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Letters
November 18, 1998

Why Patients Use Alternative Medicine

Author Affiliations
 

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;280(19):1659-1661. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-19-jbk1118

To the Editor.—The most important reason patients use alternative medicine has not been given enough weight by Dr Astin.1 Alternative medicine is a form of parapsychiatry, and people primarily seek it for relief from psychological distress. Conventional medicine, third-party payers,2 and patients themselves, as a rule, underestimate the role of psychological factors in the cause and maintenance of physical and psychiatric disorders. Ironically, even conventional psychiatry by and large disparages the mental and overvalues the physical in dealing with psychological problems. This bias goes across the board. Patients would rather seek alternative therapies that purport to cure by physical means—eg, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal concoctions—than see a psychiatrist or acknowledge that the benefits of alternative medicine mostly lie in faith and are mediated through the mind.

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