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The risk of medication overload

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2023 | Medication Errors

Polypharmacy is a term that refers to situations in which a patient is on five or more prescription medications. It is an increasingly common situation in California and the rest of the U.S., and it’s potentially hazardous if the drugs are dispensed improperly or irresponsibly. And with such a high number of medications in the mix, it’s harder for healthcare professionals to monitor what’s going into their patients’ bodies.

The rise of polypharmacy

It’s estimated that over 40% of people who are at least 65 and live in the United States take at least five prescriptions. 20% of the aged population are on 10 or more medications simultaneously. Polypharmacy in the United States has increased by 200% in the last 20 years. This is according to a report from the Lown Institute in 2020.

At a certain point, the cost of polypharmacy starts to overpower the benefits that it’s supposed to have. This is when medication overload occurs.

Research indicates that with every drug added to a patient’s physiology, the chances that the individual will suffer from adverse drug events go up from 7 to 10 percent. These types of adverse drug events cause around 750 elderly Americans to go to the hospital every day.

The warning signs of medication overload

Some of the mild side effects of this medication error include digestion problems or dizziness. But the severity of these adverse effects can escalate to the point of:

  • Falling
  • Brain bleeds
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Death

Polypharmacy is more common than ever in older Americans. With each drug that is added to the mix, the chances of the person experiencing negative effects go up. If the damage done by polypharmacy is more substantial than its benefits. This is called medication overload and can be extremely dangerous.