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I Don't Need Your Unsolicited Medical Advice

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

We’ve probably all experienced advice we haven’t asked for, and when you have a disability this can become especially frustrating. We’ve all also been advertised to on the internet, and products to treat our conditions are often shown to us. But it’s different when someone comments on an unrelated post of ours or in reply to us on a forum or social network, seemingly pushing a treatment of some kind.

Often the comment will be blatant, clearly advertising an item, with a link to a site. Other times they will start with a long-winded, often emotional story that may relate to the topic and finish with a reference to a product that “changed their life.” Then there are more subtle attempts at pushing products, like just mentioning it or suggesting it in passing, or starting a conversation about it. These can be more difficult to spot, and sometimes they may very well be someone trying to help, but other times these attempts come with an intention to sell the product. Everyone can be a target of this kind of advertising, but those with disabilities seem to get it more often, perhaps due to the desperation that can come with disability, or lack
of access to other forms of treatment due to financial limitations.

I do a bit of drawing, but I’m not fantastic. I can draw shapes and you can tell what they are; some drawings are better than others depending on how I’m feeling. I posted a drawing I did that wasn’t one of my best to a forum, but I thought it put the point across as much as was needed, and even commented myself that I didn’t think it was very good. A discussion on my art skill began in the comments beneath, with many saying kind things, but another said the rest were patronizing me. I explained to this person that it was just a quick doodle, done fairly late at night when I was tired and I was stiff with my fibromyalgia. This person commented back simply with “Take some red vein kratom and your pain will go away.”

I am typically skeptical of anything that seems to good to be true, and stating a plant will make my pain disappear is something I am not going to believe easily. I informed this person that fibromyalgia wasn’t just about pain and that I didn’t ask for any advice for it. The person then became angry, calling me an “ungrateful swine,” and this anger only grew when I asked whether they were a salesperson. Now, I have no proof that they were indeed selling this product, but their username was very close to the plant’s name they were promoting and they seemed to know the price offhand when I said it was expensive. Which it is, when I can get over-the-counter painkillers for 45p a box and any other treatments I need for free from the National Health Service.

Now, I know that not everyone is as lucky as me, especially in places like the United States of America. Since many of the prices for these kinds of products are in U.S. dollars, I assume that Americans are their primary target audience. I get it, you live in a society where medical needs are often incredibly expensive and this is a cheaper alternative. You may think “It’s a plant; what’s the harm in trying?” It may very well offer relief, but it may also have addictive properties or even bad side effects. I’m not saying these kinds of treatments can’t help, but I don’t think it makes me or anyone an “ungrateful swine” to not take a stranger’s word for it.

This plant has been made illegal in various countries around the world, although I realize legality doesn’t always correlate with a substance’s health benefits. Marijuana, for example, is slowly seeing the light of day for medical purposes, but this has been after a lot of debate and research, with strong evidence that it indeed does provide pain relief. Moreover, everyone’s body and conditions can be different and interact differently. What works for some might not for others. Someone taking this into account and questioning pushy sales pitches is merely taking care of themselves, as anyone should.

So be careful out there. Be wary of someone giving you medical advice on the internet. Do your research and try to talk to a doctor whenever possible. Don’t take risks with your health, especially with something that can be addictive or hasn’t been validated by science. It isn’t worth it.

Getty image by Artisteer.

Originally published: May 29, 2018
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