Americans don't shy away from taking pills. According to IMS Health, an estimated 16 million people in the United States use painkillers, 5 million take sleep aids and 18 million rely on some form of antidepressants. In this week's "Super Soul Sunday," Oprah and a panel of dynamic thought leaders tackle the issue of pill-popping in this country -- is it a necessity or has it become gratuitous?
For Oprah, the pill-popping statistics raise a deep philosophical question. "Do these numbers point to a collective hole in the soul of our country?" she asks her panel in the video. Reverend Ed Bacon of the All Saints Episcopal Church addresses the issue of taking pills with a personal admission that he himself takes sleep aids and pain medicine.
"For me, it is an OK thing to do if it's going to help me enter life. If it helps me avoid life, that's a different matter," Rev. Bacon says, drawing a distinct line. "If I am avoiding life, then there is a hole in my soul, yes."
Oprah returns to the current statistics on pills. "But I'm looking at the number of 40 million U.S. adults who are plagued with some kind of anxiety disorder," she says. "I mean, people take pills like candy."
Rev. Bacon understands that characterization. "As a pastor, I hear about this all the time. So, I really do understand the overuse of anti-anxiety drugs," he says. "[But], before we go there, I simply want to lay down a foundation of respect for people who do have a chemical imbalance, because I would hate for somebody who's watching to think that we're dissing them and discounting them."
Oprah and her guests continue their discussion on pills and explore additional topics of gun violence, celebrity obsession and terrorism on "Super Soul Sunday," airing Sunday, May 26, at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.
Earlier on HuffPost:
While stimulants such as <a href="http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/commonly-abused-prescription-drugs-chart" target="_hplink">Ritalin and Adderall</a> are highly addictive, abuse among older people is not as widespread as it with young adults. However, illicit stimulants like cocaine are more common. In 2008, <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/DAWN015/IllicitAbuse.htm" target="_hplink">63 percent of 118,495 emergency room visits</a> made by those 50 and older involved cocaine. The number of older cocaine users likely increased in the past few years since more than 550,000 adults aged 50 and older <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/013/WEB_SR_013.htm" target="_hplink">reported cocaine use</a>, according to a 2011 report. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexdoddphotography/3196151008/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>, Alex Dodd)
While the names are varied -- <a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/what-medications-are-used-to-treat-depression.shtml" target="_hplink">Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro</a>, among others -- the effects are similar. Used primarily to treat depression and mood disorders, antidepressants have a slight potential for abuse and addiction. According to a 2010 report from The Drug Abuse Warning Network, antidepressants contributed to <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">8.6 percent of emergency room visits</a> by adults 50 and older.
Most often used to treat anxiety and insomnia, <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/health/List-of-Sedatives.aspx" target="_hplink">sedatives like Valium and Xanax</a> may become addictive <a href="http://nihseniorhealth.gov/drugabuse/improperuse/01.html" target="_hplink">if taken incorrectly, or used too often</a>. The Drug Abuse Warning Network identified sedatives, or depressants, as the pharmaceutical involved in <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">31.8 percent of emergency room visits by older adults</a>. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/deanslife/1359287762/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>, Dean812)
#2 Pain Relievers
Painkillers like Oxycodone, Vicodin and Morphine have a high potential for abuse. According to a Drug Abuse Warning Network report, <a href="http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k10/WebSR018Pharma50+/Pharma50+HTML.pdf" target="_hplink">pain relievers were the type of pharmaceutical</a> most often involved in emergency room visits for post-50s, encompassing 43.5 percent of senior ER visits. The vast majority of painkiller-related ER visits -- 33.9 percent -- involved high-level narcotics, rather than over-the-counter pain relievers.
#1 Medical Marijuana
While many people have medical prescriptions for marijuana use, <a href="http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/013/WEB_SR_013.htm" target="_hplink">3 million adults aged 50 and older</a> have illegally used the drug within the past year, according to a 2011 report from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a branch of the U.S. Government's Department of Health and Human Services. Out of 4.8 million older adults who used illicit drugs, marijuana use was more common than non-medical use of prescription medicines among the 50 to 59 age range (though the opposite was true for those 60 and older). Marijuana is also far more popular among men than women aged 50 and older.