(NaturalNews) As NaturalNews has reported in detail (http://www.naturalnews.com/antidepressant_dr...), antidepressants like Prozac (fluoxetine) and the growing list of similar selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRIs) not only can have numerous side effects from nausea to headaches -- but they've also been linked to horrendous problems including suicide in teens, sudden death in women (http://www.naturalnews.com/025811.html) and even murders. But has that stopped US doctors from prescribing the drugs or slowed down the antidepressant pill popping by Americans? Apparently not. New research shows that antidepressants are now the most widely prescribed drugs in the country.
According to a report in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, a journal of the American Medical Association, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of antidepressants since l996. It's not only stressed out middle-aged folks being treated for problems caused by supposed depression, either. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the new study is that it shows a broad expansion in the patient population being put on these drugs -- starting with children as young as six. "Several factors may have contributed to this trend, including a broadening in concepts of need for mental health treatment, campaigns to promote mental health care and growing public acceptance of mental health treatments," the researchers stated in their article.
To come up with the new antidepressant statistics, Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., of Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, and Steven C. Marcus, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, studied data from the 1996 and 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to estimate US health care usage and costs. In all, 18,993 people from age six and older were included in the 1996 survey and 28,445 in the 2005 survey which covered information regarding medical visits, prescriptions, conditions for which they were treated and other healthcare details.
In all, the researchers found that the rate of antidepressant treatment increased from 5.84 percent to 10.12 percent between 1996 and 2005. That translates into a remarkable increase from an estimated 13.3 million taking antidepressants to 27 million people now on the mind and body-altering drugs.
Curiously, the only people who aren't apparently being prescribed these medications in droves are those in racial and ethnic minorities, possibly because they may be less likely to afford the expensive drugs or insurance copays. "Significant increases in antidepressant use were evident across all sociodemographic groups examined, except African Americans, who had comparatively low rates of use in both years (1996, 3.61 percent; 2005, 4.51 percent)," the authors wrote. "Although antidepressant treatment increased for Hispanics, it remained comparatively low (1996, 3.72 percent; 2005, 5.21 percent)."
And it isn't only antidepressant usage that is soaring. The report found that among the millions of Americans taking those drugs, huge numbers of them are also now being prescribed antipsychotic medications. The percentage who were also prescribed antipsychotic medications increased between 1996 and 2005 from 5.46 percent to 8.86 percent.
Wouldn't common sense dictate that people who are so mentally ill that they need to be put on strong antipsychotic medications should be getting psychotherapy help, too? The new study shows that isn't the the case. In fact, there's been an enormous drop in the number of people undergoing psychotherapy -- a decrease from 31.5 percent to 19.87 percent -- in recent years.
"Together with an increase in the number of antidepressant prescriptions per antidepressant user (an average of 5.6 vs. 6.93 per year), these broad trends suggest that antidepressant treatment is occurring within a clinical context that places greater emphasis on pharmacologic rather than psychologic dimensions of care," the authors wrote.
In simple terms, too many doctors are handing out prescriptions for powerful drugs that affect the mind and entire body --- supposedly because of mental or emotional illness --- without any attempt to see if counseling or therapy might be a safer, and more sane, approach.
Reference: Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009; 66:848-856