Most Anti-Depressant Users Don’t Actually Need Them

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.


Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

It's more about perception and will power

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn P2 years ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith2 years ago

I am one who's on anti-depresants, and for me they've made a huge improvement in my life. But I may be in the minority who's actually in need rather then the majority who don't. I've had people try to tell me to get off the drugs, but they don't live with me.

If I don't take my meds one day, you can tell the difference in me. This is not some temporary issue, as it's been ongoing for years, and it's taken years to find something that makes me act semi normal again, something that I'm grateful for.

Mind you I seem to hold an advantage over those from the states, as I also get therapy, counseling, and a physiologist who all keep track on what's going on, trying to get me off meds.

K H.
Kate H3 years ago

Some people are so quick to judge the meds, but in many cases they do actually work. An optimal solution is to use meds and verbal therapy from a psychologist in conjunction with each other, not everyone can afford that though unfortunately.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Kevin, for Sharing this!

Dale O.

So very sorry to hear of this Lynda H. The doctors did the wrong thing in this case and one wonders if the psychiatrist should even have a licence. Did he do no follow up to see as to how the medications that he prescribed affected your close relative? Certainly any side effects that are drastic would have most doctors stop using such medication. Such neglect should lead to legal action against the doctor because that should not be happening.

Lynda H.
Lynda S4 years ago

A close relative of mine was unable to have children, so her dogs were her children and she was happy, outgoing, vivacious and great fun to be with.

But both dogs, of similar age, died within 3 months of each other, and she grieved no less deeply than if they were her own children. She fell deeper and deeper into depression and saw her GP, who prescribed anti-depressants. Not surprisingly, they didn’t work, so he sent her to a psychiatrist. Straight away she was placed on psychotropic drugs.

She is gone. The person who she was is gone, leaving a vacant zombie in her place. She stares into space, licks her red, inflamed upper lip every few seconds and scratches her red, puffy arms at least once a minute. She talks a little, but only ‘small talk’, never expressing an opinion or sharing a perspective. I’m told that the drugs are slowly but permanently destroying her natural serotonin processes and she can never go off the drug.

Now her husband, family and friends grieve for the loss of her. I know people who have benefitted greatly from anti-depressants, but I agree with this article: they are overprescribed, and should be a last resort rather than a ‘quick fix’.

Pamela W.
Pamela W4 years ago

11:14PM PDT on Aug 27, 2013 " I'm done with this contemptible thread as of now."

If only .... we could believe that ..... If only .................

Barbara D.
Past Member 4 years ago

Ken, I really don't think so. I know you'll come back and you'll read this.
I've been on Care2 for 9 YEARS and I've seen the seemingly endless battles and arguments. Interestingly enough, they very often involve the very few same people.
Absolutely, you should think, say, post as you will. But if that's what does it for you, you should feel no need to return to argue, criticize and insult what other people think, say, and post. Especially if you're not willing to state what your opinion REALLY is, explain the reasons for your opinion, or answer any direct questions. If you don't want to be part of a discussion, at least don't keep interrupting the discussion.

Dale O.

You are entitled to your opinions, no one is trying to change it but there is often comments and debate.

Clarification, when saying "...but I have seen a number of people posting long posts so at times I have copied them."

I meant that I copied the method of sometimes posting long posts, not that I had copied the posts of someone else.