More evidence emerges that Americans are drugged out of their minds

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: polypharmacy, psychiatric drugs, health news

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(NaturalNews) As NaturalNews has previously reported, the U.S. is a nation seemingly hooked on mind-altering drugs (http://www.naturalnews.com/027054_drugs_anti...). A study released last fall in the Archives of General Psychiatry documented a dramatic increase in the use of antidepressant drugs like Prozac since l996. In fact, these medications are now the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S.

Think Americans are maxed out on the number of psychiatric meds that huge numbers of them are taking? Think again. A new report says U.S. adults are increasingly being prescribed combinations of antidepressants, anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medications -- and they could be experiencing serious side effects as a result.

The study, published in the January edition of Archives of General Psychiatry, investigated patterns and trends in what is known as psychotropic polypharmacy, meaning the prescribing of two or more psychiatric drugs. Ramin Mojtabai, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., of Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, examined data gathered from a national sample of office-based psychiatry practices. In all, the researchers looked at the medications prescribed between 1996 and 2006 during more than 13,000 office visits to psychiatrists by adults.

The results showed a significant increase in the number of mind impacting drugs prescribed over these years. The percentage of doctor visits which resulted in two or more medications being prescribed increased from 42.6 percent to 59.8 percent. What's more, the percentage of visits at which three or more drugs were prescribed soared from 16.9 percent to 33.2 percent. And the median number of medications prescribed at each appointment with a psychiatrist increased on average by of 40.1 percent.

The combinations of drugs being prescribed with increasing frequency include antidepressants with sedative-hypnotics (the most prescribed combination), antidepressants given along with antipsychotics and combinations of several kinds of antidepressants. But at least the doctors prescribing these mixed drugs are only doing so based on solid research showing the combos are safe and effective, right? Wrong.

"Because scant data exist to support the efficacy of some of the most common medication combinations, such as antipsychotic combinations or combinations of antidepressants and antipsychotics, prudence suggests that renewed clinical efforts should be made to limit the use of these combinations to clearly justifiable circumstances," the authors wrote in their paper. "At the same time, a new generation of research is needed to assess the efficacy, effectiveness and safety of common concomitant medication regimens, especially in patients with multiple disorders or monotherapy-refractory conditions."

In other words, drugs are being given to patients in all sorts of combinations without sound science showing they even work well together -- much less that these drug cocktails are safe to take. In fact, the researchers point out specific dangers of taking multiple psychiatric drugs.

"While the evidence for added benefit of antipsychotic polypharmacy is limited, there is growing evidence regarding the increased adverse effects associated with such combinations," they concluded. A case in point: some combinations cause increases in body weight and total cholesterol level. Others have been associated with an increase in fasting blood glucose level.

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