Last Updated on August 3, 2021 by
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People take prescription drugs to relieve the effects that injury, disease, surgery, and other ailments can have on the body and mind. However, many of these pharmaceuticals often cause negative side effects that can be worse than the original condition they were meant to treat. Others are highly addictive, adding the risk of pharmaceutical dependency to the already long list of side effects.
Can natural alternatives to prescription drugs be the answer?
Risks of Prescription Drugs
The rise of the prescription drug crisis in the United States has many people questioning whether the advantages of prescription drugs outweigh the disadvantages. Prescription drugs, including opioids, were developed to provide us relief from pain – whether after surgery or associated with an illness or condition – and assist us in managing the effects of conditions on our bodies. However, the list of side effects seems to be ever-growing, and when you consider the addictive properties of certain drugs it can seem as if the negatives outweigh the positive aspects.
In fact, according to U.S. News and World Report, adverse drug reactions from taking properly prescribed prescription medications could be the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, if a recent study continues to prove accurate. That’s without factoring in accidental overdose, recreational misuse, and erroneous prescriptions, and is below only heart disease, cancer, and assorted accidents. Perhaps, ironically, the two leading causes of death almost always necessitate pharmaceutical prescriptions.
Prescription Drug Side Effects
Even non-fatal side effects lead to somewhere between 1.5 and 2.7 million hospitalizations each year, costing patients time and money. Federal law requires pharmaceutical companies to list all known side effects. Then, they must investigate the side effects with human studies before printing it in the pamphlet released with the drug upon prescription. Side effects can occur due to a number of reasons, including high dosage, adverse interactions with other drugs, or an individual’s reaction to an ingredient in the drug.
The most common drug side effects cited by patients in the United States include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Skin reactions, including dermatitis
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Suicidal thoughts
This list is certainly not comprehensive. In fact, as new drugs come about, the potential for new side effects remains.
The Potential for Addiction
As previously mentioned, the addictive properties of many prescription pain medications present an entirely different side to the prescription drug problem in the United States. Currently, the country is experiencing an opioid crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. In fact, the crisis – which many are calling an epidemic due to its rapid spread and steep rise – caused over 400,000 overdose deaths since 1997 and continues to kill 130 Americans every day.
Due to their chemically addictive properties, anyone can become addicted to opioids, even first-time users attempting to recover from a surgery or stave off the pain of a chronic condition. Commonly abused opioids include:
- Hydrocodone, such as Vicodin
- Oxycodone like OxyContin and Percocet
- Hydromorphone, such as Dilaudid
Though opioids are currently under fire from the government as well as private citizens, other classes of prescription drugs put you at risk for addiction as well, having caused over 700,000 deaths due to overdose between 1997 and 2017. Besides opioids, commonly abused prescriptions include:
- Stimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin
- Depressants, including Valium, Xanax, Ambien, and Luminal
The longer you take a highly addictive prescription drug, the higher your risk of addiction and the harder it will be to cease taking it.