So conventional medicine's about mechanisms of illness, and we try and find out what the mechanisms are, then we interfere with them. So bacteria multiply; interfere with that with an antibiotic. Cancer cells replicate; interfere with that the chemotherapy, radiation. It's mechanistic. It works, but it doesn't go to the origins of illness, and of course it never addresses the origins of wellbeing or health, which are not even the origins of illness. Mechanistic medicine is great if I break my leg or I have pneumonia, but unless we address the deeper origins of illness, which have to do with how we live our life basically and what it means to us, we'll never be able to solve illness in our society, the problem of illness.
We replace old epidemics with new ones, and the older ones start to come back. So I thought, "Oh, you know, next few years, tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox will all be eradicated," but it's coming back even in affluent countries.
Then we have the problem that 36 percent of our patients in hospitals are suffering from iatrogenic disease, which is disease because you took some drug or you were prescribed a medication. The number one cause of drug addiction in the world is not street drugs, but medical prescriptions. The number one cause of deaths is prescriptions, narcotics -- prescriptions, not street drugs. The most devastating infections are hospital-acquired nosocomial infections, resistant to antibiotics. Immunocompromised hosts with chemotherapy are susceptible to all kinds of other illnesses.
We don't necessarily prolong life; we just prolong misery in many cases, which is not to say that mechanistic intervention is not good. It is, but you know, 80 percent of what we prescribe is of optional or marginal benefit, which means if we didn't use it, it wouldn't make a bit of a difference to the natural history of the disease. It would save a lot of money and a lot of side effects. So that's what's wrong. We do not address the relationship between emotions and illness, between lifestyle, sleep, exercise, diet, nutrition, between relationships, between social wellbeing, community wellbeing, between even bigger things like financial wellbeing and career wellbeing, all of which have a huge impact on what happens in our biology.
The biology's the end product of all this. And now, you know when I started talking about mind-body medicine 30 years ago, it was intuitive. But now you can see there's no mental event that doesn't have a brain representation. There's no brain representation that doesn't have a physiological representation. And this little computer that we have is influenced by thoughts, feelings, emotions, breathing, heart rate variability, stress, personal relationships, social interactions, environment, the forces of nature, diet, nutrition, phytochemicals -- it's really, really too complicated. So our standard interventions -- pharmaceuticals and surgery, basically, and radiation, whatever, still pharmaceuticals -- it's so incomplete.