Q: I am 65 years old and I was given a pain reliever by my doctor for my arthritis a few months ago, but this raised my blood pressure. At my next visit, I was prescribed several medicines for hypertension, which came with even more side effects and I feel even sorer than before. What can I do? A: Prescription drugs are now marketed in every single corner of American society -- from the Cartoon Network to nursing homes to the nightly news. Drug company advertisers apparently believe that Americans will swallow the panaceas offered in the six drug commercials that regularly accompany each evening's news. Medicine ads sprout from magazines, billboards, scoreboards, racecars and more – the same places where cigarette ads of the 1960s and 1970s appeared.
Americans spent $320 billion on prescription drugs last year, more than they did on gasoline or fast food. They paid twice as much for their prescription medicine that year as they spent on either higher education or new automobiles. Americans spend more on medicines than do all the people of Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina combined.
Almost 65% of the nation now takes drugs available only by prescription. Children line up at schools to get their daily doses. Pharmacies stay open 24-hours to meet our demand. In 2010 Walgreens opened drugstores in America at the rate of one every day. Dozens of supermarkets in Colorado have added a pharmacist and prescription counter, and pharmacies are routinely built inside the megastores of the nation like Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart.
The Center for Disease Control (2011) reports that 47.9% of Americans have used at least one prescription drug in the past month; another 21.4% use three or more prescription drugs in the past month, and finally another 10.5% use five or more prescription drugs in the past month.
When considering your own use of prescription drugs:
1) Unless causes of poor health and diminished function are dealt with, drugs will fail in the long run – even if they are used sensibly.
2) If the causes of your arthritis and hypertension lie in poor nutrition and diet, then "cure" lies in better eating and nutrition.
3) If problems emerge from a lack of exercise, then the "cure" lies in daily, pleasurable physical activity.
4) In the short term it may make sense to use drugs to save lives. But they must be used sensibly, cautiously, appropriately and not haphazardly and excessively as they are now.
5) Even when used correctly as instructed, prescription medications can cause serious long-term changes to occur that can be more devastating than the disease itself. A single class of new medicines promoted to treat irregular heartbeats (Tambocor® and Enkaid®) is estimated to have killed 50,000 Americans in just a few years. That tragedy in the 1980s showed that heavily marketed medicines could kill the equivalent of an entire city the size of Castle Rock with almost no public outcry if the drugs caused a type of death that was common in the population, like cardiac arrest. Remember the anti-inflammatory Vioxx®, estimated to have caused 139,000 heart attacks in which 30-40% of these patients died? More than 50 other drugs have been considered so dangerous they have had to be pulled from pharmacy shelves in past few decades alone.
6) Each of us has the power to decide whether to maintain healthy lifestyles, and each of us can, if we wish, undertake to incorporate health-enhancing practices, rather than disease-causing ones, into our daily life.
Dr. Scott Cuthbert is a chiropractor at Chiropractic Health Center in Pueblo, Colorado, as well as the author of two textbooks and multiple research articles. PuebloChiropracticCenter.com.