned evidence-based medicine. Anyone who deviated from what he knew to be accurate would get a lecture. Now I’m a much more mellow person. Also, I have a wider group of friends than I did back then. I have friends who swear by acupuncture for allergies or acute pains, or holistic medicine for internal issues and joint pain. And I’d much rather have those people as friends than as a lecture audience.
That doesn’t change my attitude toward alternative medicine. I still think acupuncture (for instance) isn’t any good. Western medicine may not be perfect, but the Western cures of 2010 are different from the Western cures of 1910. Acupuncture apparently got as good as it’ll ever get in the Han Dynasty. What theory there is surrounding it hinges on non-existent lines of energy within the body. And almost none of the clinical trials to which acupuncture has been subjected have yielded anything. I have a stubborn bias for evidence when it comes to the medicines I endorse.
And yet friends of mine have taken acupuncture and felt better. I don’t intend to argue with their feelings. I’m not going to say, “Oh, you only think you feel better. You actually feel substantially worse!” And I’m not going to use their recent relief from chronic pain as an excuse for a lecture about double-blind trials. That would make me (more of) an asshole.
So I plan to keep taking OTC meds for my allergies. And I’m glad Kevin’s feeling better.
* Also, lumping in Kevin’s going off his meds with acupuncture isn’t exactly fair. There’s a lot to be said for not over-medicating your body.