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Survey: Nearly one in two Americans takes prescription drugs

By SHELLY HAGAN | Bloomberg | Published: May 8, 2019

Americans are good at popping pills.

About 46 percent of the U.S. population used one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days, according to a survey from the National Center for Health Statistics. With almost half the U.S. population taking drugs, it may be surprising that this figure is a slight improvement from 10 years prior.

"Changing trends in prescription drug use over time may be influenced by changing disease prevalence and diagnosis, expanded treatment recommendations, and decline in the use of inappropriate or ineffective therapies,'' according to the report.

The types of prescription drugs Americans use vary by age group. Medicine used to treat asthma was most common among the youngest cohort. For adolescents, between 12 to 19 years old, stimulants to treat attention deficit disorder were most common with about one in 16 adolescents with a prescription.

Both young and middle-aged adults used antidepressants the most frequently in the past 30 days. One in nine adults, 20 to 59 years old, has an antidepressants prescription.

Older adults, aged 60 and above, had the highest share of drug use at 85 percent. Nearly half of the older population used prescription drugs to combat high cholesterol, while more than one in five use anti-diabetic drugs.

Drug type by age:

- Age group (0-11 years): Penicillin (infections) 2.7% CNS stimulants (attention deficit disorder) 3.5%; Bronchodilators (asthma) 4.3%.

- Age group (12-19 years): Oral contraceptives (birth control, regulate menstruation) 3.7%; Bronchodilators (asthma) 3.7%; CNS stimulants (attention deficit disorder) 6.2%.

- Age group (20-59 years): Lipid-lowering drugs (high cholesterol) 7.5%; Analgesics (pain relief) 8.3%; Antidepressants 11.4%.

- Age group (60 and over): Anti-diabetic drugs 22.6%; Beta-blockers (high blood pressure, heart disease) 24.8%; Lipid-lowering drugs (high cholesterol) 46.3%.

The survey for the period 2015 to 2016 was conducted by the NCHS consisting of home interviews followed by physical examinations.

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