The first wave of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults, 2008-2011 (DEGS1), assesses current medicine use among participating adults aged 18-79 years in the 7 days prior to the medical examination as part of a standardised interview. About three quarters (74.4 %) of all men and women state that they used at least one preparation. Prevalence is highest among 70-79 year olds (men 94.9 %; women 96.3 %). Overall women have a significantly higher prevalence rate (85.4 %) than men (63.8 %). Preparations for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases are the most frequently used medicines (men 27.2 %; women 29.5 %). Polypharmacy (the use of 5 or more preparations) increases continuously with age and is observed significantly more often in women than in men in all age groups with the exception of the age group 70-79. Of the 20,084 recorded preparations, 71.8 % are prescribed by a doctor and 27.7 % are self-medicated. While there are no differences in overall medication linked to social status, a social gradient is observed in prescribed preparations and self-medication. The results presented here describe key indicators of medication use representative of the German adult population. Based on the extensive data of DEGS1, further analyses into aspects such as co- and multimedication will be addressed in the future. An English full-text version of this article is available at SpringerLink as supplemental.