Are Psychiatric Medications Prescribed too Frequently?

June 10, 2012

This is a challenging question to answer.  There has definitely been an increase in the number of psychiatric medications prescribed but is this a result of better identification of mental illness or is it as a result of the medications being pushed by doctors and pharmaceutical companies?

I guess it is difficult to determine a definitive reason why there is an increase in the use of mental health medications.  There seems to be research and opinions that support both the better identification of mental illness and that medications are being pushed by doctors and pharmaceutical companies.  I, personally, believe it is a combination of both reasons.

According to a Wall Street Journal article published in November 2011, overall use of psychiatric medications among adults grew 22% from 2001 to 2010.  The percentage is based on prescription-drug pharmacy claims of two million insured U.S. adults and children reported by MedCo Health Solutions, Inc., a pharmacy-benefit manger (click on graph above to see more percentages).

The Wall Street Journal article goes on to state that psychiatric medications are among the most widely-prescribed and biggest-selling drugs in the United States.  Of course, whether the psychiatric drugs are used appropriately or not has been an ongoing concern and debate among the medical community and policy makers.  In my opinion, as an experienced marketing professional, I believe the increase in direct consumer advertising of medications, in particular psychiatric medications, should be a concern.  The advertising influences the consumer’s perception and demand of the medications, whether or not they are necessary.  Although many find benefits from taking medication, it is important to be aware that the pharmaceutical companies are profit-driven.  Yes, there is excellent research conducted by the companies but remember, that they look at whether or not the financial benefits of a medication will be greater than the risks.

So, in my opinion, there is no easy answer to the question of whether or not psychiatric medications are prescribed too frequently.  My recommendation is that individuals do their own research and educate themselves about the diagnosis being given to them.  Medications may not always be necessary and other treatments can be effective.  When medication is recommended, finding the right one can be challenging.  Research the medication and understand the benefits and risks.  Remember that your doctor works for you and you have the right to be a partner in your care and treatment.

I would love to hear what others think on this topic so I encourage comments.

Also, I recently discovered that my subscribe feature on my blog page was not working properly.  Unfortunately, I lost some subscribers.  The problem is now fixed.  If you subscribed to my blog between the end of March and the first week in June, please resubscribe.  I apologize for the inconvenience.

I hope you find the information I provide helpful and informative.  I appreciate you taking the time to read my blogs.

Additional Informational Resources:

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker

Treating Depression: Is there a placebo effect?

MedWatch: The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program

Antidepressant drug sales plummet as patents expire and patients flee to safer alternatives

How FDA and Big Pharma mislead millions into taking dangerous anti-depressants

Citizens Commission on Human Rights