If you are an American with health insurance, chances are greater than fifty percent that you are on a prescribed medication.


Is it natural that more than half of the insured population is on medication? 

How many prescription pills do you pop a day?

Drugs are embedded in our sub-cultures and values systems, but I wonder if we are too obsessed with pills solving our health problems instead of employing impulse control and behavior modification.

Medco’s data show that last year, 51 percent of American children and adults were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition, up from 50 percent the previous four years and 47 percent in 2001. Most of the drugs are taken daily, although some are needed less often.

The company examined prescription records from 2001 to 2007 of a representative sample of 2.5 million customers, from newborns to the elderly.

Medication use for chronic problems was seen in all demographic groups:

– Almost two-thirds of women 20 and older.

– One in four children and teenagers.

– 52 percent of adult men.

– Three out of four people 65 or older.

Among seniors, 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men take five or more medicines regularly.

Are modern medications healing or hurting us? 

Are we defeating the evolutionary ideal of “survival of the fittest” by providing the means and hope for less-vibrant life forces to survive well beyond their natural end?

Do new medications make us less human by repressing the normal feelings, emotions, and systemic behaviors that make us mortal and fallible?

If you could take a pill that would prevent all your pain, but not protect you from disease, would you swallow that barter or not?

20 Comments

  1. arin —
    Unless your MD prescribed your vitamins, then they don’t count towards today’s discussion. It’s good to know what meds your mom takes just in case something happens to her and you need to know how to help her.

  2. I have previously written about my thoughts on over the counter dependence but I’d like to say that I feel even more strongly about it five and a half years later, if that is possible. 🙂 Other than resorting to the occasional allergy pill when my seattle related allergies have gotten bad, I still avoid the pills and go out of my way to do so.
    It seems a lot of modern medication makes things worse. Common side effects are often as bad as or worse than the thing that is being treated. (Not to mention the occasional “urge for gambling” side effect that I find sadly laughable…)

  3. Gordon —
    There are some who find great relief in some of the “mind chemistry” medications that, finally, set them right so they are able to lead a fine life.
    Then there are some medications that seem to be invented merely for convenience instead of the hard task of behavior modification. I know many people prefer to “take a pill” than, say, exercise every day and that is a sad thing because there is no false way to effectively work out a heart except through moving your body around and about!
    I, too, suffer from allergies and I am grateful for my still hard-to-get Claritin-D:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2007/07/24/just-say-no-to-customers-the-allergy-dealer
    Zyrtec just isn’t the same — no matter what the commercials say… and it puts me right to sleep and makes me groggy all day.

  4. Speaking of pills vs exercise: I’m actually considering writing a biweekly or maybe monthly urb article (or maybe just one) on what happens in the course of my using a certain exercise program, the only exercise regime that my nutritionist friend has recommended. According to my friend the program circumvents plateauing and is a very difficult hour every day. Beats two so-so hours a day, I guess. 🙂

  5. I think that would make a great article series, Gordon! Write it as often as you like so we can all follow it. It sounds like an interesting method!

  6. Hi David!
    No pills for me if i can help it! the pill that “prevents all pain” will in the end do more harm to the very being it seeked to protect.

  7. You’re right about the pain-free pill, Dananjay! We use pain as a warning and danger system and if we numb those protection receptors, we can quick be in a world of hurt!

  8. Pain, they say, is a sign to us that something is wrong. I’d rather know something was wrong than to feel fine and then mysteriously drop dead, G-d forbid.

  9. It’s a real blessing not to have to be on any medication.
    But I don’t believe in suffering. If I had real debilitating pain or severe depression, I would not hestitate to take pain medication or try an anti-depressant and see where that leads, provided I’d exhausted non-pharmacologic approaches (ie: lifestyle changes, counseling, relaxation techniques).
    For now a couple of ibuprofen work just fine for occasional aches and pain that come from good old-fashioned hard work. Pain that makes you feel alive!
    But medication should always be a last resort.
    I agree, Gordon, that the side effects are sometimes worse than the ailment itself!
    I am, however, thinking of taking that daily baby aspirin for prevention of stroke. Stroke is not something I’d like to experience!

  10. That makes sense, Donna. If you can only heal through a pill, do it — but if you can heal thyself, then do that first! MDs will fight you because they generally prefer to write a script than have to deal with helping you change your bad behavior. SMILE! It saves them time.

  11. Hi David,
    The only prescribed medicine I used to take was “vicodin” – because of an old injury.
    I still take it – occassionally or else the pain gets unbearable.
    Apart from it, I listen to my system.
    My system behaves like a cat/dog – it refuses food and craves sleep when it is not well – I abide by it.
    I am a regular 6 hrs. sleeper but I know I am not ok when I sleep more and still feel tired.

  12. Hey, Katha!
    Vicodin is a powerful drug. Have you ever had MDs try to talk you out of taking it?
    If you’re body is tired, how many hours will you sleep in a row?

  13. Yes David – I know vicodin is a powerful drug.
    In India I used to take a much stronger version of it – it’s only in USA I was prescribed Vicodin!
    They tried using a mild painkiller first – but that didn’t work at all – I had to take sleep-aid to get a good night’s sleep.
    The constant pain becomes unbearable at times.
    But fortunately it’s occassional.
    I sleep like a log when I am well and my regular cycle is 11:30/12:00 – 5:30/6:00;
    but if I am tired I sleep as long as my body wants it…I go to bed by 10:00 – get up at 7:00 or so…I might take a nap what I do not do when my system works perfectly – it just jeopardizes then entire thing!

  14. Hi Katha!
    I am a big nap fan, too. They are wonderful refreshers.
    Can you share what pain is ailing you that requires Vicodin? Is the pain chronic? Do you medicate every day?

  15. Hi David!
    The long and short of it – it is called “frozen shoulder”; it was developed from an injury that was caused by a motor bike accident long ago.
    Now it gets aggravated if I lift something heavy or work on a computer for long or bend my neck or upper portion in an awkward way for some reason etc…
    Once starts it stays for 2/3 mths. I badly need medicine or else it’s intolerable, I even have mild fever from this.
    I am a nap fan too but it just messes up my system because I stay up till 2:00 am that night.
    So, no nap for me unless I have a vacation!

  16. Katha —
    Ha! A nap should not last longer than 20 minutes. Longer than that and I risk staying up all night, too.
    Is your shoulder pain caused by muscle or joint trouble? Sounds awful! Would surgery fix it?

  17. Hi David!
    I envy those who can take a power nap – it’s just not my cup of tea!
    My nap is atleast for an hour…so even the nap is fun but the aftermath of it is not – because I am wide awake!!!
    It’s a joint problem David, starts with shoulders getting stiff then the my arms get affected – the nagging pain along with it is really awful.
    My palm and finger joints also suffer at times.
    Noone suggested surgery for it…I am not sure…