In 10 years, use of psychiatric drugs rises 20 percent in U.S.

One in four American women is taking medications for conditions such as depression or anxiety. That’s just one of the startling findings of a new report, analyzing prescription drug use of 2.5 million patients.

A new report from pharmacy benefits manager Medco Health Solutions examined trends in prescription drug use for mental health issues over the last 10 years. According to the report, use of psychiatric medications is up by more than 20 percent. More than one in five adults is taking at least one such medication.

Anxiety medication use among children was up by 50 percent.

Dr. David Muzina, a psychiatrist with Medco Health, said these numbers don’t necessarily mean that more Americans are having mental health problems, but that these problems are diagnosed and treated at a higher rate.

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And, more patients are asking for these medications.

“We are seeing more people presenting to the office who are aware of these medications, and sometimes even asking for specific medications,” said Muzina. “My cautionary advice is to remind my colleagues that along with prescribing these powerful medications comes the responsibility of safely monitoring them over time.”

Muzina said the across-the-board increases raise concerns about overprescribing. For example, he said, patients could be given prescriptions from several different doctors.

“It’s not uncommon in the busy practice of medicine that physicians from different practices that do not share an electronic medical record may not be communicating with each other for every single patient.”

Muzina said patients should also consider alternative forms of treatment such as therapy and lifestyle changes before starting medications.

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