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Women Continue to be the Biggest Users of Psychiatric Drugs: Editorial

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Despite the constant complaints and negative reports about psychiatric medications, current data indicate that at least 20 percent of Americans are on these drugs. Doctors have very little threshold for prescribing a variety of psychiatric medications for anxiety, depression, panic disorders or pain.

The latest study reveals that the major beneficiaries of these drugs are women. According to Medco Health solutions, there has been a 22 percent increase in prescriptions for psychiatric and behavioral medications in just the past decade.

The study reveals that nearly 26 percent of adult American women regularly take antidepressants, anti-anxiolytics, atypical antipsychotics and drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactive disorder. In contrast only 15 percent of men were prescribed such medications.

The highest use of these drugs was in women over the age of 45. In contrast the highest use of these drugs in men was in between the ages 20-44.

Other notable data from this study showed the highest prevalence of psychiatric medication use occurred in the South Central Region of the United States. The states with the highest use of psychiatric medications included Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. These states are also known as the “diabetes belt” and “stroke belt” because of the disproportionate distribution of these medical conditions.

The least amount of psychiatric drug use was in the East North Central Region that included Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The most common psychiatric drugs used were the antidepressants, followed by anti-anxiety medications. In both categories, women were the most prolific users, compared to men. In every category of mental illnesses, there has been a significant rise in the prescription of psychiatric medications in just the past 10 years.

The study findings are based on a review of prescription drug claims from more than 2 million patients in the United States between 2001 and 2010.

In my opinion, there are multiple reasons for this trend but the major one is excessive physician-prescribing without offering alternative treatments.

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