Don Ellis is what doctors call noncompliant.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder over four years ago, the Whitehorse man has refused to take the medications prescribed to him by psychiatrists.
And he’s never felt better.
This is because of an alternative form of medicine that focuses on providing nutrients in the right amounts through natural health products such as vitamins and minerals.
However, a new piece of legislation in Ottawa may jeopardize his regimen.
Bill C-51 will impose much needed changes to the Food and Drug Act, which has not been amended for the past 50 years.
The proposed amendments include tougher standards for pharmaceutical companies.
However, vitamins, minerals and herbal products are also lumped into the act.
This has caused a great deal of alarm in the natural health community, which fears that as much as 75 per cent of its natural products may become illegal if the bill gets passed.
Ellis is one of many local citizens trying to stop the bill by raising awareness and organizing a petition, which is available throughout Whitehorse and at the Dawson City Post Office.
Ellis suffered from a number of debilitating, chronic problems such as diabetes, arthritis and drug and alcohol abuse.
It all came to a head four years ago in Dawson City.
“I had quite a manic phase,” said Ellis.
“I was not eating and when I did I was only sucking back sugars.”
After a few days of this, Ellis awoke to find someone shaking him, asking if he was OK.
He had been bending down to pick a can up from the bottom shelf in a supermarket.
“I guess I got into some kind of a coma,” he said.
Still not recognizing that anything was wrong, Ellis shrugged it off and went to a coffee shop where he was kicked out for repeatedly dozing off.
Friends recognized that something was seriously wrong and Ellis was medevaced south to Whitehorse where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“After what I consider to be a brief examination, the doctor prescribed me these drugs,” he said.
“They were pretty heavy duty. After taking them even a short time, I found that the side effects were worse than any thing I’ve ever felt.”
The side effects included hair falling out, nausea, weight gain, and liver and kidney damage.
“It was horrid. I was zoning out,” said Ellis.
“Basically it’s like using a sledge hammer to fix a watch.”
Ellis stopped taking his meds, only going back on them when a psychiatrist refused to see him unless he took his prescribed drugs.
While searching for an alternative on the internet, Ellis discovered orthomolecular medicine, which uses vitamins to prevent and treat disease.
“We’re not suffering from a pharmaceutical deficiency, said Ellis.
“It’s a vitamin deficiency.”
He began with something as simple as green tea and now takes a number of minerals and vitamins recommended by naturopaths.
“I’ve made great advancements,” he said.
“I can dance now. With my arthritis it used to be difficult to walk the dog around the block.”
Ellis is in the process of being cured of bipolar disorder, he said.
However, he fears that Bill C-51 will make it impossible to continue his treatment.
“Once this type of legislation passes, the amino acids, which I depend on, will become pharmaceuticals dependent on a doctor’s prescription,” he said.
“And also the cost rises considerably.”
Ellis’ current vitamin regimen costs just under $200 a month, which he gets from a disability pension through social assistance.
The medications that he has been prescribed would cost a great deal more, said Ellis.
Along with its petition, the local group fighting the bill has organized a stop Bill C-51 forum.
The forum will be held on September 3 in the city hall meeting room.