Cover Story

The number of prescriptions dispensed in the United States for antidepressant, anti-anxiety, analeptic and antipsychotic medications grew significantly from 2002 to 2006, according to projections prepared by IMS Health, a health-care information company that tracks prescription sales nationwide.

Antidepressant prescriptions grew by 12 percent, anxiety medications by 16 percent, antipsychotics by 35 percent, and drugs used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder by 37 percent, IMS Health reports.

Increases in the use of psychotropic medications are also reflected in a study by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found a three-fold increase in the use of antidepressants from 1988-94 to 1999-02 survey data. The study, published in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety (Vol. 16, Issue 5, pages 560-570), also found that more than one in 10 Americans takes psychotropic medicine. That's up from 1988-94 data that found that 6.1 percent of adults had been prescribed a psychotropic medication, says Marc Safran, MD, who chairs the CDC Mental Health Work Group.

Safran noted that much of the increase can be attributed to the fact that the use of antidepressants more than tripled from 2.5 percent to 8.1 percent in the more recent survey. The study did not find statistically significant increases for anti-anxiety, antipsychotic and anti-manic medications, he says.

Researchers also found that the percentage of people prescribed more than one psychotropic medication increased to 3.1 percent, more than double the previous percentage of 1.2 percent.

Safran added that the survey data does not include information from people who are institutionalized, either in hospitals, prisons or jails.

"So, this would be a conservative estimate," he says.

--C. Munsey