Most of the time I do not reside in the United States so it always comes as a shock when I spend some time there to see the blatant advertising for prescription pills, especially on TV and in favorite magazines.
Along with political campaign advertising, it is plain to see that the media derives most of its income from these sources – completely the opposite to the rest of the world. Apparently, New Zealand is the only other country that allows pharmaceutical advertising.
In today's world it seems there is a tablet for everything and in the US, advertising will convince most of the vulnerable population that their problems or perceived problems can be solved by using some kind of drug – whether to get you off to sleep, help you stay healthy and avoid old age or help you to get a full and balanced diet without eating anything that you don't actually want to.
The US population uses 80% of the world's total pharmaceutical medications and yet it only comprises 4.6% of the world's population. Obviously, something is seriously wrong. Pills are easy to get hold of and yet they cost so much more than the same item anywhere else.
Why are Americans in particular such a generation of pill poppers?
Alyssa Peterkin in her article – America: A Pill Popping Nation
– points out that the United States consumes about 80% of the world's opioids and 99% of the world’s hydrocodone – Vicodin. An opioid is a chemical that binds to opioid receptors causing decreased perception of pain, increased pain tolerance and decreased reaction to pain. A hydrocodone is characterized as a semi-synthetic opioid. She worries that prescription drugs are killing Americans and something needs to be done about it. From 1999 to 2006, the deaths from pain killers tripled.
Dr. Mercola in his article written in July 2012 entitled Pharmaceutical Drugs are 62,000 Times More Likely to Kill You than Supplements
says in response to attempts to bring disrepute to the supplements industry:
"The Drug Industry is the Real Health Threat. In striking contrast, drugs are known to cause well over 125,000 deaths per year in the US when taken correctly as prescribed – yet the FDA allows fast-track approvals and countless new additions of poorly tested drugs to the marketplace that must later be withdrawn due to their lethal consequences.
It is simply incomprehensible that any rational approach would seek to vilify supplements over drugs when the data in no way, shape or form supports it. The most likely motive for this position is financial greed that can put your life in jeopardy. According to the US National Poison Data System, the following drug categories are among the most lethal:
Slightly lower down on the list, you will find drugs like muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones, antacids, anticoagulants and antihistamines.
- Analgesics, sedatives, hypnotics, and antipsychotics
- Cardiovascular drugs
- Acetaminophen combinations
"Time to Start a New "Just say NO!" Anti-Drug Movement
The anti-drug slogan coined by Nancy Reagan in the early 1980s is just as applicable for today's prescription drug problem as the recreational drug problem of the past. The only difference is that today, prescription drugs have eclipsed illicit drugs as the number one source of poisoning deaths. Prescription drugs have also been identified as the primary "gateway" to illegal drug use, beating out marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes."
One comment I came across on the subject of pharmaceutical advertising on TV was from someone who believes that the current high volume of pill popping is a direct result of the massive amount of advertising on TV. He felt that, like cigarettes, all drug advertising should be banned because if a young child is constantly shown commercials that a drug is going to make them feel better, regardless of what their issues are, why would they hesitate to take prescription drugs (or hard drugs for that matter) as a teenager or adult? The commercials make drugs look cool with one minute showing a sombre mood but the next, after taking a pill, all is rosy and joyous. He asks what message is constantly being portrayed to children?
The great divide
I spend a lot of time researching the internet and following various health sites and it seems to me that there is a great divide in the US among the American public. On the one side, there is a body of people who think for themselves, question everything and do their own research so they become well informed. The flip side is a much larger body of people who are convinced that their doctor is the source of all knowledge and that of course the Government and all those agencies that oversee all aspects of their lives only have “their best interests at heart”. They are all trusting. In this generation of pill poppers, many will be see a drug advertised and decide that is what they need and ask their doctor about it, often listing the corresponding symptoms they might or might not suffer from. The doctor in turn is hard pressed for time and keeps his patient happy with a prescription.
Another problem is that people often become addicted to pain killers when they take them for legitimate reasons, such as surgery. The drugs make patients feel euphoric so they want to continue being upbeat instead of quitting which can in time become unpleasant and difficult to achieve. Of course pain relief is big business in the US and adding to the problem is that some 70% of pain killers are taken by people who were not given the prescription in the first place. With pain killers and other prescription drugs filling up bathroom cupboards across the nation, there is often easy access to a constant supply.
If you have prescription drugs that are no longer used and taking up space, these should really be safely got rid of as they can be a source of danger to others but throwing drugs in the garbage or flushing down the toilet will harm the environment, ending up in landfills or rivers and streams. Make the effort to drop off unused drugs at a "take back" event held by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and local police departments throughout the year. Another safe method of disposal is to send pills to a drug disposal company. Local pharmacies can provide kits with prepaid postage.
To avoid becoming, at best, part of the generation of pill poppers or, at worst, another statistic is to not take them at all. After all, it is your body and you are the person who has the most to lose when something goes wrong. Take responsibility for your own health ahead of your doctor or your pharmacist. Always be aware of the risks of any medication prescribed to you, weighed against any benefit.
And of course, there are often more natural and safer ways to resolve health issues.