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Antidepressant Use in the U.S. is On the Rise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data Brief, (in which they report that the rate of antidepressant use among all ages) reports a nearly 400% increase in medicine for depression since 1988-1994. Some salient features of this report are:

  • Females are more likely to be on antidepressant pills than males
  • Greater than 60% of Americans taking antidepressant medication have been taking it for 2 or more years
  • Of those taking antidepressants, fewer than one-third of those taking a single antidepressant and less than half of those on multiple antidepressant medications have been have been to a mental health professional in the past year
  • Non-Hispanic white persons are more likely to take antidepressant medications than Mexican-American and Hispanic black persons

More information is available in the report. The report does not seek to explain these findings, but a few questions and concerns that it raises for me are:

  • Are females more likely to have hormonal imbalances that can yield depressive symptoms?
  • If a significant proportion of those taking antidepressant medications have not been to a mental health professional in the past year, are they really getting the ongoing medical and psychiatric evaluations necessary to properly evaluate, treat and manage their depression?
  • How much of this antidepressant use could be decreased if holistic medicine treatments were tried prior to antidepressant medications (exercise, diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy, stress management, sleep hygiene, psychotherapy)?
  • Is the difference in use across ethnicity a result of cultural differences in seeking help and/or the type of treatment sought? Or is it more readily explained by differences in access to care?

Much more on alternative and adjunctive treatments for depression will be covered in future blogs, newsletters and classes. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing depression, it is important to pursue your treatment options medically, psychologically and psychiatrically. Untreated depression can adversely affect one’s health and the health of one’s relationships.

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Pratt LA, Brody DJ, Gu Q. Antidepressant use in persons aged 12 and over: United States, 2005-2008. NCHS data brief, no.76. Hyattsville, MD. National Center for Health Statistics,2011.

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