Why I Prescribe the Love Drug

Pamela Wible lips

As a doctor, it’s my job to figure out what patients really need. Some need antibiotics. Some need pain pills. But everyone needs love.

During med school I cared for burned children. One of my patients was a 3-year-old with severe burns over most of his body. His roommate, an older boy, had just burned one arm. Yet the older child withered in the corner while the younger one jumped all over the playroom despite his contracted and painful limbs. Why? The younger boy’s family kept hugging and kissing him. The older boy had no visitors.

People die without love.

My friend, Dr. Patch Adams, discovered that less than 3% of his patients have self-esteem. And less than 5% have any idea what a day-to-day vitality for life is about. The fact is most people are in pain. So what do we prescribe for pain? Painkillers, of course.

Recently, I attended a training on the safe use of opioid painkillers where I learned that the United States is 4.6% of the world’s population, yet we consume 80% of all opioids. But painkillers don’t seem to be killing our pain. Why?

In America, we overprescribe opioids while under-prescribing the most potent drug of all: love. And love IS a drug. How fabulous you feel with it. And how painful life is without it.  So why are we so stingy about prescribing love? 

The antidote for hate, neglect, apathy, misery, even sorrow is love. No prescription pad needed. No risk of overdose Love is my preferred potion. I give patients heart-shaped balloons. And hugs. Yes, I even tell patients, “I love you.” Some leave with my kiss on their forehead.

You don’t need a medical degree to say, “I love you.” Just three simple words can heal more wounds than all the doctors in the world.

—–> See my TED Talk on healing & vulnerability.

Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family doc in Eugene, Oregon. She is author of Pet Goats & Pap Smears. Photo by Geve.

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23 comments on “Why I Prescribe the Love Drug
  1. melissa mason says:

    yes love. i agree. the most important ingredient of any cure 🙂 the reason to fight

  2. Lisa says:

    So true, Pamela! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jodi says:

    Thanks for reminding us, as the song goes…”all you need is love”

  4. Julie Greene says:

    I agree so much. I am not a doctor but I frequently blog on the same topic, Pamela. I use different words but know in my heart that we are saying the same thing. I will respond to your post with a post of my own and provide a link here. Thanks. Love, Julie and her little dog, Puzzle.

  5. Cat McPeek says:

    Three simple words,
    generously given daily,
    can cure cronic heartache.
    I love you.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Oh Julie – thank you so much for your beautiful response on your blog. These conversations are so important. We really can have the beautiful world we always dreamed of if we are willing to face our flaws. Classism, racism, sexism, discrimination based on income should all be things of the past. And the will be. We are the change we have been searching for. It starts by opening our hearts to one another.

  6. mjfmiller says:

    Well …, because the insurance companies and companies that can make money with medical care and prescriptions and our government that serves these groups make more money if doctors and all the people don’t use love, don’t eat real food (first medicine), don’t drink healthy water (largest killer of human beings 17 yo and younger), and are maintained in perpetual ill health as only served by the media and the government propaganda machine and spin instead of being cured, cared for, and loved? (ransoming people’s health is such a profit center!). Am I right?

    M

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Yes we have a disease billing system and could have a real health care system. We can evolve beyond short-term profits and greed.

  7. Rhea Zakich says:

    Awww, yes, Pamela. Love is a healer of many things. When I play the Ungame with young and old, I use the “Ask a question OR make a comment” card to tell someone I love them. It’s amazing how many people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. There’s often a holy silence for a few moments, then a smile. 🙂 Isn’t it wonderful that the greatest gift costs nothing?

  8. Melissa says:

    So, where do I find that, Dr. P?

  9. Char says:

    Like the Beatles song says: All you need is love; love is all you need. That was my Facebook post on Valentine’s Day. I added “Love yourself, love each other.” It starts with self love, which unfortunately gets mistaken for narcissim, when they are two different things! Narcissim is ego driven and is about focusing on yourself to the exclusion of others. Self love is about the realization that we are whole and connected and we can accept ourselves, flaws and all, and accepts others, flaw and all as well!
    Great topic! More love all around!!

    xo,

    Char

  10. Karuna says:

    I do workshops which rely on the love generated by the participants to expand their inner light 1500 times. After a few days of living in love and unity no one wants to leave.
    Yes! Love is the answer. Thanks Pamela, right as usual. with love Karuna

  11. This is wonderful. My friend with PCOS was just telling me today how her Dermatologist and OBGYN made her high school years, where she was bullied, so much better – for example, how they always kept newspaper clippings when she made it to the papers, and so on. Patients need the love drug, definitely! Thanks for a great post.

