A nation of pill poppers and prescription drugs.. really!

Sunday 21 December, 2014 

  • Here’s why the papers are wrong – yet again

  • Discover the first thing you should do at your doctors

  • WARNING only click this link if you love the lottery The amazing El Gordo winning syndicates

So it’s official – we’ve become a nation of pill poppers.

The latest reports on the use of prescription drugs makes for depressing reading, with nearly half of us taking some form of medication or other.

It looks like our health is on the slide and in order to cope with the rigours of modern life and our sloth-like lifestyles, the only way we can cope is by forcing the NHS to spend £15 billion a year on giving us drugs.

I hope you’re hanging your worthless heads in shame…

…that seemed to be the message I was hearing anyway.

Once again the story is all about how the user is responsible for the problem.

The way the information was portrayed was that either this usage was because we were demanding it, or that because we have the audacity to live a little longer we need medication to keep going – an example of what I mean appeared in the Daily Mail as below:

"Dr Jennifer Mindell, reader in public health at University College London and one of the report’s authors, said the figures should be taken in context as people were living longer and in better health than ever, which may be partly due to drugs used both for prevention and treatment of disease. GPs said ‘strict and robust monitoring systems’ ensured patients only got drugs when absolutely necessary."

Let me take that paragraph apart…

"…people were living longer and in better health than ever, which may be partly due to drugs used both for prevention and treatment of disease."

Where is the evidence that links the usage of prescription drugs to increasing life expectancy?

This is a statement straight from the marketing department of every Big Pharma company out there that conveniently ignores several major factors related to economic, employment and health awareness situations.

Where the changes can be related specifically to a reduction in deaths from medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, again it is too simple to say that this is due to the use of drugs; it is also about changes in attitudes to health and the fact that we are better at screening for problems.

"GPs said ‘strict and robust monitoring systems’ ensured patients only got drugs when absolutely necessary."

This implies that our overworked GPs are able to take their time to consider how they should help someone who comes into their clinic in the best way possible without resorting to the prescription pads…

…come on! Is this really your experience of a visit to the doctor?

In the ten minutes they have with you they barely have chance to ask how you are feeling let alone discuss the options with you, or put them into context with your other medications.

A worrying report from 2012 commissioned by the General Medical Council found that one in twenty prescriptions contained an error.

In addition they found that huge numbers of patients were not being correctly monitored for the drugs they were on, and were found to be putting their health at risk as a result or wasting the cost of the prescription as it was no longer needed.

And, haven’t we recently heard that an over-use of antibiotics by GPs for conditions where they have no effect has led to them becoming less effective generally? This does not sound like controlled medication to me.

What we should all be doing now

Really the way forward is two-fold – firstly we need to take more responsibility for our own wellbeing (something that I know all Good Life Letter readers are more than happy to do) and secondly we need to get our GPs or a pharmacist to review the medications we may be on.

If you are on a prescribed drug, when was the last time you sat down with your GP and said "do I still need to take this?" Also, you should really know whether it is having any adverse effects and if it is the best solution for you in the context of other drugs you may be taking.

Naturally I would urge you all to research alternatives to the standard drug therapies which often prevent you having to take prescription drugs at all, but if you are on a medication regime make sure it is checked out.

It was interesting to note from the statistics contained in the reports about the high levels of prescription drugs being taken, that number one on the list were the dreaded statins, and not far behind anti-depressants.

Both of these classes of drugs are linked with serious and consequential health problems – but both make huge sums of money for their manufacturers.

Incentives for their use are provided by the companies who make them and the National Health Service to provide them – in the belief that their usage prevents longer term health problems and therefore greater expense. 

But this is flawed thinking.

Who is to say that slightly raised cholesterol levels or a state of anxiety over a current situation will mean that we will spend months in hospital and need hugely expensive care as a result?

Where is the offer of alternative ways to change the patient’s life, rather than just reach for the prescription pad?

Cholesterol levels can be naturally controlled through diet, exercise and [simple supplements that will do no harm], stress and anxiety never benefits from a chemical cosh but would be better managed through a chance to change the stressors and improve the person's outlook.

In both cases there is more that should be offered.

I am a realist though. I know that the increasingly pressurised situation our doctors work in means they simply don’t have the time to do what is best for us…

…but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect it or ask for their help in getting the best out of it for ourselves.

A way to make the Christmas week sparkle

Every year the good people of Spain put on a massive lottery which we can all join in with.

This year the draw takes place tomorrow night so you only have a few days to act.

The prize fund is huge, an eye-watering amount of money that fuels fantasy but not for everyone – and for those of you who abhor anything like this I will wish you a very Happy Christmas and a truly healthy New Year.

My next letter is on Boxing Day when all the fun and frolics are over… and we begin to look at 2015 as a reality!

For anyone who remains…

…here’s a little bit of fun to have over the next few days – but you have to be quick about it.

El Gordo is the Spanish lottery which has a prize fund this year of €2.24 billion.

If you fancy a really simple way to have a go at winning big through a lottery syndicate which means you stand a better chance of getting a share of the prizes, it could not be simpler.

But be quick – this once a year event happens tomorrow the 22nd December.

I’ll be having a go so why not join me – click here to find out how

Yours, as always



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