Two Surveys Reveal American Struggles, Drug Swapping
> 4/30/2008 12:41:17 PM

Data released today from two new surveys painted a troubling picture on two fronts. In one survey of over 100,000 Americans, Gallup found that roughly the same number consider themselves to be thriving as struggling. More worrisome is that the latter group has swelled by more than 25 percent in the last two years.

Gallup asked respondents to rate their well-being on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being the worst and 10 being the best. Nearly half of the survey's participants responded that they felt they were a 7 or above, which is considered to be "thriving." 47 percent of the respondents said that they were between a 4 and a 7, a group that Gallup calls "struggling." 4 percent of respondents said they were a 4 or below, which is considered "suffering." In 2006, 37 percent of Americans were found to be in the struggling category. Peripheral measures in the same survey dispelled some of the fears of widespread malaise, as 89 percent of respondents said they experienced happiness "during a lot of the day yesterday." More troubling though, on the same question 38 percent said they felt stress and 30 percent said they felt worry. While Gallup's definition of "struggling" is vague and far from clinical, the data seems to indicate that while on a day-to-day level many feel content, in a more general sense, many Americans are displeased with their current situations. The situation seems ripe for simmering levels of stress and anxiety about the future.

In an unrelated suvey that is also making headlines this week, researchers found that drug sharing or trading among Americans is more common than previously thought. For their report that will be appearing in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers from The Academic Edge, Inc. performed 700 face-to-face interviews. They found that 23 percent of individuals had loaned their prescription medications to someone else, and that 27 percent had used another's prescription medication. The most commonly swapped drugs were allergy medications, followed by pain relievers, and antibiotics. 7 percent acknowledged sharing psychiatric medications.

This level of drug sharing was surprising to many, but falls into line with what we've seen in the area of prescription drug abuse. The willingness to share prescription drugs of any kind speaks to a larger failing of respect for the danger of these drugs. One borrowed pill may not seem extreme, but when drugs are shared, there's no way to know how the borrower will react. Drug interactions or other poor reactions could lead to serious issues. And a pill lent is a pill that has not been taken, which can be an issue in many cases, including with antibiotics or psychiatric medications.

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