Antidepressant Use in America

Just a couple decades ago, antidepressant use was not on the radar of most American psychologists and therapy professionals. My, how times have changed. The best-selling book Listening to Prozac came out 20 years ago and proved to be a boon to the market. People today aren’t just reading books about that drug, though – they are consuming it. And other antidepressants.In large numbers.

Whether it’s Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, Paxil, or Zoloft, Americans are consuming antidepressants today in unbelievable quantities. According to a 2011 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of antidepressant consumption by adults in this country has increased more than 10 times between 1990 and 2008. If you include teens in that statistic, Americans are taking 400% more antidepressants today than they were just 20 years ago.

Furthermore, the government has determined that roughly 1 in 10 people take some sort of antidepressant, making these drugs the third most common prescription medication taken by Americans in the last several years.

Some more statistics that you should know about the striking rise in antidepressant use:

  • – 23% of middle aged women (40-55 years old) take antidepressants, a higher percentage of women here than any other group or demographic of people
  • – Women are 250% more likely to take antidepressants than are men
  • – 14% of white people take antidepressants. By comparison, only 4% of black people and 3% of Hispanic people take antidepressants
  • – More than 65% of those who have taken antidepressants this year have not seen a therapist or psychological professional

The question, then, is whether or not it’s a good thing that so many people are taking antidepressants in this country. Many mental health and psychological professionals argue that it is a positive, since depression has historically been undertreated until now, and antidepressants have been proven to be fairly effective in treating depression and related issues.

However, there are also plenty of critics out there who argue that the benefits of antidepressants have been over-stated, usage is typically being abused by too many people, and pharmaceutical companies are over-marketing their drugs simply as a profit goal and seeing a surge in prescriptions that aren’t actually helping people.

Critics argue that people in general are over-medicated, and when you combine that with the fact that too many people are using anti-depressants without also seeking professional treatment or rehabilitation from psychological professionals or treatment centers, the trend is actually creating a new addiction to antidepressants and more problems than solutions.

So what’s it all mean? Well, there is a middle ground here. Depression historically has been neglected as a serious psychological issue, so there is a good aspect to more people being medicated. However, there’s also legitimate concern that there are too many people using these medications, and overuse of any prescription medication carries addiction concerns and more.

When it comes down to it, only take antidepressants if you are prescribed by your psychologist or doctor – and never on a whim without a medical opinion involved. There are many benefits to these drugs, but only for people under professional supervision.


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