WHO Warns of the Dangers of Overuse of Prescription Medications
Certainly, the pharmaceutical industry has a role to play in healthcare, and prescription medications have improved and even saved the lives of millions.
However, there is a downside to the overuse of prescription medications.
In a just-released report, the World Health Organization (WHO) presents a stark warning about the dangers of over-reliance on prescription drugs.
The WHO report opens with these words, “While prescription medications are essential for managing certain medical conditions, over-reliance on these drugs comes with some severe consequences.”
What are these consequences?
One of the main concerns is the side effects. Listen to any commercial on TV or the radio for any prescription drug, and you will notice that at least half of the spot is devoted to a laundry list of adverse effects.
Most choose to ignore these disclaimers as the drug companies hope that you do, but every prescription drug has potential side effects, and of course, the more you rely on taking them, the more likely you are to experience the known adverse effects of that given drug.
The other issues of overuse of prescription medication that WHO listed included:
Dependency and Addiction
People who use prescription drugs for an extended period may become dependent on them and have trouble functioning without them. In severe cases, this can lead to addiction, which can have devastating effects on a person’s life. Addiction can interfere with daily activities, relationships, and work and lead to financial and legal problems.
WHO points out that one of the most significant issues the US is facing at the moment is the opioid crisis.
Interaction With Other Medications
Another danger of over-reliance on prescription medications is the potential for interactions with other drugs. Some medications can interact with each other, leading to serious health problems. This can be especially dangerous for people taking multiple medications as the risk of interactions increases.
Resistance to Antibiotics
Another serious danger made clear by the WHO report is developing higher tolerance and even resistance, especially when it comes to antibiotics. Drug-resistant bacteria have been linked to the widespread overuse of antibiotics, another of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States. It’s bacteria that are mutated so that they can now survive in the presence of medications used to kill them.
The WHO study found that as much as half of the time, antibiotics are administered even when they are not needed or are overused (for example, a patient is given the wrong dose). This wasteful overuse of antibiotics significantly contributes to the development of drug-resistant strains.
Impact on Mental Health
It goes without saying that caring for your mental health is as important as caring for your physical well-being. Another danger of using too many prescription drugs is their negative impact on mental health. Many prescription drugs treat mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. However, overuse of these drugs can lead to a decrease in their effectiveness and can even make mental health problems worse. In some cases, prescription drugs can even trigger the development of new mental health problems. The long-term use of certain medications can also lead to a decline in cognitive function.
In addition to the health risks, over-reliance on prescription drugs can also have financial consequences, especially bearing in mind the increasing costs of prescriptions. These drugs are often expensive and can burden people’s finances significantly. For those who don’t have insurance, prescription drugs can be prohibitively expensive. It becomes difficult for them to access the medications they need. Additionally, some medications can have high co-payments, making it challenging for people to keep up with the cost of their medications.
So, What’s to Be Done?
The WHO researchers concluded that we could all take measures to reduce our reliance on prescription drugs by making healthy lifestyle choices and taking prescription medications only when they are really necessary, and considering alternatives to drugs when you are not so seriously ill such as exercise, rest, good nutrition and nutritional supplements.