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“It’s a miracle drug.” “I can’t believe how much it helped.” “You can’t live without it.” “It changed my life.”
Such are the compelling television testimonials for prescription drugs. In recent decades, the number of advertisements for prescription drugs has greatly increased. Today, almost every commercial break includes at least one drug-related ad, often overstating the drug’s effectiveness.
Law enforcement and government officials are focused on the “war on drugs.” But illegal drugs are not the only problem society is facing. In today’s fast-paced, stress-filled world, millions are becoming increasingly dependent on prescription drugs. Often, people are looking for the “quick cure” for all ailments, from headaches to heart disease.
What are the facts regarding this alarming trend? How many are taking prescription drugs—and why?
Consider these astounding statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Coalition on Health Care:
• From 1999-2002, the average number of Americans using at least one prescription drug in the past month was 45%.
• 1.6 billion drugs were ordered or provided during physician office visits in 2003.
• 1.7 drugs were ordered or provided per physician office visit in that same year.
• By 2004, one in six individuals—almost 17% of the population—was taking three or more medications.
• Five out of six persons ages 65 and older take at least one medication, with almost 50% taking three or more.
• Adult use of antidepressants nearly tripled during the periods of 1988-1994 and 1999-2000. For example, as of December 2004, 10% of adult women were taking antidepressants.
• In the same periods, there was a 13% increase in the proportion of Americans taking at least one drug and 40% in those taking three or more.
• Total health expenditures in 2004 were $1.9 trillion, with prescription drugs being the fastest-growing in this category.
• The U.S. spent 16% of its GDP on healthcare that same year.
As is apparent, prescription drug use is on the rise, and this trend shows no sign of slowing.
Recently, questions have arisen regarding the entire system that produces prescription drugs. Headlines are beginning to sound ominous. Take for example a Consumer Reports article titled “Prescription for Trouble: Common drugs, hidden dangers. Tens of millions of people at risk.” It states, “...tens of millions of people may unknowingly have been exposed to the rare but serious side effects of a dozen relatively common prescription-drug types.”
The medical world is now learning of more effects of some commonly-prescribed drugs: “But their known or possible adverse effects—which include heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, irreversible bone loss, and cancer—were undetected or underestimated when the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] approved them for use. Some still don’t carry a black-box warning—the most serious label alert—that our chief medical adviser says they should.”
“Compounding the safety problem, drug companies have often failed to conduct the studies needed to identify risks that often emerge after approval. Wide distribution of newly approved drugs before their long-term safety has been established, plus immediate, heavy, and sometimes misleading advertising, may increase the chance of harm” (ibid.).
Frontline, a television program aired by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), produced a report titled “Dangerous Prescription.” In an interview, the acting director of FDA at the time openly admitted, “There’s no such thing as a totally safe drug. All drugs have risks, even over-the-counter drugs that are taken very commonly, like acetaminophen and aspirin. A lot of people don’t understand that, and they need to [understand] that all drugs…have risks…” He further stated, when speaking of side effect reporting, that the “system is imperfect.”
The Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group states, “…what has gone on in the last five and six years is unprecedented” (Frontline).
Dr. Raymond Woosley of the University of Arizona, who was a candidate to become the FDA commissioner, stated, “I think Americans need to recognize that every time they put a pill in their mouth, especially a new pill that they’ve never taken before, it’s an experiment” (ibid.).
Today, there seems to be a pill for every problem—from toenail fungus to restless legs, from trouble sleeping to lack of general happiness. When a problem appears, many people—almost as a reflex—search for a pill that will solve it as quickly as possible, and with the least amount of effort. Almost inevitably, in the short-term, an apparent solution is found and the patient feels better.
Tragically, millions upon millions do not realize that there are certain risks in taking prescription drugs; these can include weakened immune systems and sometimes addiction.
As adverse effects to prescription drugs arise, many of this generation simply try to address the new ailments with new additional drugs. This, in turn, causes other side effects, and the dangerous cycle continues.
In the last couple of decades, various medications for children have also become very popular. Many children who are hyper or fidgety are prescribed Ritalin or a similar drug. Today, an estimated five million Canadian and U.S. children are prescribed medication for this condition (Epoch Times).
The FDA administered strong warnings in 2006 for some of these drugs. They are now learning of the very real side effects—including serious psychotic problems, heart attacks, etc.
In addition, a recent trend among millions of youth is prescription drug abuse. A study from Partnership for a Drug-Free America reveals that one in five teens abuse prescription drugs. This means that 20% of teenagers experiment with prescription drugs! And a portion of this number become addicts. A growing number of teens are raiding their parents’ pill bottles or buying these drugs illegally through Internet pharmacies and dealers. Many are able to steal these prescriptions from home medicine cabinets and then use them to get high.
From potent painkillers to cough syrups, prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be misused to produce a “high,” and can cause death, injury or addiction just as easily as illicit drugs. Parents might not realize it, but far more teens use prescription or over-the-counter drugs to get high than use “harder” drugs such as heroin, cocaine or Ecstasy.
In a technologically advanced world, why is the rate of prescription drug use constantly increasing? With all of our science and research, why can’t we solve the problems that produce the ailments—and prevent them—rather than addressing them after they occur? Why do so many people turn to chemicals that have widely known and stated risks?
The answers lie in the fact that it is natural for human beings to put things off until they “need” to be addressed. Society at large takes on this habit of procrastination. People live their lives “putting out fires” rather than addressing why those fires are occurring.
In short, people address the effects of bad health, not the cause—living life as if there are no laws or governing principles of health. When an unpleasant or painful symptom arises, they address the symptoms instead of the elements of their lifestyle that caused it.
Ultimately, people turn to prescription drugs for a “quick fix” to their problems in place of looking to the Author of life. The Creator of the entire universe has a health plan that you cannot afford to go without. To begin to learn about the cause of health problems, read our booklet God’s Principles of Healthful Living!