You can find anything you want on the Internet. There is a company that makes underpants for your hands. There are mouse pads in the shape of a woman’s chest so that men have a place to rest their wrists. There is information on pretty much everything imaginable, including – but not limited to – the suggested date of the next alien invasion, presumably based on corn growth patterns.
There are even a few hundred articles on why eating rice will cause an early death (humans, of course, were not meant to digest rice, and so it kills them. I’m currently warning Japan of this to no avail).
It’s this free flow of information that has made the term “pharmaceutical drugs” taboo, at least with much of the mainstream population. The degree to which some people put their faith in herbal supplements (which some have termed “nutraceuticals” because people like portmanteaus) is almost frightening. Herbal supplement companies use terms like…
• Boost
• Promote
• Fight
…that allow them to avoid the FTC regulations, while claiming that their products are tested in scientific studies conducted by them on 5 or so people. As someone that suffers from anxiety (one of the most common problems addressed by these herbal medicines) I find this troublesome. That is not to say that I don’t believe in herbal remedies – quite the contrary, I do, and I think that usage of them is underutilized – but the willingness for people to accept that natural=good and unnatural=bad is troublesome, especially for those that suffer from the same condition that I do.
They’ve created this idea that using medicine when you need it is inherently bad, and to make matters worse, the idea that pharmaceutical medicines are “bad” has also lead to the belief that therapy is bad, because those that support these herbal remedies associate anything with a great deal of research as unnatural. Often I’m introduced to people that not only avoid anti-anxiety drugs (that it’s clear they need) but also enroll in often hilarious and often ineffective therapies with no clinical evidence to support their efficacy.
But I don’t necessarily blame the “neutraceutical” manufacturers. I place a lot of the blame on pharmaceutical marketing – or at the very least, the doctors that prescribe these drugs for reasons that aren’t ideal. Using benzodiazepines for panic disorders, for example, are a perfect way to give these drugs a bad name. Benzodiazepines affect cognitive functioning, have short and long term side effects, and do nothing to help with panic attacks in the long term. I would argue that they may even do more harm than good, because panic attacks are a mental health problem only, and as soon as the person stops taking the drugs it’s a near guarantee they’re going to immediately experience a panic attack again.
What makes this even more troubling, at least for me, is that the idea that something like chamomile tea can cure severe anxiety sets back the way that mental health problems are seen by society. Everyone and their mother, then, starts to believe that they have severe anxiety (sort of like the way that everyone seems to have a gluten allergy these days) and then is somehow able to magic it a way with these natural herbs that otherwise have no effect on anyone, ever.
What Can the Pharmaceutical Industry Do?
In my opinion, these manufacturers need to change the way that pharmaceutical medicines are marketed and supplied. Some ideas:
• Teach Proper Use – Far too many people with real anxiety disorders are avoiding these medicines in favor of herbal supplements that have the same long term benefits of anxiety as scratching yourself in public. Others are using some of the more powerful medications for minimal amounts of anxiety and mental health problems that need to be treated by a professional first. Balancing these will help give these medicines a better name in the community, while potentially increasing profits.
• Treat Herbal Supplements Like a Partner – Right now it’s a war between “natural treatments” and modern medicine. It doesn’t need to be that way. Herbs like kava have shown some clinical benefits for mild to moderate anxiety, and other herbs – while they may be no better than a placebo – are probably still a better choice for those with very limited amounts of anxiety. This should, hopefully, teach people that medicine isn’t the enemy, but rather a step up when herbal remedies (whether they work or don’t work) are not enough.
It’s not much, and it’s certainly nothing groundbreaking, but as someone that lives with anxiety and works in an industry that tries to help people with anxiety symptoms, the effects of this war between herbal supplements and modern medicine is hurting the industry more than helping it, and I suspect that pharmaceutical manufacturers are experiencing the downsides more than they care to admit. It’s time for the way these mental health drugs are marketed and distributed to change, and since herbal supplements are cleaning up on people’s fears of effective medicine, it’s likely up to the pharmaceutical industry to change it.

Author's Bio: 

Ryan Rivera suffered from intense anxiety, and focused his career on helping others manage their symptoms of anxiety in the future. He has a website with information on anxiety and panic attacks at