Alternative Remedies Make Millions

This file is from the Dallas Morning News of January 29, 1993


Poll says Billions spent on Alternative Therapies

BOSTON – A third of Americans seek relief from aches and pains

outside mainstream medicine, spending nearly $14 billion a year on

such therapies as relaxation techniques and herbal cures, a survey


Although that is only $1 for every $60 spent on all kinds of health

care, the researchers estimate that Americans actually pay more

visits to providers of unorthodox treatments than they do to primary

care physicians.

The work suggests that Americans often bypass conventional medicine

when they want help for backaches, headaches, stress and other

complaints for which doctors too often lack the skills – or the time

– to cure.

“Some of these treatments are probably quackery,” said Dr. Edward W.

Campion. “Some of them are just the American version of the health


The most common of these therapies are, in order;

1) relaxation techniques,

2) chiropractic,

3) massage,

4) imagery,

5) spiritual healing,

6) commercial weight-loss programs,

7) macrobiotics and other lifestyle diets,

8) herbal medicine,

9) megavitamins,

10) self-help groups,

11) energy healing,

12) biofeedback,

13) hypnosis,

14) homeopathy,

15) acupuncture and

16) folk remedies.

The level of use of unconventional therapies revealed by the survey

is far higher than experts had thought.

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The study, based on a nationwide telephone survey of 1,539 adults,

was directed by Dr. David M. Eisenberg of Boston’s Beth Israel

Hospital and published in Thursday’s NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF

MEDICINE. It is the largest effort yet to measure the use and cost

of alternative medicine in the United States.

The study found that 34 percent of Americans said they used at least

one unconventional therapy in 1990.

Among other findings:

Backaches are the No. 1 reason for alternative therapies, cited

by 36 percent of those seeking help.

The use of unconventional therapy was most common among people 25

to 49, those with some college education, and those with annual

incomes greater than $35,000. It was less common among blacks.