How many of your friends and family are taking antidepressants–either OTC or prescription medications? How many of them really need them?
- 11% of people over the age of 12 (teenagers and adolescents as well as adults!) are on antidepressants
- More than 60% of the people on antidepressants have been medicating for more than 2 years
- 14% of those on antidepressants have been taking them for more than 10 years
- Less than 50% of those taking multiple antidepressants have visited a doctor in the last year
- Between 1994 and 2008, the use of antidepressants increased by a staggering 400%
- That’s a lot of people taking medications like Prozac and Zoloft.
But, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology(1), a surprising number of people currently taking antidepressants have no need of them!
The Surprising Truth
The study opens with this stated objective:
“Past studies have shown that many individuals who use antidepressants have no current or lifetime history of mental disorders. However, recent studies suggest that the one-time retrospective evaluation of mental disorders commonly used in such studies may substantially underestimate the true lifetime prevalence of mental disorders. We examined the prevalence of mental disorders, assessed prospectively over multiple interviews, among individuals currently using antidepressants in a community sample.”
The study examined more than 1,000 people, examining data taken as far back as 1981. They assessed the prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders according to established medical criteria, interviewed patients, and examined factors that are commonly associated with the use of antidepressants.
Of those examined, 13% were currently using antidepressants at the time of the study. Of those, 69% failed to meet the established criteria for major depressive disorder and 38% failed to meet the established criteria for other disorders, such as;
- Panic disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Social phobia
Interestingly enough, of those studied, the ones most likely to be taking antidepressants without actually qualifying for the depressive disorder were:
- Suffering from or recently recovered from physical problems like back pain, high blood pressure, etc.
Many of those taking antidepressants needlessly had also made recent visits to mental health facilities.
So what does this mean? To sum it up in the words of the published study:
“Many individuals who are prescribed and use antidepressant medications may not have met criteria for mental disorders. Our data indicate that antidepressants are commonly used in the absence of clear evidence-based indications.”
While many of the people who take antidepressants believe that they need them, how many of them actually need the medications? How many of them meet the established criteria that qualifies them as suffering a major depressive disorder or one of the other disorders listed above? According to this study, less than 1/3rd of them!
This means that the medical system is doing a pretty poor job of distinguishing patients in need of help and patients in need of medication. If 69% of the people on antidepressants failed to meet the established criteria for Major Depressive Disorders, it means that they were taking drugs simply because it made them feel like they were treating whatever the problem really was. Perhaps they were depressed, suffering, or going through emotional turmoil, but they had absolutely no need for medications.
This is a fairly eye-opening study, and all doctors–but psychiatrists, in particular–should sit up and take note. Perhaps being a bit more strict with the diagnosing criteria could help to eliminate a staggering number of unnecessary prescriptions of anti-depressants every year.
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