Why we are a nation of pill-poppers

Stoicism has given way to refusal to tolerate discomfort as prescriptions soar and pain-shy-Britons demand a pill for every ill...

Britain is turning into a nation of pill-poppers as people become increasingly unwilling to tolerate even the slightest discomfort, according to new research.

The average number of prescription drugs issued per patient per year has doubled in the UK over the past two decades, a survey has found.


A paper called A Pill for Every Ill found that prescription drugs are commonly being used to treat almost all types of ailment in Britain.

 The country is becoming more like France with its ‘long-established tradition of taking medicines to heal problems’, author Professor Joan Busfield from Essex University said.



Despite living longer, healthier lives, Britain is becoming a nation of pill-poppers, Prof Busfield said in her study which was published in the Social Science & Medicine journal. Over the past 20 years the average number of prescriptions dispensed per person has increased from eight a year to more than 16.



She said: ‘I think drugs are being overused. The population is getting healthier and healthier, longevity is increasing, but we are using more and more drugs.’



She accused the pharmaceutical industry of ‘disease-mongering‘, with drug companies now categorising problems such as sexual dysfunction, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and high cholesterol as diseases to maximise profits.



Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, pointed to other reasons for the rise in drug use: ‘Until the 1980s, for example, duodenal ulcers were treated by surgery. But the infection that causes it is now treated by drugs.

Similarly, treatment of people with asthma using inhalers has improved the quality of life of patients, reduced hospital admissions and deaths. Statins have reduced the number of heart attacks and led to patients living longer, healthier and more productive lives. So prescribing isn’t such a bad thing.’

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