Study Finds Potential Link Between Increased US Prescription Drug Use And Obesity

By John Lavitt 01/06/16

The study also found that the surge in prescription drug use is most notable in adults 65 and up. 

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A recent study has found a potential link between the increased use of prescription drugs by Americans and obesity. With more medicines being prescribed than ever before in the history of the country, an increasing number of Americans are taking more than one drug. In the case of multiple drugs being taken, the reason for the additional prescriptions is often for drugs to treat diseases related to obesity. These were the findings of the study that was led by Elizabeth Kantor at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Kantor's team looked at the data from two years of medical records, a decade apart: 1999-2000 and 2011-2012. Examining the records of close to 40,000 people from all adult age groups, the researchers found these trends affecting people across the board. Overall, the number of Americans taking prescription drugs increased 9% over that decade. 

Fifty-nine percent of Americans are taking prescription medications for some reason. Those taking more than one medication almost doubled in 10 years. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study concluded, “In this nationally representative survey, significant increases in overall prescription drug use and polypharmacy were observed.”

Now based at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Kantor found the surge in prescription drug use was particularly notable among adults 65 and up. This is the population most likely to need prescriptions to control heart disease and high blood pressure. Age wasn't the only factor, however, behind the increase. 

"When we look at the 10 most commonly used drugs in 2011-2012," Kantor explained, "most of these drugs are taken for conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, as well as the factors contributing to cardiovascular disease, such as obesity."  

She also highlighted a general increase in all age groups of prescription drugs designed to treat depression, although offered no opinion about why prescriptions to control depression have increased. Kantor did note that other studies have shown a link between diabetes, heart disease and depression. 

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.