In 1996 59.5% of antidepressant prescriptions were handed out to patients who were never diagnosed with depression, by 2007 that figure rose to 72.7% according to a new research report published in Health Affairs.
According to the study antidepressant drugs are the third most popular RX in America with 8.9% of the population being prescribed at least one depressant drug in any given month from 2005 through 2008.
While the drugs are often provided by a doctor, they are not typically given by a specialist in the field of depression, specifically they are not provided by a qualified psychiatrist.
Researcher Ramin Mojtabai, associate professor at Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health, said:
“We’ve seen a marked increase in antidepressant use among individuals with no psychiatric diagnosis. Nearly four out of every five antidepressant prescriptions are written by non-psychiatrist providers.”
The study also found that psychiatrists have not pushed the drugs onto their patients, in fact from 1996 through 2007 psychiatrists only increased prescriptions from 1.7% of patients to 2.4%, far lower than the 2.5% to 6.4% experienced by non-specialists (doctors).
The study does not claim that doctors are inappropriately handing out antidepressants, however the authors conclude by stating:
“To the extent that antidepressants are being prescribed for uses not supported by clinical evidence, there may be a need to improve providers’ prescribing practices, revamp drug formularies, or vigorously pursue implementation of broad reforms of the health care system that will increase communication between primary care providers and mental health specialists.