Thursday, 20 November 2014

What our prescriptions say about society

Levothyroxine pills [1]
The most common prescription medications provide insight into society as a whole. Not only is the overall use of medication rising over time, but the specific classes of drugs and the large percentage of the population regularly taking many different prescriptions is also on the rise and could be cause for alarm.

Over 10 percent of adults state they have taken 5 or more prescription medications in the past month according to the CDC. This itself is shocking, but the most commonly prescribed drug classes are even more shocking because they are indicative of the condition of society as a whole.

Antidepressants


Antidepressants are one of the most over-prescribed classes of medications in today's society. Statistics from the CDC have concluded that at least 10 percent of the population regularly take an antidepressant medication, and up to 15 percent of people in the US consider themselves depressed.




Depression figures are even more out of proportion for women between the age bracket of 40 - 50 years, of which 25 percent are taking an antidepressant drug. This is also well out of proportion with actual diagnoses of major depressive disorder as a whole, which has a lower incidence than commonly believed.

Part of the problem is that antidepressants aren't just prescribed by psychiatrists—after careful assessment and communication with a patient—they're prescribed by GPs; some of which haven't had the time to build up a long relationship with their patient.

Up to two thirds of people who take antidepressants have been shown to not actually have clinically diagnosed depression, and doctors may be handing out these drugs both too readily, and without just cause.

This overuse of antidepressant medications says one frightening thing about modern society. People seem to feel sad more often than they should, or worse, they simply can't deal with the problems they face on a daily basis.

Prozac - a common antidepressant [2]
We're losing the ability to work through trauma in a healthy manner without resorting to drugs, and it's only going to get worse as prescription rates increase. As a society, we are sad, moody, and we want a quick fix to all our problems.


Cholesterol lowering drugs


Cholesterol lowering drugs, the most common of which are the group of medications known as statins, are also a popular class of drugs. More and more young people seem to be taking a statin like atorvastatin (Lipitor).

Although statins are markedly safe, this shift towards prescribing to the younger generations is somewhat out of line with the traditional treatment for high cholesterol, where diet changes and exercise are considered the first line treatment for young people suffering from a high cholesterol level.

The question that needs to be asked here is not necessarily whether it is wise to offer cholesterol lowering drugs to younger people, but rather, are the cholesterol levels of the younger generation so out of control today that they require drugs just to prevent a heart attack?

Recent guidelines that outline new recommendations for the role of statin treatment in healthy or borderline unhealthy youth tend to skew any form of analysis because if you look at the amount of younger people taking a statin, you could draw a conclusion that they all have high cholesterol.

This isn't the case however, as there is an increased support for the prescribing of healthy people with statins as a preventative measure rather than as an actual treatment.

What needs to be addressed here is the role that pharmaceutical companies are playing in these guidelines. Are doctors really prescribing statins to the healthy young as a way to prevent heart disease later in life, or are pharmaceutical companies funding studies and aggressively marketing statins to young people and their doctors?





Pharmaceutical companies produce a lot of beneficial medicines that are vital to healthcare. They're definitely not evil, nor do they usually deserve the harsh hatred they receive from the public. They do have a bottom line however, as whilst they research and develop new drugs, they are also a glorified retail outfit in the end.

As a result, pharmaceutical companies may be one of the forces at work that are popularising the 'quick fix' ideal that runs rampant in today's society. Whether the young person taking a cholesterol lowering drug is healthy or does in fact have high cholesterol doesn't matter.

What matters is that they have been made accustom to expecting a quick fix, and if they can get that quick fix from a prescription medication, they will. This improves the pharmaceutical company's bottom line, but it does nothing for a society that is becoming increasingly more impatient and would rather take a drug than exercise and eat properly.

Blood pressure medication


Blood pressure medications are an indication of a society that is less likely to exercise and eat properly. Use of these medications is on the rise, just as blood pressure is on the rise, and a reliance on fast food and processed meals certainly isn't helping.

[3]
According to the CDC, 25 percent of people in the age bracket of 35 - 44 have high blood pressure. This figure increases dramatically with age, reflecting the fact that your risk of high blood pressure increases with age.

What is more alarming than this, is the fact that 11 percent of people aged 24 - 34 have high blood pressure, and this figure could be higher as this only reflects those who have been diagnosed with the illness. The CDC estimates that 25 percent of people with high blood pressure don't even know they have it, and thus haven't been tested.

At such a young age, this incidence of high blood pressure should be much lower, but instead, what we are seeing is that the younger generation has a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes than they should.

This is another reflection into the key facets of today's society that drive these figures. People don't want to exercise, they don't want to eat right, and they just don't look after themselves. As a result, we're more at risk for fatal illnesses and have a reduced quality of life. What we don't do now will come back to haunt us in 10 - 20 years.

[4]
If this has you worried about your own health, that's a good sign that you care enough about your body to make a change for the better. Exercise and healthy eating aren't just for gym junkies; they're for anyone who wants to live longer and have a higher quality of life without being reliant on the pharmaceutical companies.

By making a positive change today and sticking to it, you can fight back at these statistics. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.

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