With our father being a diplomat, our family missed most of the pharmaceutical revolution that occurred in the U.S. during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. We did not get caught up in the cycle that so many have ended up in the U.S., the cycle of believing that every time a doctor writes a script, we need to get the script filled and we need to take the pill being prescribed. Actually, I probably should write that in spite of not being in the U.S. during the pharmaceutical revolution that occurred in the US. during the ’50′s and ’60′s, even our family got caught in its web.
When we returned to the U.S. from what was then the Belgian Congo, my mother started to fall asleep at around 10:30 at night. For a diplomat’s wife, the role of which often required “on” hours from 6 p.m. forward, this situation was worrisome. She went to her doctor. He concluded that she must have gotten some exotic “bug” from the Heart of Darkness and, although there was nothing in his repertoire that might directly address the “bug,” he did have something she could take that might help her stay awake. As it turned out, he prescribed amphetamines.
A couple of months later, my mother returned to the doctor and explained that the pills had worked wonderfully to keep her awake, but now she was having trouble going to sleep. “No problem,” the doctor apparently replied. He had just the thing for that. He prescribed a barbiturate.
Because we spent most of our time overseas, my mother could order hundreds of these pills at a time. Although she was never quite the same, she was happy with the results. My teen-age brother was even happier, having become quite popular with his classmates as a source for uppers and downers. O those turbulent ‘60’s!
When I reached my ‘40’s (the age my mother was when this “sleeping disease” hit her), lo and behold, I would find myself dozing off at 10:30 p.m. Although it is possible that I might have gotten the same “bug” having lived in the Congo as well, and it is possible that the characteristics of this “bug” only manifests in a 40 year old system, I will venture to guess that most likely, the “sleeping-disease” was merely a biological change reflecting the age. I should acknowledge, though, that even if the doctor had come to this conclusion in my mother’s case, outcomes might not have been different.
In a National Center for Health Sciences article dated September 2010, prescription drug use continues to increase in the United States.
According to the article:
- Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% to 48%. The use of two or more drugs increased from 25% to 31%. The use of five or more drugs increased from 6% to 11%.
- In 2007-2008, 1 out of every 5 children and 9 out of 10 older Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the past month.
- Those who were without a regular place for health care, health insurance, or prescription drug benefit had less prescription drug use compared with those who had these benefits.
- The most commonly used types of drugs included: asthma medicines for children, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents, antidepressants for middle-aged adults, and cholesterol lowering drugs for older Americans.
In the United States, spending for prescription drugs was $234.1 billion in 2008, which was more than double what was spent in 1999.
These findings are really quite terrifying and yet we continue to ingest these little blue, red, green, yellow pills with apparently no thought as to the consequences.
© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed 2012