H. Robert Silverstein is Medical Director of The Preventive Medicine Center, a non-profit organization that offers advice on living healthier. He has had articles published by Self Health Networker and the American Journal of Cardiology. Maximum Healing: Improve Your Immune System and Optimize Your Ability to Heal, his 2007 book, offers suggestions on how to treat and prevent various diseases. Silverstein received his B.A. from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and his M.D. from Ohio State University, Columbus.
H.Robert Silverstein: Well why do people smoke cigarettes? Why do they overeat? Why do they drink more than just a little bit of alcohol? Why don’t they exercise, and so on? And it sounds like I don’t like human beings, but it turns out we wanna get stoned. You know girls just wanna have fun? Well people just wanna get stoned. And I know that’s a terrible word to say, but that’s what eating a “fine meal” really is. That’s what drinking three, four glasses of wine on a more or less nightly business . . . nightly basis is. That’s what smoking five and ten cigarettes or more a day is. We get some kind of internal, biochemical stimulation that we recognize as “better” or “high”, however you wanna look at it, and we keep going back and back after that. So what I say is to simplify it so that people can understand it is that people wanna get stoned by eating chicken, and meat, and cheese, and eggs. And those are not things that we couldn’t do. As a matter of fact I even say there’s a time and a place for heroin. That sounds terrible, but you know if you get a fractured hip or you undergo surgery, you need Demerol, or Morphine, or _________, and those are all heroin equals. So there’s a time and a place for everything, but we’re doing too many of the chicken, meat, cheese, eggs, refined pastas, refined breads and cereals, fried foods, high calorie foods, sitting on our duff, drinking too much, etc., etc. to the point where we’ve created the health problems that we have. So real preventive medicine is arming people and persuading people to give up doing those things which turn out to be counterproductive.
Question: Where does the impulse to get “stoned” come from?
H.Robert Silverstein: Well if you take a look at what I call pre-type . . . pre-technological populations – the Australian Aborigine; the African Cong; the New Zealand Maori and so on; the _________ of Northern Mexico; all those people live what I call a pre-technological life – no electricity; no automobiles; no refrigerators; no grocery stores; no cigarettes. They can’t drink too much because they’ll be hung over the next day, and they have work to do if they wanna survive. So those people have not yet developed the technology to hurt themselves. But we have developed the technology to hurt ourselves so that we can drive everywhere and not exercise; so that we can eat too many high calorie foods; so that we can smoke, drink too much; and all at very reasonable economic prices. It doesn’t cost that much to buy French fries, and hamburgers, and cheeseburgers, and pizza. And I’m not saying you can never do these things; but it is the frequency with which we are doing these things that has allowed us to develop these diseases. So you take these people who were pre-technological. And as they get, for a lack of a better word, “civilized” – that is they come to our cities and so on – they start developing all the diseases that we do. But if they didn’t come to our cities, those conditions never occur in their cultures, and they live just as long as we do if they get past the teenage and traumatic years – traumatic implying tribal war or something like that. So the genetic tendency is always there to have this desire to get high on our internal biochemical hormones – the Endocannabinoids is literally the name of those hormones inside of us. But there are other systems and they don’t become expressed. But once you get the chance to eat that fried chicken and that pizza, we keep going back because it tastes good. And that’s my point for calling it “high” or “stoned” or whatever
Question: Do citizens of pre-technology civilizations face health risks that members of industrialized societies do not?
H.Robert Silverstein: Yes. They get the infectious disease that we developed the culture to avoid, and malaria would be a common one. They also have lion bite and falling out of trees so to speak – off cliffs and so on. Their life is much more physical and outdoors, and they have all the risks that our pioneers and explorers would have been exposed to. But they have none of our heart disease, and diabetes, and hypertension, and dialysis need, or the cancers and so on because they simply aren’t doing those things.