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The News

During the last 20 years the use of antidepressants has grown significantly making them one of the most costly and the third most commonly prescribed class of medications in the U. S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2005-2008 nearly 8.9 percent of the U.S. population had at least one prescription in this drug class during any given month.

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,

said Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health.

Between 1996 and 2007, the number of visits where individuals were prescribed antidepressants with no psychiatric diagnoses increased from 59.5 percent to 72.7 percent and the share of providers who prescribed antidepressants without a concurrent psychiatric diagnosis increased from 30 percent of all non-psychiatrist physicians in 1996 to 55.4 percent in 2007.

Using data from the 1996-2007 National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys, researchers reviewed a national sample of office-based physician visits by patients ages 18 years and older during a one-week period. They found that in the general medicine practice, antidepressant use was concentrated among people with less severe and poorly defined mental health conditions.

An earlier study led by Mojtabai and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders examined the impact of expansion of antidepressant use on the prevalence and characteristics of depression and suicidal ideations. That study found that antidepressant use significantly reduced the prevalence of more severe depression and suicidal ideations among individuals with sever depressive episodes.

The findings lead researchers to recommend that antidepressants be prescribed primarily to individuals with severe depression or a confirmed psychiatric diagnosis.

My Opinion

I am not one to knock modern medicine, it has given us indispensable ways to extend our lives. However, the implementation of this medicine is another story. Our society has accepted a rather dangerous standard of care: a “there’s a pill for that” mentality.

This has led to many prescriptions being filled for conditions for which there is little or no clinical evidence. Like the study said, there must be more basis for prescriptions, and we have to tone down our need for instant medical gratification.

The true ramifications of prescribing drugs like antidepressants for patients with no science-based reason for it, has yet to be seen, but it does not speak well for the checks and balances supposedly built within our medical system.

Source: Provided by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health