September 2nd, 2010
11:30 AM ET

Americans' RX drug use on the rise

Americans are using more prescription drugs than ever before. New data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that over the last 10 years the number of Americans taking one prescription drug increased 10 percent, those taking multiple prescriptions rose 20 percent and the number of folks using five or more prescription drugs jumped 70 percent.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) monitors health and nutrition of the U.S. population. Participants were asked about their prescription drug use in the past month. The survey found for the year 2007-2008–the most recent data–one of five children and nine out of 10 adults over 60 used one or more medications.

The most commonly used drugs were children's asthma medications and bronchodilators. For teenagers, it was drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, like Ritalin, and medications used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These drugs typically increase attention and decrease restlessness. For adults between the ages of 20 and 59 it's mainly antidepressants, and cholesterol-lowering drugs are the most heavily used by those over 60.

The survey found usage increased with age, and that women use more prescription drugs than men. And of course, those without health insurance used prescription medications much less.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Mr Kotter

    gimme drugs...gimme drugs...gimme drugs

    September 2, 2010 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jimmy

    Just about everyone I know is on some sort of medication regardless of their necessity. It makes me wonder if we're becoming a nation of RX addicts.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Chuck

    Well what do we expect, every time we turn around some pharmaceutical company is inventing some phantom condition in order to pump more chemical goop into our systems.Here take more chemicals America!. The governmeent is right behind them while weed is illegal, makes no sense does it?

    September 2, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jim

    This is almost as disturbing as the rising numbers of people who wear glasses or contacts. People with mild sight conditions should just squint, not put glass in their eyes! The optometry industry has spent millions convincing us that squinting is bad. If you can't read the sign, just move closer. No need to turn to artificial "solutions".

    September 2, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • larry

      You realize how stupid that comment you just made is, if you have trouble seeing, then what is the problem with taking corrective measures so that you can see good. Your saying that people should walk around not being able to see perfect, think about how unsafe that can get, with drivers, heavy machine operators. I need to wear glasses in order to see the board in school, im in pharmacy school practicing to be a pharmacist which is what drew my attention to this article but when i saw your response i needed to respond. If i didnt wear those glasses, i could see something wrong or make a mistake and then one of those medications that you could be taking that you got from my pharmacy could potentially be wrong. You still want me to not wear glasses Next time just keep your fingers and mouth quiet and let the comments about important topics in society up to the people who can actually make an educated statement

      September 2, 2010 at 15:08 | Report abuse |
  5. aklr

    It's kind of funny that there's a Target pharmacy ad on the side of this article. Just sayin'.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Tanya

    I can't believe.....teenagers using drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, like Ritalin, and medications to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Even worse adults using antidepressants. You're kidding right, I sincerely hope this is not true. These medicines damage you permanently....OMG, OMG. For gods sake not the kids.... wow, it's a money making business. Parents please don't do it, hyperactivity is not a disorder. These drugs DAMAGE PERMANENTLY. DON'T DO IT! Every single headline story where students went into schools and shot students were on pysc meds. If you don't believe me just check the side effects that come with the products or check the web for side effects for these types of medicine..... you'll be SHOCKED! Once you read it. Take it for what it is, don't down play it. These effects are real as real can get!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Students don't do it. People please stay away from psychiatrist or doctors who give you mental medicine.... Run fast! God gave you one brain, don't mess with it.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TWHTIE

