A new study reveals some depressing news about anti-depressants: about two-thirds of people on anti-depressants don’t actually need the medication.
In recent years, we’ve see anti-depressant usage rise at an alarming rate. Currently, 10% of Americans rely on the drugs, with middle-aged women popping the pills at more than twice that rate. While taking care of one’s mental health is important, it looks as though anti-depressant usage isn’t always the correct avenue.
The problem begins with the initial screening for depression. In a study of 5,639 patients that were diagnosed as depressed, 61.6% of them did not actually meet the clinical criteria for depression by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Worse still, six out of seven elderly patients labeled “depressed” did not fit the standards. Often times, a patient’s stress or other health issues were misidentified as a larger mental problem.
Since most Americans cannot afford to see a mental health specialist, they seek the opinion of their primary doctors. Rather than doing a thorough mental health test, primary care doctors can make a judgment based on a few of the patient’s stated symptoms and prescribe something immediately… often with a pen provided by the pharmaceutical company itself.
Blame lies on the insurance companies, as well. They’re more willing to pay for drugs from their friends in the pharmaceutical industry than to offer other forms of mental health therapy that have been proven to also adequately tackle depression and related disorders.
Even when an accurate diagnosis has been made, for many, depression is a temporary state based on circumstance rather than a permanent chemical imbalance. In these cases, patients may mistake a natural mood boost as an anti-depressant success and remain on the pills long past their necessity. The majority of people use anti-depressants for at least two years, though plenty of patients can rely on the medication for five times that span.
Although anti-depressants can be useful to some patients, it is apparent that they are being overprescribed in an indiscriminate manner. It’s a fact made even more upsetting when you consider that a lot of people with legitimate depression don’t have access to health care and the pills are winding up in the wrong hands.
As evidenced by the proliferation of anti-depressants on television commercials, depression medications are a profitable business. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that with so many products to push, more patients are being diagnosed as depressed and in need of prescription pills.