To Your Health
May, 2012 (Vol. 06, Issue 05)
Dr. Andrew Weil on Drug-Free Life
By Gregg St. Clair, BA, MSTOM, LAc
I like to push my consciousness forward. One of my teachers instructed; we can only take our patients as far as we've gone. So when someone actually starts to create a new consciousness, it gets my attention.
Such a person is author and physician Dr. Andrew Weil. His name is synonymous with Integrative Medicine; he is the Founder and Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time
Magazine in 2005.
Dr. Weil recently has a new book published called Spontaneous Happiness that explores the roots and natural treatments of the current depression and anxiety epidemic. He took time out of his schedule to discuss the state of medicine today and how complementary and alternative medicine will play a role in the future of patient care.
You're best known for pioneering Integrative Medicine in what you consider a biopsychosocialspiritual approach. In CAM we have a long history of health being not only physical but part of the mind, spirit and society in which we live. Is mainstream Western Medicine finally starting to get this?
Absolutely. Practitioners of conventional medicine are perhaps even more fed up than patients with the drug-only approach to preventing and treating illness. Most doctors today are hungry to learn more about the mind-body continuum and how they can better help patients access their innate healing capacity.
I define integrative medicine as healing oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind and spirit), including all aspects of diet and lifestyle. The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (AzCIM), which I direct, has played a prominent role in shifting the perspective of mainstream physicians through education. For example, AzCIM is working towards the day when integrative medicine will be a standard part of the medical school curriculum. In addition, national integrative medicine conferences for health professionals co-sponsored by AzCIM are consistently well attended, and AzCIM offers a variety of popular educational courses for both the public and professionals on integrative approaches to health (http://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/education/online_courses.html). The success of AzCIM has spawned or influenced the creation of similar programs across the country. Therapeutic approaches that as recently as a few years ago were difficult to access in a conventional medical setting, such as meditation and acupuncture, are now recommended by medical doctors on a regular basis, and research supporting complete healing systems, such as Oriental Medicine and a range of complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies is included in some of the finest medical journals and textbooks in the world.
There is an epidemic of depression and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2030 more people will be affected by depression than any other health condition worldwide. You are a lifelong medical multiculturalist - can you explain what's going on in the world?
I am often asked this question, and while a number of reasonable explanations exist for the worldwide increase in depression, I believe the single biggest factor is the relatively recent but dramatic changes that have occurred in living conditions in industrialized nations. Depression occurs everywhere, that is true, but nowhere does it affect as many people as in affluent, technologically advanced countries. Consider that we eat manufactured food, stay indoors where we are generally sedentary, are subject to information overload, are over-stimulated by the media, and in an age where connection is but a mouse click away we are becoming more and more isolated from one another. Spontaneous happiness is incompatible with social isolation.