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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.


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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.