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Five Arguments Against Adding Drugs to Chiropractic

The real thingNow that the dust has settled from the New Mexico attempt that would have allowed chiropractors to prescribe drugs and possibly perform surgery, it might be helpful to remind ourselves as to why this was, and is, such a bad idea. An idea that some, emboldened by last year’s close call in the Land of Enchantment, seem inclined to bring to other legislatures near you.

I’m guessing that when you see Minute Maid juice, you don’t think of apple juice. And when you think of BIC Pens you probably don’t imagine BIC pantyhose. (Yes, they tried that!) Or how about a Harley Davidson cake decorating kit? Or Lifesaver gum? Or Coca-Cola chap stick?

In marketing parlance these unsuccessful (and expensive) hallucinations are called line extensions. They rarely work. Yet a handful of chiropractors are trying to pull off something similar with the addition of drugs to the chiropractic scope of practice!

The most misguided in chiropractic (who see themselves as visionaries) seem eager to pervert chiropractic into some type of New Coke healthcare discipline. There are other arguments, but here are a quick five that I posit are reasons enough to abandon this unwise direction. And while it’s unlikely to convince the most ardent (who rarely hang out in these parts), keep these points in mind when you’re tempted to think, “What’s the harm in expanding the chiropractic scope of practice?”

1. Adding pharmacology removes one of the key distinctions separating medical practitioners from chiropractors. This may come as a shock to those who yearn to have the social proof of medical doctors, but most chiropractic patients choose chiropractic because it isn’t medicine! And those who don’t, usually choose chiropractic after an unsatisfactory experience trying a medical solution.

Adding drugs to the chiropractic scope of practice will reduce market share because it would invoke the “been there, done that, got the T-shirt, mug, mouse pad and DVD” response. Simply put, many chiropractic patients choose chiropractic because they want something different. Tried same. Don’t want same. Want different. You don’t want to lose this edge.

2. Adding pharmacology will NOT increase respect, esteem or the reputation of the chiropractic profession among those who control hospitals, insurance companies or public opinion. In fact, just the reverse will occur. Medical doctor wannabes will be seen as opportunistic short-cut-takers who didn’t pay his or her dues in favor of some weekend seminars.

3. Adding pharmacology will NOT increase a chiropractor’s income. If the motive for blurring the distinction between chiropractic and medicine is in having the increased income of adding injectables to the practice (because it is currently a reimbursable procedure insurance companies pay for), what’s the plan when this procedure is no longer covered? Or reimbursement becomes a mere fraction of that of an adjustment? Pursuing pharmacology for financial reasons is a huge gamble unlikely to remain a viable teat for confused, cash-starved chiropractors.

4. Adding pharmacology will pervert the meaning of chiropractic and confuse the public. We already have enough confusion with various “prefixed” chiropractors. As in straight chiropractors, principled chiropractors, upper cervical chiropractors, annual care plan chiropractors and the rest. Having a two-tiered chiropractic profession adds confusion, friction and uncertainty.

5. Adding pharmacology makes the simple idea of chiropractic more complex. In other words, when you add drugs to the chiropractic care protocol you confuse patients who are inclined to give the drug credit rather than the self-healing capability of their body when nervous system interferences are reduced. Actually, this is already happening in far too many chiropractic practices in which patients see repeated adjustments as drug dosing.

It’s easy to imagine a chiropractor, sitting alone in his or her practice, longing to help someone, being deceived into thinking that he or she would be more attractive by adding pharmacological agents to the practice. This, after already adding spinal decompression, cold laser, nutrition, weight loss, anti-smoking campaigns and all the rest.

We’ve tried more. How ‘bout trying less?

As for the argument that chiropractors shouldn’t be tethered to a 100 year-old philosophy and become relics of the 19th century, may I respectfully remind you that for over 100 years, chiropractic has worked when traditional methods have failed. Chiropractic has been around far longer than the more recent invention of a drug culture created out of corporate greed.

Are you going to trust man made concoctions or the wisdom of the body that can self-heal when nervous system interferences are reduced?

Choose carefully.

Comments (4)

Claire Giusti:

I made a conscious choice almost 40 years ago: Chiropractic school or Medical school? I chose to become a Chiropractor mainly because of the philosophy, which is based on the innate self-healing, self-regulating capacity of the body. While I'm not and never have been "Straight," I'd rather refer a patient to an MD when necessary than become a half-baked one myself. As for the imagined economic benefits, they'd be more than wiped out by increased malpractice premiums.

The medical system has played a large role in undermining the health of Americans. According to several research studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments:
• 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery
• 7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals
• 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals
• 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals
• 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs
Thus, America's healthcare-system-induced deaths are the third leading cause of the death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

Jason Harrison:


Thanks for once again so eloquently speaking what we know to be true but can't quite put into words as well as what you can. I'm always in "awe" over the depth to which you understand every situation on the chiropractic radar.

Dr. Harrison

Excellent post! I don't think anyone have said it better, or more clearly outlined the downside of this very slippery slope.

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From January 16, 2012 8:20 AM

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