Posted by TK on December 11, 2010
Headache? Sleepy? Feeling down? Never fear, drugs are here!
These days it seems like there are more and more prescription drugs everywhere claiming to treat everything from a simple migraine to conditions as serious as depression. According to a study by the CDC, 130 million Americans consume prescriptions drugs once a month. There are 3.5 billion prescriptions a year, which averages out to 12 per American. The percentage of Americans who used at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% in 1999–2000 to 48% in 2007–2008 (CDC).
So are too many prescriptions being doled out? And why have the amount of prescriptions increased so much?
One common theory as to why prescriptions have increased is the notion that it is large pharmaceutical companies exploiting an open market. It is projected that by 2014, global drug sales will top $1 trillion. This is an argument that is hard to address since it hinges on speculating the intentions of big businesses, and it is very hard to prove either way.
Prescription drugs have increased since diagnosis of diseases has increased, the most controversial diagnoses being ADD and ADHD. In 2006 the percent of children 3-17 years of age ever diagnosed with ADHD wass 8.6% (CDC). ADHD diagnosis among children in the United States went up 22% in four years – from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007. According to the DSM, there are 18 behaviors and if a child meets 6 or more of these behaviors they can be diagnosed with ADHD by a teacher or a parent who reports theses behaviors to a doctor. Some of these include failure to pay attention in class, easily distracted, often fidgets with hands or feet, talks excessively, blurts out, or frequently interrupts. Many people are unhappy diagnosing so many adolescents with ADD and ADHD. Russel Barkley, Professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, explains:
There’s also concern because ADHD is a disorder that appears to violate a very deeply held assumption that laypeople have about children’s behavior. All of us were brought up believing, almost unconsciously, that children’s misbehavior is largely due to the way they’re raised by their parents and the way they’re educated by their teachers. If you wind up with a child who is out of control and disruptive and not obeying, that that has to be a problem with child rearing. … Well, along comes this disorder that produces tremendous disruption in children’s behavior, but it has nothing to do with learning, and it isn’t the result of bad parenting. And therefore it violates these very deeply held ideas about bad children and their misbehavior.
Is there really an increase in diagnosis or are more people becoming aware of the disease and seeking treatment?
Diagnosis can begin as early as 3 years old. Is it right to administer psychoactive drugs to a child from the age of three, long before their brains are developed or they’ve had time to express their full personalities and learning styles?
What are the implications for altering brain chemistry as early as 3 years old?
At what age is it appropriate to diagnose and begin treatment, what if it’s too late?
What are the implications of waiting to treat, and what could the long term effects of waiting be? (i.e. continuous poor grades, lack of enthusiasm about school, being put at a disadvantage against other classmates)
In general, do Americans consume too many prescription drugs?