Prescription drug use and abuse is common in North America today. While researching medical cannabis recently one of its attributes was limited negative side effects. It also became clear how many of us may not be aware of the life threatening side effects of our everyday use of prescription drugs. According to the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) deaths from prescription drugs has risen to 38,329 in 2010 from 4,030 in 1999. Almost a ten fold increase in a decade.
Deaths from Prescription Drugs
There are estimates that this annual figure is actually in the 100,000 range. When you think about this shocking figure and compare it to other death statistics (see Addenda (i) the question has to be why is there not more awareness about this. Over the last two decades as our general health has deteriorated (due to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc) and now with a large aging population our dependence on prescription drugs has increased astronomically. Unfortunately, deaths from prescription drugs have also increased.
“Someone dies in the United States every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose, mostly accidental. Every 19 minutes. It is a horrifying statistic …. I could not find a documented case of death from marijuana”
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Prescription Drug Advertisement Claims
While browsing through a recent glossy magazine I noticed there were many ads for various well-known prescription drugs for arthritis, cholesterol control, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), depression. Here is a smattering of the information contained in these drug advertisements. A few random quotes :
- (the drug) … lower(s) your immune system’s ability to fight infections … some people have died from these infections
- May increase your risk of certain cancers by changing the way your immune system works
- People with diabetes, HIV or a weak immune system have a higher chance for infections (from the drug)
- Common side effects include : upper respiratory tract infections, headache, diarrhea, nasal congestion, sore throat and runny nose
- Side effects may include: hives, itching, rash, swelling of the lips tongue or throat that may cause difficulty in breathing
.. and More
- Common side effects include: nausea, dizziness, insomnia, sweating, constipation, sleepiness, loss of appetite, anxiety, decreased sex drive
- Serious side effects include: heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney problems and failure, bleeding, low red blood cells, life-threatening skin reactions, life-threatening allergic reactions, liver problems and failure
Prescription Drug Advertisements
The following should be considered ;
- The advertisements did not include all the possible side effects
- There are many other drugs (including antibiotics), over the counter medications, supplements, food and alcohol interactions not mentioned in the five magazine ads. Always read the fine print
- And always read the lengthy medical information which accompanies all prescriptions from your pharmacist
- If you have negative side effects of prescription drugs report this to your doctor. In the USA contact the FDA or visit Medwatch . Some symptoms are: increased blood pressure or heart rate, breathing concerns, driving difficulties, increased bleeding, unusual skin rashes or a new symptom
What you should know About Prescription Drugs
- Maintain an awareness of the number of prescription medications; check for drug duplication, particularly for an elderly relative or friend especially if they visit more than one medical professional
- While taking prescription drugs always ask about: dietary considerations, when medication should be taken (time of day for greatest benefit, with food, etc), is driving a motor vehicle or drinking alcohol permitted while on medication
- Always tell your doctor any supplements taken and major lifestyle changes
- Keep a list of your medicines with you to show your doctor and pharmacist when you get a new medicine
“80% of the world’s pain pills are consumed right here in the United States,
according to 2011 congressional testimony
from the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians”
– Dr. Sanjay Gupta “Let’s end the prescription drug death epidemic”
Do yourself, or your loved one a favour and check out the medications you, or they are prescribed. Perhaps have a medical check up and see if you need to be on them any more or at least reduce the quantity or frequency. Exercise, diet and weight loss all help to improve your overall health. For example, reduce high blood pressure, reduce high and bad cholesterol, improve diabetes symptoms, and reverse heart disease. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people’s’ health could benefit positively with a few of these changes enabling them to cut their daily prescription medications.
A family story:
A few years ago our mother in law was admitted to Emergency at which time we found out that she was on at least 11 prescription drugs daily as well as many vitamins and supplements.
The doctors took her off 5 of the prescriptions medications immediately due to interactions and duplication.
No-one in the family was aware of her circumstances, including Dad who had early stage dementia.
Links & References
- US FDA “Avoiding Drug Interactions” with food, beverages, other drugs and supplements
- CDC death statistics (all) for USA
- Prescription drug overdoses increase in women (2013)
- 100,000 Americans die from prescription drugs each year “Our Daily Meds” by Melody Petersen
- Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse Health Canada report
- Canadian House of Commons “Government’s Role in Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse” April 2014
- American Heart Association on medication interactions
- Health Canada on natural health product interactions
- Prescription drug overdoses – an US epidemic (2012)
- Proposed “New laws restricting herbs and vitamins“
- The most frequently used drugs in the USA are “asthma medicines for children, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents, antidepressants for middle-aged adults, and cholesterol lowering drugs for older Americans” USA Centre for Disease Control
- Top 100 selling prescription drugs in the USA (2013)
The series on Medical Marijuana from CAP
- Medical Marijuana as a treatment for cancer
- “Weed” the first documentary on medical marijuana researched & narrated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
- “Weed 2 – Cannabis Madness” – the second documentary on medical marijuana
All prescription drugs and vitamin supplements should be kept away from children and should not be given to other people to “try” as this could lead to serious complications, overdose or fatal poisoning
Check out your prescription drugs, over counter medications and supplements at Mayo Clinic site.
Just click here
(i) The Statistics – Leading causes of death:
- Lung cancer 159,380
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
- Prescription drug overdose: 100,000 plus
- Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
- Diabetes: 69,071
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
- Colon cancer 50,830
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
- Breast cancer deaths 40,030
- USA Motor vehicle fatalities – 32,850 in 2013
- Firearm deaths 31,672 in 2013 CDC
- Estimated 14,827 persons were murdered in the United States in 2012 – FBI statistics
- Chances of being killed in an airline crash – 1 in 19.8 million (Top 39 airlines with the best accident rates)
(ii) DISCLAIMER :
The information contained in this blog is based on personal opinion and experiences and is not to be misconstrued in any way as health care advice but is provided for interest and hopefully learning purposes.
Always seek qualified medical care and guidance if you think you have a health concern. The author assumes no responsibility for all content including information from other sources.