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Treating Depression: Are We a Medication Nation?

As more and more antidepressant medications are brought to market, it seems our nation is becoming a medication nation. Not to pick on antidepressants, but a study that was released last fall shows there is a significant increase in the usage of these medications.

In their report published in Oct. 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found that the use of antidepressants had increased by 400% over the past two decades. In fact, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that anti- depressants were the 3rd most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages from 2005 to 2008 and the most frequently used medication by people between the ages of 18 and 44. The study also produced several other key findings:

  • Women are 2 ½ times more likely than men to be taking antidepressant medication.
  • Women aged 40-59 are the highest age-sex group to be taking an antidepressant at 23%.
  • Adults over the age of 40 (men & women) are more likely to take them.

However, as a professional in the mental health field, the most disturbing finding was that less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant medication and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year.

This leaves a great many individuals relying on their primary care doctors to treat the depression. Don’t get me wrong – I have a great respect and admiration for any physician who recognizes that depression exists. I have also worked with a number of patients over the years whose primary care physicians were well-intentioned but unable to provide the stabilization that a psychiatrist could. As I explain in my book, Moving Beyond Depression, if you had a Porsche you would probably not take it to the Ford dealer to work on the engine! Sure, they both know motors. However, the Porsche dealer has the expertise required to do a thorough job on the Porsche. Likewise, a good psychiatrist is the most knowledgeable professional for treating depression, and medication is not always the best treatment option.

Source: www.CDC.gov – Antidepressant Use in Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2005–2008.

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