  12. Michael Thomas Kelly, RN-BC says:

    Though, I feel at first your may be a bit clownish with the heart between your eyebrows, however, when I take into consideration what John Lennon said, “When you become more real; the world becomes less real.” In that context, of attempting to show loving kindness, I can better empathize with your work. So, please, with my whole hearted compliments- Love On! Yes, it can heal many illnesses.
    Sincerely, Michael Kelly, RN-BC

  13. Bodhi says:

    Loved reading this. Exactly the message and medicine I needed today. Thank you Pamela for being awesome. I love you! 🙂

  14. Rebecca says:

    A year or so ago, I was battling costochondritis and some days, pharmaceutical pain killers didn’t actually do much for me except take the edge off my pain. But physical touch would help. I had read an article about the healing powers of cuddles and my husband teased me thinking I was just asking for more cuddles. (okay, okay, I was, but I digress). But one day when I was in tears lying in a position that was the best I could do for the pain and trying to not move so as not to jar my ribs.

    In a desperate attempt to do “something” for me, my husband laid down behind me and gently touched me (carefully since I was so painful) and he said he could SEE the pain going away. My breathing slowed. Various muscles relaxed. The tears stopped. Although I was still in pain, the physical touch had made the pain just a little bit more bearable and I got through another day.

  15. Nu says:

    I love this article, I noticed that the picture and title got censored on Kevin M.D. I also noticed Doctors bashing the crap out of Dr Wible and that counter arguments are censored and down right not even posted. Welcome to 2014.

  16. Bronwyn says:

    I had a great love-centred appointment with a doctor in Nepal. It was at a Ayurvedic clinic, where the doctors had both significant conventional and Ayurvedic training. I had just done a mountain trek and had a persistent cough bad enough that I had pulled rib muscles. I decided to try the Ayurvedic clinic because I’m comfortable with non-western / alternative approaches and an initial consultation was only $7 – which meant I didn’t have to make a travel insurance claim.

    But when I went, I was feeling sad. A lot of emotional stuff was coming up – maybe because I was feeling sick, and maybe because I had wanted to travel to Nepal for a long time, and it was stirring a lot of internal “stuff.” Anyway, the doctor asked me about my cough, but also asked a very interesting an somewhat unusual series of questions (from the western perspective), focused on me, my past, relationships, work, general health. Then he basically asked what was really up, i.e. he could immediately tell the issue weighing on me more, was emotional, not physical – and I held back tears and explained how I was feeling. He then said something which was really interesting – that a lot of the emotional anxiety I carried (and have since I can remember) stems from not receiving enough affectionate physical contact as a child. I though this was an interesting read, because as an adult I have a marked personality trait to seek security through physical touch.

    He then did something that very few conventional doctors would do – he gave me a hug, and rubbed my back while talking to me. And usually, I think it might have felt awkward or inappropriate, particularly for a male doctor to touch a younger female patient. But you know what? It felt safe because his sincerity, compassion and straightforwardness made it okay. It was unusual to have a man touch me and for it to feel free of some note of sexuality and that in itself was a relief…if this makes sense, he was so professional, he could actually hug me in a caring and non-threatening way and have it make sense.

    He prescribed an ayurvedic medicine for the cough, and advised me to do breathing exercises. He felt that by working on using the full capacity of the lungs, I would clear the cough. He actually told me the herbal medicine was probably unnecessary, but it would make me feel better to receive something tangible to take with me. Within a few days, the cough was gone – breathing or medicine or natural progression…it healed up quickly.

    Second, and more importantly he actually wrote me a prescription for self-care. He said that my self-judgement and failing to trust myself was hurting me, and any focused meditative or spiritual practice would help alleviate that. He wrote it out – and that was really helpful, because it was a powerful message coming from someone in a white coat.

    It was a great visit. I can’t believe how much a 20 minute, $7 visit helped me. It made me feel cared about, like I was talking to an equal, and it contributed to both physical and emotional healing.

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