Tag Archives: US

The Big Deep


No, this post isn’t about the credit crunch. I thought a lot of people out there must be feeling the effects of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and so I just started randomly browsing the US and the UK statistics for depression, antidepressant drug use and general drug use. If true, then it’s pretty impressive data, especially considering its change over the past few decades. For years now I have been annoyed with the doctors’ relaxed attitude towards handing out medication. I remember once calling a local surgery in Kent, UK, to get advice on treating my flu-like sympthoms.  I was prescribed antibiotics over the phone within minutes and they were to be picked up the next day. I imagine similar handing applies to the distribution of antidepressants both in the UK, US and other developed countries.


According to HHS, the US Department for Health and Human Services, ‘adult use of antidepressants almost tripled between 1988 and 2000.  Ten percent of women 18 and older and 4 percent of men now take antidepressants.’ In the UK the use of antidepressants increased by 234% in the 10 years up to 2002. Using antidepressants has also spread across age groups and it is now not unusual to hear of preschoolers as young as 3 popping Prozac. Psychiatric medication is banned for children under 3, so perhaps that’s why the still younger ones aren’t on medication. Almost 500 people die every year in the UK from antidepressant drug use and overdose related poisonings. Antidepressants can also cause  or increase suicidal tendencies as a side effect and  perhaps as a result of these side effects over 5000 people have committed suicide in the past decade while using antidepressants.

Drug  ↓ Brand  ↓ Class  ↓ 2007 Prescriptions (in millions)  ↓
Sertraline Zoloft SSRI 29.652
Escitalopram Lexapro SSRI 27.023
Fluoxetine Prozac SSRI 22.266
Bupropion Wellbutrin, Budeprion, Zyban NDRI 20.184
Paroxetine Paxil SSRI 18.141
Venlafaxine Effexor SNRI 17.200
Citalopram Celexa SSRI 16.246
Trazodone Desyrel 15.473
Amitriptyline Elavil TCA 13.462
Duloxetine Cymbalta SNRI 12.551
Mirtazapine Remeron tetracyclic 5.129
Nortriptyline Pamelor TCA 3.105
Imipramine Tofranil TCA 1.524

So is the society indeed suffering from more conditions both psychological and physical alike, or is our knowledge of conditions bringing on a negative placebo effect, or are we just being led by institutions to treat our conditions with chemicals purely for the sake of that creating more profit for pharmaceutical companies and less hassle for the health care system? Almost half of all Americans are on at least one prescription drug at any given time. I think the health care systems need to commit more time to educating the public not just on the conditions they may have, but also to the ways of avoiding them in the first place and stop dispensing medicine as widely. NHS is finally making the first steps in sending out a message about how irrelevant antibiotics are in treating flu and cold. Better late than never, I suppose, but it still a long way to go.