Researchers found that in 2013 nearly 17% of adults said they filled one or more prescriptions for antidepressants such as Zoloft; sedatives and sleep drugs, including Xanax and Ambien; or antipsychotics, used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
“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,” said study co-author Thomas Moore.
“These questions need further investigation,” added Moore, a senior scientist for drug safety and policy at the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Alexandria, Va.
Because most prescriptions for these drugs are written by primary care physicians, not psychiatrists, patients aren’t getting the mental health care they need, one specialist said.
“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,” said Dr. Shawna Newman, who wasn’t involved in the study. She’s a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“Access to psychiatrists and appropriate mental health treatment is a vital issue in U.S health care,” Newman said.
Among the 1 in 6 people who reported use of these drugs, 12% said they had taken an antidepressant, and 8% reported filling a prescription for anxiety medicine, sedatives or sleep aids. Nearly 2% had taken antipsychotic drugs, the investigators found.
Among all adults using these drugs, eight of 10 reported long-term use, meaning three or more prescriptions were filled in 2013 or they were continuing a prescription started in 2011 or earlier.
Also, use of these drugs increased with age, with one-quarter of those 60 to 85 reportedly taking them compared to 9% of 18-39-year-olds.
Among the 10 leading psychiatric medications were six antidepressants Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac, Desyrel, Lexapro and Cymbalta. Also in the top 10 were three anxiety drugs, Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan; and the sleep aid Ambien, according to the study.
The results were published online Dec. 12 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
These estimates of usage may be low, the study authors said, because the prescriptions were self-reported by the users, leaving the door open for inaccurate memory or misrepresentation.
One psychiatrist goes on the say that more Americans likely need these medications. This attitude and the trend to prescribe these drugs for aging patients is alarming at best. While 25% of Americans may have a mental health issue, they require counseling, not drugs.
The PCP (primary care physician) might feel justified prescribing these drugs short term and then referring the patient for mental health counseling, but 80% of adults report long term use that often spans several years. That’s drug abuse.
The Bottom Line:
most of these medications have low value and high cost. The benefits are short term at best and the long term side effects are numerous and severe. If you are taking one of these medications talk to your PCP about weening off the medication and seeking appropriate mental health counseling.
Source: December 12, 2016 National Institutes of Health