Why do chronically ill patients use so-called alternative medicine?

A substantial proportion of consumers now use healthcare options known as so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). But why? This study aimed to understand the processes and decisional pathways through which chronic illness patients choose treatments outside of regular allopathic medicine.

It employed Charmaz’s constructivist grounded theory methods to collect and analyze data. Using theoretical sampling, 21 individuals suffering from chronic illness and who had used SCAM treatments participated in face-to-face in-depth interviews conducted in Miami/USA.

Seven overarching themes emerged from the data to describe how and why people with chronic illness choose SCAM treatments:

  • influences,
  • desperation,
  • being averse to allopathic medicine and allopathic medical practice,
  • curiosity and chance,
  • ease of access,
  • institutional help,
  • trial and error.

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