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Complimentary and Alternative medicine - Things to Consider

According to national surveys, complimentary and alternative medicine, also known as CAM, is growing rapidly in the United States. From complimentary therapies, such as massage, vitamin supplements and Reiki, to alternative therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy and ayurveda, studies suggest that Americans are partaking of the increased availability of these therapies more and more each year.

While many of these treatments have not been scientifically studied and tested, many researchers are currently studying the effects of alternative and complimentary therapies. Although many people are using CAM therapies, they will not be scientifically accepted until they are thoroughly tested, studied and proven to be safe and effective.

One of the first landmark moments of acceptance for CAM was in 1998, when the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) featured a special issue dedicated to alternative medicine. It was the first time a mainstream U.S. medical journal had published information that showed extensive studies and research on these healing methods.

A government survey released to the public in 2004 stated that over 35% of American citizens over the age of 18 use CAM. When prayer was included in the CAM definition, that number rose to 62%. The survey also showed that those aged 35 to 49 were beginning to use CAM therapy.

The study also found that most people were using these therapies to prevent disease and stay well, not cure current diseases.

The Harvard team of researchers, led by David M. Eisenbert, asked over 2,000 U.S. adults about their CAM use. Vitamins, massage, herbal medicine, imagery, spiritual healing and various diets were among the therapies in question. They found that the number of people using CAM had more than doubled since 1990.

The research team concluded that Americans are spending billions of dollars a year on complimentary and alternative therapies that are not covered by their insurance policies.

There is a mixed reaction about the increased use of CAM. While practitioners applying CAM to their practices are applauding the fact that more people are using these therapies, many medical experts feel there is reason for concern.

One reason is because the survey found that nearly 40% of those using alternative therapies were not sharing this information with their primary health practitioners. The survey also found that millions of people are using herbs and high dose vitamins, in addition to prescription drugs. These findings raise a question of drug-vitamin safety, since certain chemical interactions have been known to cause medical complications.

Many are also worried about the lack of scientific testing for CAM therapies. Nevertheless, CAM use is growing rapidly and in turn, the amount of research and scientific studies are increasing dramatically.

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