A recently-released study shows that the number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled to 10.1% of the U.S. population in 2005 compared with 1996, increasing across income and age groups. An estimated 27 million people in the U.S., ages six years and older, were taking the drugs by 2005, while their use of psychotherapy was said to have declined. Each person treated for depression in 2005 also filled more prescriptions, an average of 6.9 that year compared with 5.6 in 1996. The study by Columbia University was published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The surge in antidepressant use resulted in that class of treatments becoming the top-selling medicines in the U.S. in 2005, surpassing blood-pressure prescriptions. Those findings highlight the need for doctors who aren’t psychiatrists and who prescribe these medicines to be trained to diagnose and manage depression so patients get the most effective treatment. The author was Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York.
The number of children ages six to 17 who took antidepressants jumped 78% between 1996 and 2005, according to Dr. Olfson. This was from a rate of 1.4 per 100 children to 2.6 per 100. The increase continued after the Food and Drug Administration in October 2004 issued a “black box” warning that antidepressants increase the risks of suicide in children and adolescents. The study was sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.
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