A recent NHS survey (2017) has revealed that 1.1 million prescription medications were dispensed in the UK last year, which is a rise of 47% over the last decade.
The survey of over 8,000 participants revealed that one quarter of adults are taking three prescribed drugs on a daily basis, and due to increased life expectancy, almost half of pensioners over the age of 75 are taking up to five drugs a day.
Taking Medication – The Rise In Prescriptions
Results of the survey found that 48% of participants are taking medication on a daily basis. The rise in doctors prescribing anti-depression medication is part of the cause, with one in ten people now taking a prescribed antidepressant. Figures show that 3.7 million more items are being dispensed now, than in 2015.
In recent years, there has been a shift in attitudes towards addressing mental health issues. While the survey suggests that there are rising numbers of people suffering from mental health issues, it could be argued that younger people are more comfortable talking about their problems and seeking medical advice. The number of young men reporting feelings of distress has doubled in the last five years, and 28% of women aged 16-24 are more likely to be affected by issues such as depression and anxiety.
While the amount of people seeking advice are benefiting from medical advances in the prescription medication available to them, the results of the survey indicate that patients are turning to medical interventions over non-medical procedures, such as talking therapies.
In 2015, it was found that £18 million a year was being wasted on unused prescription medication in the county of Berkshire alone. It was estimated that half of wasted medication could have been prevented, saving around £550,000-£600,000; this saving could have gone towards various operations and procedures for hundreds of seriously ill patients awaiting treatment.
In the UK, people over the age of 60 or patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes are eligible for free prescriptions, and it is believed that the high number of wasted medication is largely due to people not having a proper understanding of the true cost of medication. As medication cannot be returned or passed on to a third party once it has been issued to a patient, any excess medication that is issued yet remains unconsumed can only be disposed of once it reaches its expiration date.
A symptom of the age group that has access to free prescription drugs is a poor memory, and so the lack of taking medication is often due to forgetfulness rather than wilful wastefulness. Other people choose to stop taking medication that has been prescribed to them because of unwanted side-effects or ineffective results.
Non-Medical Alternatives To Prescriptions
While some illnesses can only be controlled by taking medication, there are non-medical alternatives to taking medication available that can help to alleviate health problems. Making positive lifestyle changes, including eating a balanced diet and regularly taking light exercise can improve both your physical and mental health.
As well as revealing that prescription medications have reached all new heights, the NHS survey found that people are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which leads to 66% of men and 57% of women being overweight or obese.
Being overweight can exacerbate health issues and lead to long-term, chronic illnesses such as diabetes. To prevent this from happening, maintaining a healthy weight and making a conscious effort to be more active can improve your overall wellbeing. It will also reduce the risk of damage to the joints, respiratory issues and high blood pressure, which according to the NHS survey is the most common illness treated with prescribed medication, followed by statins, indigestion remedies, painkillers and antidepressants.
Exercise is also a great natural alternative to alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety; it can improve mental health issues as it releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Although taking regular exercise may not get rid of symptoms completely, talking to a therapist is another great, non-medical option to taking medication.
Natural alternatives to taking medication should be made available to patients by their GPs in a bid to reduce the amount of wasted prescription medication, and self-care should be encouraged when possible. Many people will actively seek non-medical alternatives to taking medication as they don’t like the idea of taking one or several pills on a daily basis, however if you’re ever in doubt or not sure where to start, you should get advice from your GP on consult the guidance from NHS Choices.