Brits turn hypochondriac as prescriptions soar

It seems the days of the stiff upper lip are well and truly over as new figures released by the Department of Health have revealed that Britons are readily turning to prescription drugs at the first sign of trouble.

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Despite the fact that we are now healthier and live longer than ever before, each one of us picks up an average of 16 prescriptions each year - double that of 20 years ago. However, experts have accused the pharmaceutical industry of exaggerating health problems in a bid to boost their profits and conditions such as hyperactivity and high cholesterol are among those seeing an increase in prescriptions. Add to that our ever-growing need for miracle weight loss drugs and the NHS prescription drug bill for 2006 hits a massive £22 million a day.

Professor Joan Busfield, whose paper A Pill For Every Ill was recently published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, accused the pharmaceutical companies of "disease-mongering", turning conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and female sexual dysfunction into problems that can only be solved by their pricey drugs.

And only last month, the psychiatrists "Bible", the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders included some interesting new additions - cognitive tempo disorder (otherwise known as laziness) and intermittent explosive disorder (for those adults who simply can't keep their temper under control). Both of the above can, presumably, be treated with a range of prescription drugs.

But is it really the pharmaceutical companies that are to blame for scaring us into pill-popping, or are we just desperate for a quick fix for our ills?