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One In Six American Adults Takes A Psychiatric Drug

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A new study finds that one in six American adults takes psychiatric drugs to cope with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Researchers at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Alexandria, Virginia and Risk Sciences International in Ottawa, Canada, say that in 2013, close to 17% of adults filled one or more prescriptions for antidepressant medications such as Zoloft, sedatives and sleeping pills like Xanax and Ambien, and antipsychotics used to treat bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Thomas Moore, co-author on the study, says,

From a drug safety perspective, I am concerned that so many of these drugs have withdrawal effects and that some of the overwhelming long-term use may reflect drug dependence.

Moore, a senior scientist for drug safety and policy at the Virginia non-profit, adds, “These questions need further investigation.”

Since most of these prescriptions are written by primary care doctors, not mental health professionals, patients may not be getting the best or most appropriate care, one expert says, UPI reports.

Dr. Shawna Newman, a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says, “The use of psychotropic medication has become an issue of increasing concern in the U.S., both due to lack of clarity of the medical target of some psychotropic treatment, as well as the rising costs of health.” She was not involved in the study. She also says, “The overwhelming preponderance of prescriptions for psychotropic medications are written by non-psychiatrists.”

Moore and a colleague calculated the percentages of adults using psychiatric drugs from the 2013 U.S. Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Among all the adults, eight out of 10 admitted to using the drugs over a long period of time.

White adults were twice more likely to take these drugs, compared to black and Hispanic adults. Only 5% of Asians said they used such medications, the researchers state. They could not find a reason why whites had a higher rate of use.

The use of these medications also increased with age, with 25% of those ages 60 to 85 taking them, compared to only 9% among 18 to 39 year old adults. Women were found to be more likely to use psychiatric drugs compared to men.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.


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