      Uh.... Okay, are you kidding, or serious? If you're kidding, then Bravo! But if you're serious, you may do yourself a favor by seeing one of those evil doctors, or at least take a few deep breaths. I don't know if this comes from any real insight, or something a little more Tom Curisey.
      All i ever see or read are people talking about drug companies like they're some evil caroon characters twisting their mustaches. Do they make alot of money? Yes. Do the spend alot of time, money, and tens of thousands of man hours developing, researching, testing, then working through the FDA to be able to put their products on the market? Yes.
      While there is no doubt, that we, and not just Americans, but the whole developed world, are over prescribed drugs, and take too many over the counter at a drop of a hat, let's not lose sight of what wester medicine has given us over the last couple hundred years; anitbiotics, so that now a cut is just that; a cut. Something you wash, and cover, and it heals. Not something that was potentially fatal like it was not that long ago, and still happens in the 3rd world. You get a scratch, it starts to get infected, and within a week its moved up your arm. Now we have vaccines, which regardless of what you think of them, whether you get them, or you follow the unfounded dogma that says theyre bad, the one thing that cant be argued, is that they've worked. They've virtually eradicated diseases that just a half century ago, were leaving large portions of the population permanently handicapped, or killed them. Even a more recent disease; HIV/AIDS, which 15 years ago, was a diagnosis that meant that; one day, unless you get killed in an accident or something like that, you were going to die of some AIDS related problem. Now, people get diagnosed early enough, and get put on very effective drugs, that surpress the virus, allowing them to live full lives, give birth to children disease free.
      I think in light of abuses that have come into the public’s collective conventional wisdom, we tend to personalize impersonal things or entities, like corporations. It’s easy to label a corporation as “evil” because it absolves us of any responsibility to be informed citizens, and consumers. People at the head of companies, and industries, obviously are cash conscious, or they wouldn’t have their jobs; but we know that in spite of the individuals that may have unsavory agendas, that a group with a common purpose , whether they’re citizens of a country, state, or town, or they work in the healthcare industry, will usually make the decisions that will benefit the group.
      All I’m saying is, everyone needs to calm down, or this just isn’t going to work out.

      September 2, 2010 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jackie

      You are not using your brain then! Please let me know where your perfect world is so I can go there!
      My son has ADHD and yes he is HYPER, you are welcome to take him and find out yourself.
      Do not judge a person until you have walked in their shoes. If a pediatrician, a neurologist, a behavioral therapist, and a Psychologist tell you that you son needs medication to survive in life (even mentally, socially...), I should just run away? He is so hyperactive he runs around and hurts himself. I hope and pray that you will never have to live the life that I have been for the past 4 years. I can not think of anything else that can compare it to the HELL. And YES, I do take antidepression medication to help me survive the day to wake up and do it all over again. I guess 2 out of the 3 aint bad from the survey.

      September 3, 2010 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  7. Chris

    And why wouldn't Rx drug use increase. Corporations learned long ago that selling people what they need was a dead end. The only ways to keep the shareholders happy are to (a) convince people to consume much more than they need, and (b) create the illusion of need where no real need exists. If the makers of prescription drugs (or OTC drugs, or personal care products, or foods, or clothing, or electronic gadgets, or household cleaners, or houses, or cars, or...) were to limit themselves to providing only what people really need, they'd go bankrupt.

    But corporations care nothing of such matters. They have one objective. To make your money their money.

    September 2, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. John Q.

    The adding of prescription drugs to Medicare probably has some to do with this as far as the elderly, if you have insurance for it, you use it... I would. Plus, people are living longer, but not all are necessarily healthier those additional years. The more that is invented for what ails ya', the more the use will go up; regardless of age. It might help some insurance costs if some meds on the market for a long time with lower risk of abuse were allowed to be over the counter now. That would eliminate a doctors visit for a simple prescription, as well as the drug cost...? Bottom line, we may all look at reports like this and roll our eyes, but at the same time want something that fixes our problems when it is us...

    September 2, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peehook

      Hey, Hey, It's Baby Boomer time it's goin to go even Higher !!!!!

      September 2, 2010 at 18:35 | Report abuse |
  9. KLA MD.

    It is sad so many of my patients come into my office with psychosomatic illness diagnosed from tv commercials. I call on all doctors to truly practice disease prevention and to stop being enablers of the pharmaceutical industries. My vision was to keep people from getting sick as a doctor, not to enable the drug industry's revolving door of prescribing meds...Its truly not the answer.

    September 2, 2010 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. natalie

    I don't understand why people turn to prescription drugs as a solution before trying other resources. I have a seizure disorder and have no choice but to take medicine. What I would give just to throw my meds out and never have to take them again. After thirty years of being on meds, I'm starting to have long term side effects from the meds. My left kidney is not functioning the way it should, and I have other complications. For anyone who does not need meds, please DO NOT let a doctor pressure you into taking something you really don't need. I have never collected SSI or SSD, but I fear due to the long term side effects, eventually I won't be able to work. I hope I am wrong. Medicine serves a purpose, but can also work against us.

    September 2, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Drs prescribe Anti-Depressants like aspirin.. How about Counseling first before drugs!!!

