Americans are using significantly more prescription medicines than ten years ago, particularly drugs that control high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and depression. That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which revealed that 59 percent of U.S. adults 20 years of age and older used prescription medication in 2012, up from 51 percent in 1999.
What’s more, an increasing number of Americans are using more than one prescription drug. The number of people who filled five or more prescriptions in a 30-day period nearly doubled from 8 percent of adults in 1999 to 15 percent in 2012.
Among the ten most commonly used drugs in 2011 and 2012, eight were prescribed for treating hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, and other conditions associated with the “cardiometabolic syndrome.” In addition, another widely prescribed drug was given for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux, an ailment often related to being overweight or obese. Antidepressant use also shot up over the study period from 7 % to 13%.
Older Americans were the greatest consumers of prescription drugs, the study found. 9 in 10 senior citizens were using at least one such medication in 2012, and nearly 40 percent used five or more. The prevalence of drug use among younger Americans was lower than in the elderly but still higher than a decade ago. 65% of middle-aged Americans were on at least one prescription medicine (of which 15% took five or more), as were 35% of adults aged 20-39 years (of which 3% took five or more).
Obesity and Chronic Illness, Likely Drivers of Higher Drug Use
Although the authors of the study haven’t given a clear answer on what’s driving the nation to use more drugs, scientists agree that the rise of obesity – and its dangerous consequences – may be one of the leading factors. That’s because the majority of the widely used drugs in 2012 included statins, beta-blockers, antihypertensives, diuretics, and other compounds used to treat complications triggered by obesity, a disease that has doubled globally in the past three decades and is currently a growing epidemic in the U.S.
The rise of people with chronic illnesses is also partially responsible for this growing trend. More people today are forced to live in constant pain and have complex medical management needs for which medication is the primary tool available to keep symptoms in check. The problem is, many doctors give little thought to non-drug alternatives and tend to match nearly every health complaint with a drug, which in the majority of cases doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the illness.
An increase in the direct marketing of drugs to doctors and directly to consumers is cited as another factor potentially contributing to this alarming trend. Heavy product promotions to doctors may influence prescription patterns and clinical guidelines, while direct-to-consumer advertising, whose goal is to inform patients suffering from disease and raise their awareness of treatment options, often leads consumers to pressure doctors for drugs they see in ads. As a result, many people become too reliant on modern medicines and are eager to accept a quick fix for ailments that could sometimes be controlled in a more natural and less harmful manner.
A Healthy Lifestyle Can Easily Curb Prescription Drug Use
While medications clearly do a lot of good and are required in many situations, taking too many of them may lead to the therapeutic benefits being outweighed by the collateral side effects. Taking an active role in your health care decisions and making a number of lifestyle changes – including adopting a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and increasing physical activity – can help decrease the risk factors that require drugs in the first place.
For instance, a 2013 study showed that exercise was more effective than medication for the treatment of stroke and equally effective for the secondary prevention of diabetes and heart disease. Eating healthy can also contribute to an adequate body development and reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 80%.
Rather than putting drugs into your body every time something hurts, it’s best to work with a holistic health care practitioner who can inform you of the natural alternatives that can be used instead for your specific condition. Whereas traditional medicine tends to intervene when disease is already present, natural and non-invasive therapies such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage therapy focus on preventing disease before it occurs, emphasizing whole-body care instead of addressing individual symptoms separately.
Working with an alternative medicine practitioner will also ensure you are given the personal attention you deserve and need to cope better with not only the physical symptoms, but also the stress and emotional impact of your condition. Contact your local clinic to find out how you can lessen your reliance on prescription medication and enjoy the enriching benefits of drug-free therapies.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.