Study: One Quarter of Antidepressant Users Never Diagnosed With Depression, Anxiety Disorders

A study released by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry that reveals some shocking statistics about the manner in which antidepressants are prescribed in the United States. From Reuters:

More than a quarter of Americans taking antidepressants have never been diagnosed with any of the conditions the drugs are typically used to treat, according to new research.

That means millions could be exposed to side effects from the medicines without proven health benefits, researchers say.

“We cannot be sure that the risks and side effects of antidepressants are worth the benefit of taking them for people who do not meet criteria for major depression,” said Jina Pagura, a psychologist and currently a medical student at the University of Manitoba in Canada, who worked on the study.

“These individuals are likely approaching their physicians with concerns that may be related to depression, and could include symptoms like trouble sleeping, poor mood, difficulties in relationships, etc.,” she added in an e-mail to Reuters Health. “Although an antidepressant might help with these issues, the problems may also go away on their own with time, or might be more amenable to counseling or psychotherapy.”

The researchers tapped into data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiologic Surveys, which include a nationally representative sample of more than 20,000 U.S. adults interviewed between 2001 and 2003.

Roughly one in ten people told interviewers they had been taking antidepressants during the past year. Yet a quarter of those people had never been diagnosed with any of the conditions that doctors usually treat with the medication, such as major depression and anxiety disorder.

Perhaps it is time that people started discussing the actual conditions under which antidepressant medication can be useful -and conversely, when it can possibly be harmful. Just why are Doctors putting so many people on this medication (which, by the way, is very difficult to get off of) when so little is known about when it should be used or the possible risks?  I believe that to answer these questions is to fully understand what the “other indicators of need” are in the study’s conclusions.

Conclusions: These results suggest that antidepressant use among individuals without psychiatric diagnoses is common in the United States and is typically motivated by other indicators of need. These findings have important implications for the delivery of medical and psychiatric care and psychiatric nosology.

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