The YouGov Big Survey on Drugs: Prescription drugs

Milan DinicDirector - Content Strategy and Innovation
January 24, 2022, 4:09 PM GMT+0

The YouGov Big Survey on Drugs looked at opinions and behaviours of Britons about prescription drugs – from whether they take them or not, to how many, and how often.

When it comes to occasional pains such as headaches, one in eleven (9%) Britons report taking a painkiller every day or on most days. A further one in eight (12%) say they take them once or twice a week.

On the opposite end are 10% of Britons who say they never take painkillers, with this particularly being the case for men (14%) rather than women (6%).

Britons under the age of 40 are less likely to report taking a painkiller at least once a week (17%) compared to older Britons (22-25%).

One in eight Britons (13%) take a painkiller for constant/recurrent pain every day, with this applying more to women (16%) than men (10%).

A further 13% take them between weekly or monthly for recurring pain, and 26% less often than once a month.

Men (49%) are more likely than women (39%) to say they never take painkillers for constant or recurrent pain, with 44% of Britons as a whole not having to take any.

A quarter of Britons (25%) say they have taken prescription drugs for more than a month, while 70% say they have not. Women (29%) are more likely than men (21%) to have taken prescription drugs for at least a month.

A third of those over 60 (32%) and around three in ten (29%) of those in their 40s and 50s report taking prescription remedies for over a month. This applies to only 11% of 16-24-year-olds and 20% of 25-39-year-olds.

At the time the YouGov Study on Drugs was conducted – 21-24 September 2021 – over half of Britons (56%) report currently taking prescription drugs, while 43% said they are not currently taking any.

One in five (18%) say they take one prescription drug and 13% say they take two, while 16% take between three and five.

Nine percent of Britons said they take more than five prescription drugs, with those aged 60 and older twice as likely to be doing so (18%). More men (24%) than women (14%) in their 60s or older say they take more than five prescription drugs.

While three quarters of Britons (77%) think taking prescription drugs longer than prescribed is dangerous, one in ten (10%) believe this is not the case.

Among Britons who said they are on prescription drugs, 13% think taking them for a longer period than prescribed doesn’t cause any danger, while the same view is shared by 6% of those who don’t have any prescriptions.

Overall, 13% of Britons say they don’t know whether it is dangerous to take prescription drugs regularly for longer periods than prescribed.

Some 9% of Britons say they know someone who has a serious problem with prescription drugs. This applies to 13% of those aged 25-39 and 11% of those in their 40s and 50s, which is higher than in oldest and youngest age groups (6% of those aged 16-24 and 60+).

Among Britons who take prescription drugs, one in ten (10%) say they know someone who has had a serious problem with them.

Sixteen percent of Britons say they were given prescribed drugs when they thought it was not necessary. This is also reported by 17% of those who are currently taking one or more prescription drugs.

Conversely, 12% of Britons said they have been denied prescription drugs when they thought they should get them. This view is more prevalent among those between the ages of 25 and 59 (15-17%) than among younger (8%) or older (9%) generations. One in six Britons who currently take regular medication (17%) say they have been denied prescriptions whey they thought they should get them.

One in seven (14%) Britons say they’ve taken prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them, which they obtained through other means. Those aged 25-39 (20%) are more likely than those aged 40-59 (15%), 16-24 (12%), and 60+ (9%).

The study also finds that around one in five Britons under the age of 40 (17-18%) say they know someone who is taking ADD drugs, which is significantly higher when compared to older generations (7-11%).

See full results here

Explore more data & articles