A shocking Consumer Reports survey released in 2017 was an eye-opener for a lot of people previously unaware of America’s obsession with prescription medications. The survey of more than 1,900 adults revealed that more than half take at least one prescription medication daily. The average is four medications daily.
The AARP cites a similar survey conducted in 2020 demonstrating that 40% of older Americans take five or more prescription medications daily. I don’t know about you, but this frightens me. I am of the mind that a healthy skepticism of prescription medications is good. And I’m not alone. Growing numbers of people are starting to ask questions about prescriptions and why we seem to take so many of them.
Consumer Reports observed that, at least in 2017, more prescription pills were consumed in America than any other country. I have no trouble believing that. I am in my late 50s, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I visited a doctor and wasn’t offered a prescription. Writing prescriptions is what doctors do. Yet according to both Consumer Reports and the AARP, there are very real dangers here:
- Drug Interactions – We are all aware of the potential for drug interactions when taking multiple prescriptions simultaneously. Drug interactions are nothing to laugh at.
- Unnecessary Drugs – While some prescription drugs are life-saving and necessary, others are completely unnecessary. Taking an antibiotic to fight a viral infection is the classic example. Antibiotics have absolutely no effect on viruses.
- Preventative Treatments – Doctors sometimes prescribe medications for preventative measures. But this is not always wise. Non-pharmacological treatments can be just as effective.
- Unintended Consequences – Loading up on multiple prescriptions can have unintended consequences. Hundreds of older Americans are hospitalized every day due to the side effects of their medications.
There are more concerns, but the point is made well enough. What must be understood is that medication is a tool. When used wisely and appropriately, it can be an amazingly effective tool. But it is not the only tool we have to work with.
A healthy skepticism of prescription medications could encourage more people to look at alternatives. That’s a good thing. As a partially disabled person myself, I have the option of taking medications or doing other things. I choose to do those other things because I don’t want to become a slave to drugs. As a result, I live a normal and productive life.
The thing about alternatives is that they are all around us. Visit the Utahmarijuana.org website and you will find plenty of information about using medical cannabis to treat chronic pain. Medical cannabis is an alternative to prescription narcotics.
Do some additional research and you’ll discover that sympathetic nerve blocks, prolotherapy, and even PRP injections are commonly recommended alternatives to prescription pain medications. Best of all, there is no shortage of patients testifying that these alternatives work for them.
Underlying this entire discussion is the reality that drugs always have an impact on the human body. Sometimes the impact is known and expected up front. Other times it’s not. In some cases, we don’t understand the long-term consequences of using certain drugs. That should be enough to frighten anyone.
We Americans love the pill. It represents a ‘quick fix’ that fits in well with our on-demand way of life. But pills are not always the answer. I believe we take too many of them. As such, I believe a healthy skepticism of prescription medications is good.