Are Americans taking too many pills?

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Are Americans taking too many pills? Registered Nurse Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on August 18, 2017. (WPVI)

Americans are taking more prescription pills than ever before, and more than people in any other country.

Much of the medication we take is lifesaving or at least life-improving, but a lot is not.
Consumer Reports found that many Americans and their physicians have come to think that every symptom, every hint of disease requires a drug.

Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs said, "Doctors often diagnose the "pre-disease" stage of a condition- for example, prediabetes or pre-osteoporosis. Sometimes they may put patients on medications to treat that. The problem is, the medication may not work well and poses potential side effects and risks to patients."

Of course, catching or treating a disease before it progresses can be a good thing if it helps you address a problem before it leads to serious harm.

But drugs shouldn't always be the first line of treatment.
Consumer Reports compiled a list of medical issues where lifestyle changes can be "prescribed" before a medication.

"For back and joint pain, instead of powerful opioid drugs, consider instead, yoga, tai chi, even physical therapy," Gill said.

Problems like insomnia, heartburn, over-active bladder and pre-diabetes

can also be improved with non-drug therapies, or by adjusting behaviors.

Of course big lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, being more active, or losing weight are harder than just swallowing a pill, but the payoffs can mean healthy, drug-free and side effect-free living.
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