Where Prescription Medication and Naturopathic Medicine Intersect

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I have been asked many times, “Are you against prescription drugs?” and the answer is a flat-out, “No.” Just because it is a tool that I do not use in my practice does not mean that I am against it. Here’s what I am for:

  • The appropriate use of prescription drugs
  • Having a conversation with the prescribing doctor about why it’s being prescribed/for how long/expected results/possible side effects
  • Using medical testing regularly to assess health while using a medication, as required
  • Having a great relationship with the dispensing pharmacist so you can ask questions
  • Informed consent when using a drug so you know the risks, benefits and alternatives and you accept these in agreeing to use it
  • Non-judgement of a patient’s right to choose treatment whether that be a prescription drug or any other form of treatment that helps them

Prescription medication is a valuable form of medical treatment. It has a place in healthcare and we are so very fortunate to have access to the latest pharmaceuticals. In Ontario, prescribing pharmaceuticals is beyond my scope of practice in naturopathic medicine. I use a whole host of other treatment tools like acupuncture, herbal medicine, stress reduction training, etc. But very often, I work with patients who are using prescription (and sometimes over-the-counter) drugs. Here is how I work with them:

  • I ask about prescription and over-the-counter medication use to be aware of what patients are taking
  • I ask about self-prescribed natural supplement use like herbs, vitamins, and minerals
  • I let patients know if there are interactions between what they are using already: drug-drug, herb-drug, or nutrient-drug interactions
  • If it is a drug-drug interaction, I refer them to the prescribing doctor and/or dispensing pharmacist to follow-up on it
  • I assess for symptoms that may be related to a drug side effect (and not related to their health condition)
  • If there is a suspected drug side effect, I refer them to the prescribing doctor to review their medication
  • I recommend naturopathic treatments to reduce the risk/symptoms of adverse effects
  • I screen for any nutrient deficiencies that may be drug-induced and inform patients of options to improve their nutrient status
  • If patients are weaning off a drug with their doctor, I support them with naturopathic therapies to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms

The choice to use medication is a personal one that is made by a patient with their doctor. It is not always possible to avoid medication use based on the health concern, degree of severity and other factors. Naturopathic doctors receive training in pharmacology. In fact, our Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX) includes testing in pharmacology as a medical intervention. There is additional support that a naturopathic doctor can provide if someone is currently using prescription medication.

The decision to access naturopathic care does not mean you must stop using your medications. Under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor, there is a way to safely and effectively use natural therapies along with medication to improve your overall health.