Are we an overmedicated society? Have you ever opened your medicine cabinet, and really looked at its contents? Have you ever stopped to wonder exactly what is in those bottles, and what it is doing inside your body? Do we really need all of those drugs? These are the questions I began asking myself a few years ago, and I feel most people should be questioning these things more often. Every time that I see a new commercial or advertisement that highlights a dangerous drug and the resulting lawsuits, I have to wonder how many drugs out there are just as dangerous, but haven’t been documented yet.
How many diseases are fabricated so that more drugs can be sold? We have been engineered to believe that every human emotion and condition is a disease and should be medicated. But how much is too much? My first argument is that society today has become much too reliant on prescription medications and it has gotten to be out of control on many grounds. The two groups of individuals I feel are most at risk for this type of over-indulgence are children and the elderly. A third group of concern involves the mentally impaired or depressed segment of society, which I will get to.
But first, I will divulge my assessment of children’s psychiatry from my viewpoint. A century ago, parents were free to discipline their children in the way they saw fit. As a result, children grew up to be respectable adults with jobs and accountability for their actions. There were still those who deviated of course, but it seems it was much less prevalent than it is today. Now, we have become a society who is afraid to discipline their children for fear of repercussion from social services and the threat of losing their children.
As a result, we now have many children growing up who learn that they are in charge of their parents. These children are not required to respect their parents, and this results in a lack of respect for humans in general. This has consequently led to a rise in sociopathic behavior among teenagers and young adults who have been raised with absolutely no accountability for their actions or respect for human life. For those parents whose children have gotten out of control, they customarily turn to their family physicians for advice.
I believe this has led to a rise in the creation of childhood diseases and medications to go along with them. In recent years, there appears to be a huge increase in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD and different levels of the Autism spectrum. These children are being sedated with pills instead of learning how to behave in a socially acceptable manner. They then grow up never learning how to properly integrate into society, and from there we have mentally impaired, depressed, and often sociopathic adults who are told they will require more medication and sedation for their entire lives.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a second segment of society that is suffering from pharmaceutical negligence is the elderly population. You may have noticed the number of medications typically found in your grandmother’s medicine cabinet, and this scenario is not atypical. Seniors are taking medications for things that don’t need to be medicated. As a result, they need additional medications to combat the side effects of the original medications prescribed. It is like a domino effect, each one building on another. One drug might be taken for low glucose levels.
This drug may cause high blood pressure and high cholesterol, giving rise to the need for additional medications to counteract those two life-threatening conditions. In turn the secondary medications might have adverse reactions requiring additional medications and so on, creating a dangerous level of chemicals taken daily. Having to take so many medications, and often on a low or fixed income, puts a huge strain on the average elderly patient, and significantly lowers the quality of life experienced in the last phase of life.
In addition to young children and senior citizens, my third area of concern is the mental health arena. We are currently diagnosing illnesses and prescribing pills for every range of normal human emotion and behavior. Feelings of anger, elation, sadness, and anxiety are all normal human responses to different stresses issued from the natural environment around us. But we have been manufactured to believe that any one of these can signal the presence of serious illness and disease, and if we are experiencing these we had better hightail it to the nearest doctor and get a pill to erase it all.
This is what the pharmaceutical companies want us to believe, and it has been working amazingly well for them so far. The doctor is not programmed to tell you that you are experiencing normal human emotions, instead, they get you very upset and worried that you are actually suffering from a major mental disorder that requires immediate action and medication. Now, I agree that therapy is often needed for excess amounts of any one of these emotions. However, I feel that in most cases medication is simply not needed. Would you apply a Band-Aid to a surgical wound?
That is what I feel the value of most of these medications really is. It never solves the root of the issue, so the patient continues to take these medications that their body becomes dependent on, thus supporting the drug companies for the rest of their lives. One of the main issues when it comes to mental health in patients of all ages is the subject of anti-anxiety medications. I recently discovered an article which was penned with regard to the use of anxiety medications in the United States and internationally, and whether or not it is a concern.
According to Armstrong, “their use has increased in America at the rate of 7 million prescriptions a year” (1). This raises the concern that the exponential growth of these drugs will eventually lead to an entire country of sedated citizens. Despite popular belief, however, most of these prescriptions are written by family physicians and not psychiatrists, to deal with patients who believe they have a disease they don’t have and are demanding pills. Despite reassurances of the safety of the use of benzodiazepines, concerns still linger as to how much is too much.
