7 out of every 10 Americans are on a prescription drug. More than half of Americans are on 2. This according to Mayo Clinic News Network. In 2013, Americans spent nearly 2.3 billion more dollars on prescription drugs than the federal government spent on education in 2012. These numbers are fascinating and I hope to be able to expound upon why they are significant. My goal in writing this paper is to ultimately illustrate the impact of pharmaceutical companies and their drugs and try to connect it to the larger picture in America which is the war on drugs. I will talk about the numbers and statistics of prescription drugs, the impact of pharmaceutical companies and their representatives, and how prescription drugs are marketed through these companies. At the end of the paper, I will tie what I’ve talked about in with American drug policy and the war on drugs.
Americans love pills. We are the most pill happy people on this planet. According to Las Vegas KLAS-TV Channel 8 News Now’s chief investigative reporter, George Knapp, prescription drug use in America “amounts to the highest per capita prescription drug use in the world and 80 percent higher than it was in 1990.” Drugabuse.gov shows that doctors prescribed enough prescription painkillers in 2010 to medicate every adult in America every four hours for one month. The reason Americans use so many pills is because pharmaceutical companies create pills for everything and doctors prescribe those pills for anything. Xanax for anxiety. Lipitor for bad cholesterol. Zoloft for depression. Ambien to help you go to sleep. And Adderall to help you focus. American doctors wrote over 4 billion prescriptions in 2012 (Knapp). That’s equivalent to more than 12 prescriptions for every person in America, including children. Not to say that prescription drugs aren’t doing any good, but maybe they’re doing more bad. Best-selling author, licensed physician and surgeon, Dr. Joseph Mercola, wrote an article about prescription drugs in 2011. Dr. Mercola titled this article “Death from Prescription Drugs: The New Epidemic Sweeping Across America”. In it, he talks about the growing use and abuse of prescription drugs and a term that has been coined ‘Pharmaggedon’. He says that this occurs when medicines produce more ill health than health and the medical world causes more harm than good. According to Dr. Mercola, we are well on our way to Pharmageddon. “[I]t is no longer a prospect but fully upon us” (Mercola). Americans account for only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume more than 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs (drugabuse.gov). In 2010, 52 million people over the age of 12 in the U.S had used prescription drugs non-medically at least once in their lifetime and nearly 9 million people were abusers of prescription meds (drugabuse.gov). The problem that we run into when dealing with prescription drugs is, like Dr. Mercola said, when they begin causing more ill health than health. Legally prescribed drugs can be just as addictive and dangerous, if not more than the illegal ones. Opioids (painkillers), depressants or tranquilizers, and stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are among the most commonly abused drugs. Some opioids and stimulants affect the brain directly the same way as heroin and cocaine. As Dr. Mercola states, if you’re hooked on an opioid like hydrocodone than “you are in fact a good-old-fashioned heroin addict”. However, the abuse and misuse of these drugs is not the only thing hurting people. More than 100,000 patients in hospitals die every year from properly prescribed drugs. About 450,000 people visit the emergency room because of totally preventable inimical reactions to prescription drugs (Mercola). These are the incidents when the drugs are taken exactly how they were directed to be. When we add in the cases of people that misuse and abuse these meds is when we begin to realize the extent of the problem. Prescription drugs kill more people...
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