Antidepressants or Other Mental Health Drugs Used By 1 in 5 Americans

Prescription drug trends have been revealed that, while perhaps sobering, may not exactly be shocking to many Americans.

Use of psychiatric medications like antidepressants has skyrocketed in the past few years, with about one in five Americans reporting having used medications to treat a mental disorder. The study, done by pharmacy benefit manager Medco, included 2.5 million insured Americans from 2001 to 2010. Results indicated that 25% of women polled reported using such pharmaceuticals, with 20% of those relying on antidepressants.

More alarmingly, the rate of children on antipsychotic medications has increased sharply- use of the drugs, used to treat the most severe psychiatric conditions, doubled between 2001 and 2010, the study revealed. Use of ADHD medications among adult women was 2.5 times higher in 2010 than it was in 2001, and there was a large uptick in the use of “anti-anxiety medications, atypical antipsychotics and drugs to treat ADHD” in adults aged 20 to 44.

Researchers made some suggestions as to why mental health medications have become so heavily relied upon in the United States:

Said Dr. David Muzino of the Medco Neuroscience Therapeutic Research Center: “[W]hat is not clear is if more people — especially women — are actually developing psychological disorders that require treatment, or if they are more willing to seek out help and clinicians are better at diagnosing these conditions than they once were.”

But, he noted, it was a tough decade: the 9/11 attacks, two wars and a deep recession.

Determining the reasons behind the dramatic shift toward the use of drugs to treat mental health issues is the “next critical step” in research, scientists indicate.