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May 14th, 2014
02:24 PM ET

50% of Americans take prescription drugs

About half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug each month, and 10% take more than four, according to a new government report.

"Health, United States, 2013" is an annual report on the nation’s health prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. This year’s report includes a special section on prescription drugs.

Here are a few key facts from that section:

We spend a lot on prescription drugs. In 2011, Americans spent $263 billion on prescription drugs, which accounts for 9.7% of all national health expenditures (up from 5.6% in 1990).

Pharmaceutical companies aren't relying on doctors to sell their pills. Spending on direct-to-consumer advertising for all drugs more than tripled between 1996 and 2005 to $4.2 billion, according to the report.

Americans are depressed. Adults' use of antidepressants increased more than fourfold between the years of 1988-94 and 2007-10, from 2.4% to 10.8%.

Doctors are prescribing fewer useless antibiotics. Antibiotics prescribed during medical visits for cold symptoms declined 39% between 1995-96 and 2009-10. That's good news, as the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is contributing to antibiotic resistance worldwide and limiting our arsenal to fight infections.

Sinus infection? Antibiotics won't help

The prescription drug death epidemic is a big problem. Consumption of pain medications called opioid analgesics increased 300% between 1999 and 2010, and death rates in people age 15 and older involving these drugs more than tripled between 2000 and 2010.


soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. r

    I'd like to see that go to 75%.

    May 14, 2014 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jerry andrew

      American doctors are just legalized drug dealers that kill 91%+ of all Americans. Posted by FDA in 2006. They care about your money; not your health! Union doctors, like The Rockwood, must pay dues so; they weigh the size of your purse as you enter their building for service.

      May 18, 2014 at 08:07 | Report abuse |
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      May 18, 2014 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  2. rick

    Holy $ h i t !
    I'm 60 & I don't take a single Rx

    May 14, 2014 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ella

      Well Rick, then you're damn lucky!

      May 15, 2014 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • Artemis MA

      60 here as well, and no prescription drugs - and I do realize that to date I am lucky.

      May 15, 2014 at 22:10 | Report abuse |
  3. J

    Birth control pills are prescription medication.....

    May 14, 2014 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. account killer!

    LOL, so right now there are 2 of us in the room but neither of us are on any meds. That ruins your premise right there. Yesterday, I was in the room with 4 people, none of US were on any meds either. That's a double-whammy against your statistics.

    May 15, 2014 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lojack

      I'm in a room by myself and I take prescription meds, so that's 100%

      May 15, 2014 at 12:56 | Report abuse |
    • Karen Sien

      You arent the only people in the country. There are 318,131,106. Those 5 people don't count for much.

      May 29, 2014 at 16:57 | Report abuse |
  5. Portlandtony

    Considering almost 1/3 of Americans are over 50 and the fact that quite a few of our youngsters are on ADHD meds, that along with prescription birth control pills and the proliferation of Statins as a preventative, it's a wonder everyone is not on drugs of some sort!

    May 18, 2014 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. chrissy

    True @ portland tony and hello again...its been awhile! Im also gonna guess these numbers take into account the enhancement stimulants being prescribed on a very large scale eh? Why dont you do an article on how many prescriptions that are for real health reasons before everyone starts condemming those of us who DO need real meds for VERY real reasons!!!

    May 23, 2014 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
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    June 11, 2014 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. konnorkruse

    I agree. Prescription drugs are being used today because the health in America is getting worse. There has to be a reason Americans use of antidepressants grew four times greater in those years.

    June 11, 2014 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Stephanie Salazar

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    June 27, 2014 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tom

    http://freeprescriptioncard.com/ let's you print a free card that saves up to 74% of prescription drugs & is accepted at over 62,000 pharmacies nationwide!

    July 8, 2014 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.