Alternative medicine, or CAM, is a class of drugs that combines a variety of treatments that fall outside the realm of conventional medicine. An increasing number of studies are being conducted to determine the safety and efficacy of other drugs. But compared to traditional “Western” medicines such as drugs, research into other drugs is still limited.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What Is the Difference?
It is important to understand the difference between complementary medicine and alternative therapies – these two approaches are often combined but are different.
Concurrent medicine refers to healing acts and products that work in conjunction with traditional medicine. For example, a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy may also receive acupuncture to help manage the chemo side effects such as nausea and vomiting.
Some medicines differ in that they are not used as a supplement, but instead in traditional medicine. An example would be a cancer patient who stops receiving recommended chemotherapy and instead chooses to treat the disease with certain dietary changes.
There is a third stage that often intervenes between conventional and alternative medicine – combination drugs. Integrated medicine derives from both complementary and alternative medicine and combines these with traditional Western therapies, says Donald Abrams, MD, director of clinical programs for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Who Uses It?
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) recently examined Americans for their use of complementary and alternative therapies.
The study, which collected information on more than 20,000 adults and nearly 10,000 children, found that about 40 percent of adults and 12 percent of children used some form of alternative medicine.
Women, people in their 40s and 60s, as well as adults with higher education and income levels are more likely to use alternative therapies. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people using conventional and alternative therapies, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy.