Anderson Issues

Commentary on the Zeitgeist

America Overmedicated?

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?


8 Responses to “America Overmedicated?”

  1. jabroni said

    I agree that people get caught up by the marketing of the drug companies. Your mind controls everything and if your mind starts to tell you that your feeling sick then the first thing you think of is to buy some drug to help your sickness in reality its probably just in your mind.

  2. sourpatchkid said

    this is a great post! but i must comment on one thing….”simple migraine?” do those exist? every time ive ever had a migraine its quite complicated in that it basically ruins my entire day and makes me want to hide in a dark closet..and sleep. is that just me?

  3. Rhino said

    We as Americans do overly use drugs as a country. We over medicate, and look towards pills, vitamins, prescriptions, and drugs overall to “help” us, when most of the time we don’t need to spend money on these things. Many of my friends pop Advil like its candy, and take aspirin two, three, four times a day. Every morning and night, millions of Americans take vitamins in capsules. My mother takes around 20 vitamins every night before bed. The logic in taking all these medications is ridiculous. We think it will keep us safe, or fix us, but most of the time it’s purely a psychological effect of feeling better that cures our worry and our “illness”. I’ve seen hundreds of “erectile dysfunction” ads on television, but there is no way THAT many people have erectile dysfunction. Men take it because they believe they are unable to perform well sexually without the pills. There are aisles after aisles of pills, vitamins, and drugs, in supermarkets across the nation, that people buy because they are afraid of not taking them.
    How many of the ads on TV do you see for pills for anti-depressants, or erectile dysfunction, or nasal congestion, or diarrhea, etc? Thousands, every day, on almost every channel. The American public is obsessed with being over medicated, because they are too afraid not to be.

  4. aims said

    I agree with Rhino, I think that the American people have a psychological need to be medicated because they’re afraid of the so-called consequences if they aren’t taking pills. People constantly receive propaganda from these drug companies to boost sales, saying that this pill will making your life last longer and that pill will make your hair and nails grow longer and stronger, while this one will amp up your sex life. All of that may be true in theory, with relatively small changes or improvements in a person’s functioning, but does anyone ever catch the ever increasing long stream of side effects at the end of the commercial? “Take this pill to look beautiful, but watch out for a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, death, and other complications” … why do people constantly tune out these side effects? People of America hear what they want to hear, and only that. They hear their child has ADD or ADHD, which in many cases, the child does NOT have ADD or ADHD, and they immediately want the quick solution – medication – to the problem. While some children do need the medication in order to live a normal life, many may benefit from other methods of treatment. Medication faces many side effects, and often times those side effects require even more medication, which may require more medication for their side effects. In this domino-like effect, how can anyone ever just take ONE prescription drug? Americans need to step back and decide if medication is truly the right method in which to treat themselves. Americans always want the fast and easy solution to the problem in order to go on in life, but many times it’s not healthy (look at fast food…). It’s no different with medication. Additionally, what most people don’t realize is that they are promoting drug-resistant diseases, bacteria, and viruses. While it may be a quick fix now, medication could harm the population as a whole in the long run.

  5. Girl said

    I think that ADD and ADHD are over diagnosed. It seems like every child these days has been diagnosed with the disease and is on medication. I think that it is just something easy that parents and doctors can blame their child’s misbehavior on. Any child that is hyper, which most children are, are being told that they have ADD or ADHD. I think that this disease then becomes an excuse for the child. I have had many friends who are diagnosed with the disease and will say that they “can’t focus today because they forgot to take their medicine” or that they have been acting “so crazy today since they haven’t taken their pills.” I’m not saying that ADHD and ADD aren’t real diseases and do not affect many children but I think that with so many cases being diagnosed it has just become an excuse for children and their parents.

    I also think that America in general is over medicated. People take medication for the smallest things like a little cough or stuffy nose. I try to only take any kind of medicine if I really need it and I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and illness. Taking so many medications for every little thing is also not good for your body. Bacteria and the diseases can become immune to the medications, so then they won’t even work anymore. I just think it is better to let your own immune system fight any diseases and only take medication when it is necessary.

  6. Mustang :) said

    Why would you choose to feel bad? You don’t get addicted to advil. You take it because you’re in pain. It doesn’t make you weaker or any more prone to feeling small pain. You feel the same things. By not taking medicine, you are subjecting yourself to suffering intentionally. Medicine was made to solve your problems, not make things worse. There is NO REASON not to take medicine.

  7. Purple Drank said

    There’s a drug for everything and drugs are the solution to everything. All the time when i have a little headache my moms like take some Zyrtec and alieve.

  8. Hah! Why is it I like reading this better with my Peter Criss makeup on. Plugging into my guitar amp now to jam and bother the neighbors.

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