Too Many Meds: Americans Overdoing it with Prescription Drugs

The headline above is from a Sept. 4, 2017, story published by NewsMax Health. The story is based on the September 2017 cover story on the magazine, Consumer Reports. These articles, along with others, highlight the problem of prescription medication usage in the U.S. and bring some startling statistic to light.

The Consumer Reports article begins by reporting that, according to a survey they conducted, more than half of all Americans take an average of four prescription medications per day. They note that Americans take more pills now than at any other time in our history, and more than any other nation. It could be noted that Americans take more pills that any other society in the history of mankind.

Consumer Reports noted that in 1997, Americans took over 2 billion, 416 million prescriptions. By 2016, that number nearly doubled to over 4 billion 468 million prescriptions. In addition to the prescriptions, many people also add over-the-counter medications to this daily cadre of drugs.

Some the the chilling statistics from this high usage listed by Consumer Reports is that “Almost 1.3 million people went to U.S. emergency rooms due to adverse drug effects in 2014, and about 124,000 died from those events.” Those numbers are based upon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration statistics. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a market research firm estimated that unnecessary and improper use of medication costs 200 billion in additional medical costs each year.

The various articles discuss the reasons for the large number of prescriptions unique to the U.S. and blame it on the “culture” that believes that every symptom should have a pill to treat it. Vinay Prasad, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, commented, “The question is, where did people get that idea? They didn’t invent it,” he says. “They were spoon-fed that notion by the culture that we’re steeped in.”

Direct-to-consumer advertising certainly plays a role in the number of people taking medications. Currently only two nations, the U.S. and New Zealand, allow drug companies to advertise prescription medications directly to the general public. Anyone who watches TV notices the volume of drug advertisements that crowd the airwaves during certain targeted programming.

Medications all carry side effects. The results increase the cost of healthcare as well as decrease the overall health of the population. The large volume of medications taken by Americans has not resulted in overall better health compared to other nations. According to a study published last year in The Lancet, America ranked 28th in the world for overall health. This is compared with countries like Britain, who take far fewer medications per capita, but ranked fifth overall in the world.

Chiropractic has always represented a drugless approach to health for millions of people. Dr. George Curry, a practicing chiropractor and president of the International Chiropractors Association noted that more people are turning to chiropractic as a way of getting off the medication cycle. “Many of our patients now come to us looking for a way to regain their health and to reduce or stop the need for medications.” He continued, “Chiropractic has always offered a natural way for people to achieve good health without medications or the side effects association with that approach.”

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