Although the term might sound foregin to some, the practice of allopathic medicine is something that almost everyone is familiar with. The term “allopathic medicine” refers to what most people call conventional medicine, or Western medicine, in contrast to alternative practices, like homeopathy.
What Does Allopathic Medicine Mean?
In allopathic medicine, medical doctors and other healthcare professionals rely on evidence-based medicine to treat all manner of symptoms, diseases and medical conditions.
Allopathic physicians are licensed medical doctors who can choose to focus on developing a medical specialty or focus on research and teaching at medical schools. They focus on both acute care and prevention to promote the general maintenance of health for patients.
In short, this is the type of medical practice used in modern hospitals and clinics around the world. For this reason, the most common synonym for allopathic medicine is conventional or Western medicine, but it is also referred to as mainstream medicine, biomedicine, or orthodox medicine.
Samuel Hahnemann & the Origins of Alternative Medicine
The German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann is credited with first coining the term “allopathy” in the early nineteenth century. It was first introduced to make a distinction between the practice of conventional medicine (i.e. allopathy) and homeopathy (i.e. alternative medicine).
The term “allopathy” has since been formally defined as the “treatment of disease by remedies that produce effects opposite to the symptoms. This neologism comes from the Greek words allos (meaning “other”) and patheia (meaning “suffering, disease, feeling”).
What is the Difference Between Allopathy and Homeopathy?
These terms refer to two different schools of thought regarding the philosophy and general practice of medicine.
On one hand, the homeopathic approach was based on the assumption that “like cures like,” so conditions could be treated with very small doses of the substances that caused the symptoms in the first place. In stark opposition to this perspective, the allopathic approach was characterized by the use of opposites, meaning that treatments should have the opposite effects of the patient’s condition in order to cure them.
In the nineteenth century when these terms gained popularity, allopathic medicine had a pejorative and derogatory connotation that was used by alternative medicine advocates to disparage other medical approaches. But since then its meaning has changed significantly, and it no longer carries the same kind of negative connotations it once did. Today, allopathic medicine is the dominant approach in modern medical practice.
For example, the vast majority of doctors in the United States (over 90%) practice allopathic medicine, as opposed to osteopathic or homeopathic medicine.
What is the Difference Between Allopathic and Osteopathic Medicine?
Osteopathic medical practice stems from the belief that all parts and systems of the body work together and influence each other. This outlook forms the basis of osteopathic medicine, which is characterized by a more holistic approach to treatment and an emphasis on prevention. As some practitioners put it, osteopathy focuses on treating the patient, while the allopathic approach treats the disease.
Osteopaths receive the designation of Doctor of Osteopathic (DO) medicine, in contrast to a Medical Doctor (MD), and use osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMTs) as part of their core practice. OMTs are hands-on, physical manipulations of the body that are designed to restore the body’s alignment and interconnections to alleviate symptoms and promote healing.
Allopathic Medicine Overview
Allopathic medicine is synonymous with modern medicine and Western medicine. Throughout the United States and most of the developed world, the guiding philosophy for medical schools stems from allopathic medicine.
Allopathic-based medicine is also the driving force behind public health initiatives and evidence-based health system resources. This approach covers everything from disease diagnosis to information about treatment options so physicians can provide sound medical advice and health information to their patients.
Whether they are treating people with cancer, fever, heart disease or high blood pressure, allopathic medicine practitioners use proven therapies to treat illnesses.
Allopathic medicine doctors treat all manner of infections, illnesses and diseases using a combination of prescription drugs, hormones, over-the-counter medications, as well as surgical procedures and radiation treatments.
The prescription drugs most often used by allopathic doctors include antibiotics to treat infections and specific prescription drugs to treat diagnosed ailments. Depending on the patient’s diagnosis, some allopathic treatments use drugs to supplement naturally occurring hormones, like insulin for diabetics, as well as testosterone, estrogen and thyroid hormones.
Commonly used over-the-counter medications include anti-inflammatories, pain relievers, muscle relaxers and cough suppressants, which doctors recommend so patients have additional options to manage their symptoms.
Aside from medication, allopathic medicine also employs surgical procedures for exploratory purposes, to remove diseased or damaged tissue, repair damage from trauma, redirect blood vessels or transplant entire organs.
Specialties and Subspecialties in Modern Medicine
Modern medical practice has achieved a level of specialization that few could have anticipated. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognizes the following list of medical specialties in allopathic medicine.
- Allergy and Immunology
- Internal Medicine
- Medical Genetics and Genomics
- Neurological Surgery
- Nuclear Medicine
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Colon and Rectal Surgery
- Orthopaedic Surgery
- Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
- Plastic Surgery
- Emergency Medicine
- Family Medicine
- Preventive Medicine
- Psychiatry and Neurology
- Thoracic Surgery
In each of these categories, the ABMS also recognizes a wide range of subspecialties.
Education and Training
Most medical schools are essentially allopathic medicine training programs that put aspiring physicians on a similar path.
After completing an undergraduate degree in a related field, they move on to medical school, followed by a residency program. After the completion of their residency, medical students are on the verge of becoming doctors and can apply for medical licenses, but some prefer to pursue a fellowship for greater specialization in a medical subfield.
American University of Antigua – College of Medicine
For aspiring allopathic doctors, going to medical school in the Caribbean offers a number of interesting opportunities. By pursuing their education abroad through a Caribbean medical school, students have the chance to explore the world while receiving top-tier instruction and medical training.