      September 2, 2010 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
    • natalie

      I agree with you Bob. However, I can't tell you how many doctors will write a script giving people medicine before sending them to counseling. I wish more doctors had your attitude.

      September 2, 2010 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
  11. Rose

    Legalize recreational drugs.

    September 2, 2010 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. JJ Stuart1

    Ah yes, more testimony to the tangled web we weave with the fast food companies making us sick and the pharmaceutical companies making us better just so we can eat more fast food and get even sicker.

    September 2, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Betty

    STOP THIS INSANITY......My son just went to the doctor for high blood pressure and guess what?? He came out with 11 prescriptions...In a 30 minute session the doctor diagnoised him as manic depressive, skitzophernic, bad back, needed 2 blood pressure medications. He was given xanx, valium, loratab (which has been addicted to in the past, currently clean), Seroquill, and several other medications that I can't even pronounce which less spell. All doctors are nothing more than "legalized drug dealers". Why can't something be done to prevent doctors from over medicating patients. My son now thinks he needs all this medication just to get out of bed every morning. Once again, he is addicted to prescription drugs and yes I do blame the doctor. He was told about my son's addicative personality and the problems he has had in the past with prescription drugs, yet he wrote him a hand full of prescriptions after a 30 minute concultation. It is insane what the medical doctors do just to make a buck! I thought they were in the medical profession to help people, not to get rich at the expense of someone else. I am 60 yrs and refuse to give any doctor my hard earn money just to get a prescription because they get a kick back from the drug companies.

    September 2, 2010 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      This is called drug-abuse.. That Dr sounds like your corner street drug pusher, but with an MD next to his name.. all bow to the Dr gods!

      September 2, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
  14. Bob

    Every other freakin commercial on TV is a drug commercial.. Big Pharma wants to make some profits from all of it's advertising.. Whether all these drugged up people is good for the population.. I seriously doubt it!

    September 2, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. jakesy

    i love drugs

    September 2, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Becca

    Y'all do know that the life expectancy in the US has increased steadily over the last 100 years in large part due to the development of pharmaceuticals, right? Why not help someone live a longer, fuller life if we can? Would you rather die from a heart attack d/t untreated hyperlipidemia? What about people who commit suicide because from untreated depression or schizophrenia? What if someone has a stroke from high blood pressure and can no longer walk; should we not have given them blood pressure medicine to prevent it? I personaly know people who have ADHD and have benefitted from medications, who were able to do well in college and get good jobs with help from meds. Should they be flipping burgers instead today because they couldn't concentrate in class? What about people with severe anxiety who are unable to leave the house without medications? Should they not be allowed to benefit from prescriptions? What about birth control pills? Should we all go back to having 15 children? If someone said you had glaucoma and would go blind: would you refuse the eyedrops that could save your sight and prevent excruciatingly painful headaches? It is very easy to say that medications and pharmeceutical companies and doctors are bad untill it is your own life at stake.

    September 3, 2010 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Dr. Leon David Peris

    I can cure ADHD with Anasotggga Steroids. I am GOD.

    I can save World.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Dr. Leon David Peris

    I am Jessus Christ the son of GOD and am GOD.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Hymie Orleans

    Pot legalization would be a start.

    September 3, 2010 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Big Yenta Scharfberg

    Let us legalize Pot.

    September 3, 2010 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Yenta Scharfberg

    We could sell Pot to the Mexicans they are stupid enought to buy anything.

    September 3, 2010 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Yenta Yenta Scharfberg

    We could grow Pot in large impoverisjed Zones called Ghetto's!

    September 3, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jerry Scharfberg

    Pot smoking makes this lonely existence Bearable and Fun.

    September 3, 2010 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Norman Scharfberg

    Pot is wonderful let us all get Stoned!

    September 3, 2010 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Kent Scharfberg


    September 3, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Moon Berk

    Pot is wonderful, Uncle Gabe the unethical attorney smoked it all the time.

    September 5, 2010 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jack W. Balsamaaia Jr.

    Pot smoking is great fun and Kool!

    September 5, 2010 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Queenie Marks

    Drugs pay for my male hookers.

    September 5, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. David Band Esquire -Sarasota Florida

    I do deals to make the World a much better place.

    September 6, 2010 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Harry F. Stanis

    DRUGS are Wonderful to treat disease.

    September 12, 2010 at 20:10 | Report abuse | Reply

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