One in 10 Americans takes antidepressants, according to a federal study released Wednesday, a rate that has skyrocketed in the last two decades.
Those who take antidepression medications grew 400 percent between 1988 and 2008, according to a report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics Wednesday.
Women are two and a half times more likely to take antidepression medications, according to the report, and women aged 40 to 59 made the largest demographic of antidepressant medication users at 23 percent.
Dr. Tolu Olupona, an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital Adolescent Health Center in New York City, told USA Today that it is surprising to learn that only about one-third of those taking one antidepressant have seen a mental health professional within the past year. The number of those who have seen a mental health professional do appear to improve for those taking two or more antidepressants.
The study also found that while 14 percent of white people took antidepressant medications, only 4 percent of black or 3 percent of Hispanic residents took the meds. The study concluded that there was no relation between income and antidepressant use.
Over one in eight Americans took antidepressant medications for 10 years and longer.
According to Olupona, these medications can be effective for treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and some other disorders, but it is best when the patients receive careful follow-up to manage efficacy, drug-drug interactions, side effects, medication compliance and a host of other medication management issues.
The observations are consistent with American's growing acceptance of psychiatric medications. A 2009 survey published in Psychiatric Services found that five out of six people surveyed said they felt psychiatric medications could help people control psychiatric symptoms.
The increase in medication use could be attributed to an increase in advertising during the last two decades.
Dr. Norman Sussman, professor of the psychiatry department at New York University Langone Medical Center, said in a 2009 interview with HealthDay that advertising not only played a role in people's perceptions of these drugs, but that patients asked him for medications by name. Word-of-mouth endorsements were also a factor, he said.
These drugs have become a part of our culture, Sussman said. Fifty years ago, psychiatric drugs were something you'd take only if psychotherapy failed. Today, psychotherapy often isn't affordable, and the nature of treating symptoms has shifted toward medications. When these drugs work -- for anxiety, insomnia, depression, mania -- they can be miraculous for that person. But, none of them work universally.