The United States' addiction to overmedication

The Colorado Rockies arrived in the Valley a short while ago to begin their annual spring training at the Salt River Fields off the 101. For a little over 20 years now, the Rockies have been training in Arizona, first in Tucson, and then, starting in 2011, at their current location in Scottsdale.

There’s nothing more American than hot dogs at a baseball game and a slice of apple pie — with sharp cheddar, if you’re a Yank — after the game. It’s not difficult to think of the quintessential U.S. citizen: Blue jeans, golden retriever, Ford pickup truck, white picket fence and 2.5 children. Many would be shocked to find prescription pills added to the list of the quintessential American, according to a study done by the Mayo Clinic.


The U.S.'s obsession with medication stems from a deep rooted idea of being the perfect, average American. So focused are we on the image of averageness we’ve created pills to help us act and feel “normal.” The slew of medical problems the U.S. is known for — i.e. obesity and diabetes — also doesn’t help to curb our addiction. It has gotten to the point where seven in every 10 Americans — that’s 70 percent of all Americans — take at least one prescription pill regularly, according to the Mayo Clinic. Just over half of Americans take two prescription pills.

We’re simply too overmedicated! The most common pills taken, according to the same report, are antibiotics, antidepressants and opioid painkillers. The consumption of antibiotics really can’t be avoided. With more than 330 million people living in this first-world nation, it’s understandable to see such a high consumption rate of antibiotics. However, the high usage of antidepressants and opioid painkillers is troublesome.

More people than ever are considered depressed today. Everyone feels sad or lonely at some point in their lives and depending on the events that led to these feelings, they can last for quite some time. However, with almost 20 percent of Americans taking an antidepressant, it's possible many of these Americans are just genuinely feeling depressed for one reason or another. With today’s media marketing, if you’re not happy all the time, you’re depressed.

It’s not just depression that’s over-diagnosed and medicated. If you don’t act normally, there’s medication to fix that. Nuedexta is a type of medication prescribed to people who find themselves crying a little too much in situations that are only moderately sad, for example.

In fact, as reported by the CDC, 11 percent of children are diagnosed as ADHD and prescribed medication for that disorder. It's most prevalent in Kentucky, where almost 20 percent of children are prescribed medication.

When a brain, especially that of a developing child, is exposed to medications that alter the brain’s chemistry for an extended period of time, the brain begins to grow accustomed to those drugs and thinks it needs them when it truly doesn’t.

The over-diagnosing of patients could be due to the money raked in on these sales. The prescription pill industry splits $85 billion between the top 11 companies. Pfizer's Zoloft, the number one prescribed antidepressant, reportedly raked in $3.1 billion.

With a super majority of Americans on one prescription pill or another, it’s scary to think how much these medical companies actually own us. It’s more profitable to just treat a disease than it is to cure one.

The company creates market security by making sure it has a steady flow of patients who need and are hooked on the treatment. Then, that company goes to the doctors and peddles their products to reach out to more Americans who truly don’t need it. If you’re continuously taking a pill for a disease or ailment, you have not been cured — you’re being treated.


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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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