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1 in 5 Americans Takes A Psychiatric Drug

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1 in 5 Americans Takes A Psychiatric Drug

A recent study reported that 1 in 5 American adults takes at least one psychiatric drug to treat depression and/or anxiety, a 22 percent increase since 2001. Do you get what this means? This means that in an office of 100 people, 20 of them – enough to form an entire department – will be on medication.

In the average family of 2 parents and 2 1/2 kids, one of them will eventually take psychiatric drugs. At your next high school reunion of 1,000 graduates, 200 of them will be on mind-altering drugs.

Isn’t that shocking?

And yet, this doesn’t surprise me one bit.

Back when I was seeing 40 patients a day in my busy managed care medical practice, I was inundated with patients whose “chief complaints” (as we call it in medical lingo) were often not depression or anxiety, but other vague symptoms like this.

The Chief Complaint

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased libido
  • Moodiness
  • Vague physical symptoms like muscle aches, diarrhea, nausea, back pain, abdominal pain

When I questioned them, these patients reported that they felt listless, joyless, and low in energy. In other words, they had lost their mojo. (I call it the “mojo-sapping epidemic” in my next book Mind Over Medicine.)

It’s Not Just Neurotransmitters

Once upon a time, doctors recognized depression and anxiety as reactions to emotional events and life influences. When you lost your mother or got fired from your job or got diagnosed with cancer, it was considered normal to feel sad or anxious for a while. The root cause of your diagnosis was clear to everyone and the prescription was usually just time, not drugs. After all, time heals all wounds.

Then, in the wake of the increasing tendency to blame every disease on biochemical or genetic factors, these psychological states became attributed to neurotransmitters. Not enough serotonin. Too little GABA. The rush to “fix” these neurotransmitter imbalances with medication ensued.

But somewhere in the chemicalization of depression and anxiety, we forgot that, most of the time, these conditions arise because someone’s life is out of balance. It’s not just purely biochemical.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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2:30PM PDT on Sep 23, 2015

Thank you.

8:09PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

Good to hear Kiana because it is hormones often. Another thing it is often is Nutrion completely a mess and a ton of allergies to food. Unfortunatelly anyone can get the test done but It's never covered under health insurancedo you have to pay for thst test a few hundred or so dollars. *Very happy to hear you were NOT put in anything else Kiana :-))

Kiana S.
4:30AM PST on Feb 3, 2012
Thank you for the post and video! I'm always interested to hear what you have to say and it was a nice addition to hear you actually say it :)

I was an emotional mess for years and years before I starting taking birth control a few years ago. It seems to have totally straightened out my hormones, which is a great relief. It's given me the space to work on myself. I don't know what would happen if I stopped taking it, I suppose I eventually will, I would like to think that I'm well enough in myself that it wouldn't make a difference, but I'm not sure it would be that easy. I'm just glad that it was all I needed :)

8:01PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

Continued... 3rd comment then end.
Usually if not a Psychiatrist then they do have one overseeing them. If one does not work ,keep looking for a therapist that does. The first is not always the best. *I know this is long but I hope people read it because I really do know what I'm talking about or i would never ever say all of this.

8:00PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

I know so many people that when they come off Effexor and Wellbutrin specifically ,they will get electro convulsive shocks. It was terrible watching them. One was on it for menopause and the other NO reason mentioned .

First of ALL you do not just get these from your PCP or any Dr without a consult/tests and a lot of follow-up appointments. IF YOU NEED THEM, IT'S OK IF THE SO CALLED BENEFITS OUTWEIGH THE RISK FOR YOU AND MAKE YOU NOTICEABLY HAPPIER. I wont knock you if you need it. But I'm sorry most do not and please do your research first and fully. I have a background degree and It also helps me to know why i don't believe in these drugs and how they are handed out like candy by any Dr ,no problems getting them ever.

Just to let you know. Many of the kids who have committed the crimes of taking guns to school and killing are on these drugs ,sadly. Look into it, You'll see. That is a fact. Every troubled child does not need an antidepressant or psychotropic drug. Wrong answer almost always. Again there will be a small amount that benefit from it but they must see a Psychiatrist to have follow-up appointments and a GOOD ONE!!!

As you can see, I'm not for these. The field of work I did/do but I'm on leave for quite awhile due to my health , wants to give these meds out all the time to kids. Please be cautious if you have kids on any of these drugs and make sure they show up to their appt's with a GOOD Therapist.

7:57PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

This is not shocking at all. I am so against this I can't say it enough. ***Before I go further I do believe there are people that genuinely need these drugs and yes it saves their lives (I would make sure that thought or feeling is not just brain washed in their minds but sure i believe some people need these).
These are handed out like candy. There is no doctor i know of that wont prescribe them if you want them. They almost seem too happy to prescribe them so I wonder how much of a kickback or payment they receive from the companies. These are given for pain, fibromyalgia, PMS,Menapause,you name it. One day my PCP thought I was going to say yes and I swear from the sound of her voice and her reaction ,I thought she was going to dance!!! The answer is and will be NO always. I do not need them for anything. I do not need all of the very long laundry list of side effects that come with them. I was being prescribed or they were pushing for assorted health things I have like neuropathy/fibro and some others. Early on about 20 yrs old I said i would try and OMG i had no mental issues at all and was actually content and happy. I became agitated after the first dose, felt like I was speeding (talking a mile a minute) and wanted to smash the walls. So they tried 3 total and all only for under a month and i had every side effect in the world ruining me so I said NO and never ever again. It was given to me for Neuropathy and what a bunch of crock that was. I

10:23AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

I believe people should be able to take the meds they need to life a happy productive life! What I DON'T agree with is primary care physicians being able to prescribe these types of meds! If a patient needs psychiatric drugs they should be referred to the appropriate person! My late husband (rest in peace) went to his primary care physician because of heart concerns! She said it was anxiety and put him on a psychiatric drug changing his life forever! Sadly two years later after "trying to find the right med" he couldn't fight the battle anymore and took his own life! Things need to change!

8:35AM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Mine help my depression A LOT. Without them, I'd be super sad and suicidal.

12:00PM PST on Feb 10, 2012

In the USA , millions of people are suffering due to the politicians who are not heeding the needs of people but bow to whims of transglobal corporations. People do not want a war empire or see the 1% grab 40% of our nations wealth as they lose their jobs and/or homes.
Biggest problem is the feeling of helplessness against a tsunami of taxes, cuts and elimination of what either maintained the staus quo or quality of their lives. Helplessness in the face of any reduction in quality of life will create a sense of dis_ease. For quality of life it is also a fight against the ME, ME ,ME !! MINE ! sense of entitlemnet many people have,

9:19AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Cannabis is an all-natural, sustainable, non-addictive, non-toxic herb that has been used for thousands of years to treat a number of mental illnesses including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Best of all, it has none of the side-effects or toxins common to the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs. More information can be found at:

3:16AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

1 in 5 on psych. drugs sucks big time. Luckily some, like this doctor, has seen that a person is not their body and its only one part of spirit-mind-body, so if the spirit or mind are out of whack so will the body. She's not the first though to say that having various healthy areas in one's life is more important than just your body. The question still remains of course is HOW does one attain (and maintain) a 'healthy' life of money, sex, relationship, environment, mental etc. Thousands of ideas exist about those things---philosophy, psychology, religion etc. Does she know that 70% of illness is psychosomatic? That means originate in the mind. Thus you need to know what the mind is and how it works and how to fix it. Also that the spirit is boss of the mind so you need to know what the spirit is and how it works and how to fix it.

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