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Nonprescription Pain Killers, Antacid, and Other Drug Use

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Since 1980 the proportion of adult consumers who say they take a nonprescription pain killer during a typical day grew from 22 percent in 1981 to 29 percent in 1990. Those taking an antacid grew from 7 percent to 10 percent. Those over 45 years old and white collar workers take more pain killers and antacids than those younger or blue collar workers. Those taking drugs are not experiencing more pain than in the past, but more feel stressed. Prescription drug use had not grown significantly through 1990, perhaps because of the availability of nonprescription alternatives. ("No Pain, No Gain? The Non-Rx Drug Market," The Public Pulse, January 1990, p. 8) However, taking prescription painkillers without a medical need increased 75 percent from 2002 to 2010. (

OTC analgesics including NSAID are widely used, are frequently taken inappropriately and potentially dangerously, and users are generally unaware of the potential for adverse side effects. But stomach bleeding caused by NSAIDs is now recognized as the most common serious drug reaction and accounts for as many as 16,500 deaths and over 107,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States. (

In 1999, the rate of drug overdose deaths was 4 in 100,000 Americans. By 2004 this number had risen to 6.7 in 100,000, and by 2008 to 12 in 100,000. The CDC reports deaths attributed to drug overdose at 36,450 per year, with prescription opioid pain relievers involved in 14,800 of these deaths. (

Opioid Pain Reliever Overdose Deaths

More than half of the people feel sick most of the time
More than half of the people feel sick most of the time

Depression rate in the U.S. in 2011
Depression rate in the U.S. in 2011

In 1976, about 40 percent of Americans polled reported not feeling well. In 1991, the figure was 60 percent. And there's no evidence of it getting better—look at the incredible level of pain reliever consumption. More than half of the people feel sick most of the time. (Skrabanek, Dr. Petr, "What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Very Modern Medicine," Bottom Line Personal, April 15, 1991, p. 13) Since in 2008 81% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track is it any wonder they also don't feel well? It's not much of a stretch to go from feeling depressed about things to simply feeling bad physically. (

In addition to pain killers and antacids, Americans spent $1,396,836 on laxatives and $3,673,973 on vitamins EVERY DAY in 1991. (Bottom Line Personal, March 30, 1991, p. 9) Each year, recently, Americans spend more than $700 million on laxatives. Half of all American adults reach for some form of dietary supplement every day at a cost of $23 billion a year—in 2009. (