Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is some debate about whether American doctors overprescribe and we are a culture too fast to look for pharmaceutical fixes. On the one side, critics point to drug epidemics in various age groups as signs of a pill popping culture: for example, the overprescribing of ADHD and antipsychotic drugs to children, the painkiller and sleeping pill abuse epidemics, and the largely unchecked polypharmacy among the elderly, who many doctors see as cash cows.
However, others argue that while there are some problems, America is not needlessly taking too many drugs. Our wealth and access to healthcare provides us with leading medicines that improve health and the proof of this is a steadily increasing well being. They correctly point to the amazing progress in the medical field in just the past two decades, much of which have had a direct impact on longevity.
This is a case where both sides are right. Drugs are our most effective and cost effective treatment (and prevention) of many leading diseases, however, this is not to say that these same weapons are not at times and in large numbers being abused.
We decided to try to better understand who is taking all these drugs by surveying people about their prescription drug use. According to our national survey released today:
- 34% of American adults take at least one prescription drug
- 11.5% of American adults take three or more prescription drugs.
- 6.5% of American adults take 4 or more prescription drugs.
Digging deeper, more interesting facts appear – those at the highest income levels and those at the lowest, are more likely to be taking prescription drugs than the middle class. However, it is the lowest income Americans who are most likely to be on 4 or more drugs.
The Older You Get, The More Drugs You Take
If you had guessed that as one ages, there is a big uptick in prescription drug use – you’d be right.
- Nearly half of all Americans aged 55 and above are on a prescription drug, vs. just 23% of those 18 – 24 years old. If we look at those on 4 or more drugs – only 2.6% of 18 – 34 year olds are on 4 or more drugs vs. 12.6% of those 65+ years old.
It is estimated that while the elderly represent approximately 12.9% of the U.S. population, they represent approximately 25% to 30% of all prescribed medications and 40% of the OTC drugs.
By Income Level, Big Differences In Drug Use
Most interesting is what the data show by income level. It appears that those in the upper income levels are more likely to be taking one or more prescription drugs than any other income group. However this does not follow a straight line relationship – the more money one has does not appear to perfectly relate to prescription drug use.
Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidmaris/2012/07/24/1-in-3-american-adults-take-prescription-drugs/