Book review: ‘Drug Muggers’

Mike Miller  ·  May 01, 2016

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By Alyssa Klaus

Medication has quickly become a normal way of life in America. The rate of heart disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, and many other illnesses has continued to rise, and drug manufacturers are always ready with a slew of new drugs to combat them.

drugmuggersSuzy Cohen, a pharmacist for more than 26 years and author of the syndicated health column “Dear Pharmacist,” would be the first to tell you that often these drugs are helpful and necessary. However, she would also tell you that they often deplete vital nutrients from our bodies, which can cause even more damage.

How can this be combated in a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on drugs? Knowledge. In her book Drug Muggers, Cohen says that “if you have to take medicine, then you should know how to stay safer on it.”

So then, what exactly is a “drug mugger”? Cohen defines it as “an over-the-counter or prescribed medication, food, herb, medical condition, or lifestyle choice that is capable of robbing your body’s natural stores of an important vitamin, mineral, or hormone.” Yes, you read that right. While Cohen mostly focuses on medications in her book, she does shed light onto other areas that could cause a depletion of vital nutrients as well. For example, coffee may cause a depletion of calcium, magnesium, and zinc, among many others, and stress has been shown to take a toll on your body’s B vitamins.

This information is found in part one of her book, in which she also provides us with what she calls a “punch list” of drugs and the nutrients they “mug” from us. Cohen weighs in heavily on Statins and hormone replacement treatments. Statins, for example, block the production of CoQ10, a nutrient that produces energy in every cell of the body. This can cause leg cramps, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, fatigue, and many other symptoms. Cohen says that these new symptoms can often be misread and cause people to be diagnosed with additional conditions that they don’t actually have. This, she says, is why it is essential that people educate themselves about not only the nutrients that their body needs, but about the medications they are taking.

The second part of Cohen’s book is a comprehensive directory of vital nutrients, starting with vitamin A and going all the way to zinc. The sheer volume of information offered up in these pages can be intimidating, but with the help of the list in the prior section, you can easily check which vitamins and nutrients that a medication or lifestyle could be stealing and then find the correlating chapters on them.

In this section, each chapter begins by explaining what particular role a specific vitamin or nutrient plays in our bodies, along with what a deficiency would look like, and what might be “mugging” you of these nutrients.

Next, Cohen gives some tips on how to remedy the situation. Her “Put This on Your Plate” section suggests foods that are high in particular nutrients, followed by suggested doses of the nutrient for either “general health” or those being “mugged.”

After a few more tidbits of information and suggestions on how to “install a nutrient security system,” she wraps up with “What’s in My Cupboard.” Here, she lists companies that she trusts when it comes to particular vitamins or nutrients, saving readers the time and effort it takes to find reputable sources.

In the final part of her book, Cohen imparts some much needed tips about supplements from her 26 years as a pharmacist, especially when it comes to choosing them and steering clear of the most common tricks used by manufacturers. For example, she says that you should expect to pay more for quality vitamins, saying “the cost to produce vitamin supplements includes the bottle, shipping, marketing, and distribution. I’m not a mathematical genius, but how much was left to invest in the quality of those vitamins if they only cost $10?” She also says not to fall for the one pill trick. The amount of necessary daily nutrients cannot be found in one multivitamin pill. It often takes three to six high-quality capsules a day to achieve an optimal level of nutrients.

Other ways to avoid poor supplements include checking quality control, watching for additives, selecting a biologically active formula, and, perhaps most importantly, being aware of false claims. Cohen advises her readers to use caution when using unique herbal products or supplements as there is often no clinical research to support their claims and they can even be detrimental to your health.

Drug Muggers may seem like an intimidating read because of its textbook-like format, but in reality it is an exceptional resource for those taking medication or striving to improve their health. Cohen helps her readers to reduce the legwork by providing an inside look into the world of vitamins and supplements, and even provides a list of what are, in her opinion, reputable supplement manufacturers. While this book can carve a path for its readers into the wide unknown of vitamins and supplements, it is not the Swiss Army knife of vitamin knowledge. In the end, Cohen says, “educate yourself about the supplements you take. Then educate yourself some more.” Readers must read with discretion and, with your own practitioner, decide how the information here can further your overall health and wellness.

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice.