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In order to get a better idea of the reach and scope of this issue, let’s dive into the statistics of medication use in the United States. Seven our of ten people in America take a prescription drug. (Max, 2017) Americans seem to be on a variety of prescription drugs of all types, which suggests an over-reliance on medication to mask problems rather than fix them.

Statistics on prescription drug use in the United States

  1. More than 140 million Americans take at least one prescription drug in any given month. (Calabresi & Park, 2010)

  1. More than 4 billion prescriptions were filled at U.S. pharmacies in 2014 – an average of nearly 13 per citizen. More than 40% of Americans 65 or older are on 5 or more prescription drugs. (Wapner, 2015)

  1. There were 4.4 billion prescriptions filled in the U.S. in 2015, an average of 14 prescriptions per citizen. (Sweetland-Edwards, 2016)

  1. Sixty-one percent of adults use at least one drug to treat a chronic health problem. (Katz, 2010)

  1. Spending on prescription medicine is expected to reach anywhere from $610 billion to $640 billion in 2020 – more than the U.S. military budget. (Sweetland-Edwards, 2016)

  1. Though we are less than 5% of the world’s population, Americans consume around half of the world’s pharmaceuticals – choking down around $200 billion of the $400 billion in pharmaceuticals used worldwide in 2002. (Angell, 2005)

  1. When it comes to pain pills the situation is even worse: By 2010 Americans were gobbling down 80% of the world’s opioids and 99% of its hydrocodone. (Gupta, 2016)

  2. As many as 60% to 70% of people taking prescription drugs shouldn’t be on them. (Kotz, 2010

  3. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, 47% of the medications used by the elderly could be thrown away without any harm to their health. (Readers Digest, Sept. 2011, p. 54)

  4. Sleeping pills are vastly overprescribed in nursing homes – as many as 95% of residents are given them! (Jacobs, 1998)
  5. As of May 2016 there were another 7,000 potential drugs under development. (Sweetland-Edwards, 2016)
  6. In 2015, generic drugs made up 88% of the total prescriptions filled yet accounted for just 28% of total drug spending, saving the nation many billions in health care costs. (O’Donnell, 2016)
  7. In 2014 overdose deaths overtook traffic fatalities as the #1 cause of accidental death among Americans. Sixty-one percent of these involved opioids. (Gupta, 2016)
  8. As of May 2016 there were another 7,000 potential drugs under development. (Sweetland-Edwards, 2016)

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