The pharmaceutical industry is greatly to blame for fueling this negligent over-use of harmful chemicals. It really is all about money, when it comes down to it. It seems like they are eager to produce any concoction that they can market to the American public that will sell in mass quantities, whether or not it is actually necessary for anyone’s health. It is possible, even, that they go as far as to manufacture their own illnesses so they can capitalize on it any way they can.
As a result, there doesn’t seem to be enough research going into many of the drugs that are approved by the FDA and take up space on a pharmacy shelf. They might run it by a group of not-so-randomly selected individuals for a quick test-run. Then, even if adverse reactions are found, they are justified and dismissed and the public never even finds out. If they do, it is usually in small print at the end of a drug advertisement, and the public never even takes notice of it because they are so hyped up about the possible positive outcomes this drug may have in store for them.
The marketing is so intense that it convinces many people they have diseases they don’t even have and they rush to the doctor to fill their demands. According to Strand & Wallace, “…fewer than 50% of all of the serious adverse reactions to a new drug the FDA releases are identified prior to its release into the marketplace” (2, pg 46). This is a very alarming statistic that needs to be taken seriously! The doctors, in turn, are often pressured by the drug companies to market these drugs to patients who do not even present with symptoms which would call for such drugs.
These doctors are often enticed by incentives and benefits offered by these companies to convince them to dole out these unnecessary medications. Essentially, they are “wined and dined” by the pharmaceutical companies. The other issue facing doctors is that these patients show up in droves with complaints and expect pills. If they are turned away or refused, the doctor faces possible legal actions, possibly law suits or malpractice claims. So, the easy solution is to give the patient what they want, not what they need. Essentially, the conventional doctor/patient relationship has eroded almost entirely.
Patients are now doctoring themselves, deciding which drugs they need, and then going to the doctor with their demands since they cannot fill their scripts without a prescription. The book, “Death By Prescription”, has an excellent example of this. The author provides a story of a patient named Cynthia who goes in for her annual exam, confirms the presence of menopause, and against her better judgment is prescribed hormone replacement therapy. Everything seems to be going well for a few months, and then she unexpectedly collapses one day, completely at random, from acute cardiac arrest.
After she has been put to rest, the husband then discovers that there were concerns about heart related problems for a year before his wife was initially prescribed this medication. (2, pgs 3-7) The doctor who wrote this book speaks of his dismay that potentially life-threatening drug reactions are never brought to the consumer’s attention until it is too late. Since these drugs are hitting the market without adequate research to possible drug reactions or interactions, more and more lawsuits are being filed. Every time I see a new lawsuit for a drug that was heavily marketed, I wonder which one will be next.
I take a few prescriptions myself, only because they are necessary to control severe acid reflux which could erode my entire esophagus and to keep allergies in check which have a tendency to cause ear infections with me. I wouldn’t take them if I didn’t absolutely need to. One that I’ve seen recently is a lawsuit for a popular birth control drug, Yasmin, that I clearly remember advertisements for which involved many women in bright yellow bathing suits. Other examples that I can think of just off the top of my head are Avandia, Phen Phen, and Thalidomide. A famous example, though, is the whole Vioxx fiasco.
Vioxx was a popular pain reliever that was touted as more effective than ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, but little was known about its potentially fatal side effects, mostly related to heart problems. According to Carey, Barrett, and Cropper, “…society needs to understand that drugs are a double-edged sword. Doctors should do a better job of keeping up with pharmaceutical findings. And patients should know that all medicines are potentially dangerous and should be used cautiously. In the past, “people accepted that there was no such thing as a totally safe drug,” says McKillop. Today we have become much more risk-averse. ” Adds Dr. Mary H. Parks, a top FDA drug-approval official: “Even in the best case, with full due diligence, we will never know everything about a drug. ” That’s why it will always be a struggle to hit just the right balance between help and harm. ” (3) This lends credence to my belief that most drugs that have been on the market less than 10 years should not be trusted. Hopefully, this paper has influenced the general perspective on the pharmaceutical industry itself and how many drugs should be taken by the average consumer on a daily basis.
How many times have doctors prescribed brand new “cures” for diseases that no one has ever heard of? Consumers should be taking note of just how many drugs are being over-marketed and should be aware of the dangers posed by the chemicals ingested on a daily basis. If it is something that is not needed for normal daily functioning, should it even be prescribed? Is it doing more harm than good? How much research has been conducted for this particular drug? Whether the individual is a young child, a middle-aged adult, a psychiatric or geriatric patient, these are the questions that each person should be asking every day.