Overall, 89 percent of the total increase in unintentional injury deaths was due to poisoning among those 15 to 64 years old and falls among those 45 and older, which increased by about 11,200 and 6,600, respectively.While the cause behind the increase in mortality from falls is as yet unknown, it appears that the increase in poisonings is largely due to prescription drugs. Other studies have also found alarming increases in prescription drug overdoses, and prescriptions for antidepressants, in particular, have soared.
Just because a drug you’re taking is a prescription with a doctor’s seal of approval does not mean it’s safe. Unfortunately, many people assume just that, and take prescription drugs (often several at a time) with no questions asked.
So it’s really not surprising that researchers have blamed the majority of the significant jump in accidental poisoning deaths on prescription drugs.
The number of prescriptions taken by Americans increased 72 percent from 1997 to 2007. In fact nearly 4 billion prescriptions were filled in 2007, with an average of nearly 13 prescriptions filled by each and every American, according to the New York Times.
Now I haven’t taken any prescription drugs in years, and I suspect many of you haven’t either as you are reading this newsletter. So these numbers are actually FAR worse as there are many of us that are simply not taking any.
Further, the average senior over age 65 typically fills over 30 prescriptions every year, while those aged 19-64 fill nearly 12. Even children (ages 0-18) are taking close to 4 prescriptions a year, and American children are actually among the most medicated in the world.
And a survey by AARP found that:
45 percent of those aged 65 and over take three to six prescription drugs on a regular basis
12 percent take seven to nine
10 percent take 10 or more
This does not even take into account any over-the-counter medications or supplements that they may be taking as well.
With numbers like these, it’s no wonder poisoning deaths are on the rise as absolutely no one knows what happens when you combine multiple medications at one time.
Polypharmacy is an Increasing Health Concern for Everyone
Polypharmacy, which refers to the poisonous chemical cocktail of multiple drugs that many people are taking, is an increasing health concern not just for the elderly, but for everyone.
Dr. Michael Stern, a specialist in geriatric emergency medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told the New York Times:
“Polypharmacy is responsible for up to 28 percent of hospital admissions and, if it were classified as such, it would be the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.”
So far, only a handful of drug interactions are noted to be dangerous. For instance:
Ibuprofen can cause bleeding ulcers when taken with prescription painkillers.
Combining ginkgo biloba with blood-thinning drugs like aspirin or warfarin can lead to severe bleeding.
The antibiotic erythromycin can lead to a toxic reaction when combined with certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, potentially leading to kidney failure.
Unfortunately, most drug interactions are discovered by accident and entirely too late -- or are not discovered at all because people may not equate their symptoms to their medications. Of course, even if you only take one prescription drug at a time, there’s still a risk.
Taking Prescription Drugs is a Health RISK
More than 700,000 people visit U.S. emergency rooms each year as a result of adverse drug reactions. And, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adverse drug reactions from drugs that are properly prescribed and properly administered cause about 106,000 deaths per year, making prescription drugs the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S.
Compare this to the death toll from illegal drugs -- which is about 10,000 per year -- and you begin to see the magnitude of the problem that the pharmaceutical industry is propagating.
According to one Newsweek article, only heart disease, cancer, and stroke kill more Americans than drugs prescribed by medical doctors! Reactions to prescription drugs kill more than twice as many Americans as HIV/AIDS or suicide. Fewer die from accidents or diabetes than adverse drug reactions.
The problem has reached such proportions that you now see public service announcements warning you about the dangers of pharmaceutical drug use and addiction, just like the ones you used to see against street drugs.
Children and teens, who have grown up believing that prescription drugs are safe, are now using the drugs recreationally under the false assumption that they are not dangerous. But folks, any time you put a drug in your mouth there’s a risk there … and it doesn’t matter if the drug came from your local pharmacy or your local street corner.
So please, if you take only one fact away from this article, let it be the importance of thinking twice before taking a prescription drug. It is your body, not your doctor’s and not your pharmacist’s, so it is up to you to make the decision of what drugs to take, if any.
Be sure you are aware of the risks of the medication and weigh them against any possible benefit. Then you can make a well-informed decision of whether it’s a risk you’re willing to take.
And as always, keep striving to Take Control of Your Health so that you require fewer doctor’s visits, and drugs, to stay in top condition.