Report on increase in the use of mental health medications.

Report on increase in the use of mental health medications

By Liz Lockhart

The results of an analysis of trends in mental health medication usage in America reveal some startling findings. 

The new report is published by Medco Health Solutions and suggests that women’s use of medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has more than doubled in the last ten years.  This is higher than the use of this kind of medication by men.

The report states that the number of women on ADHD drugs was 2.5 times higher than in 2001.  The greatest increase was seen in young and middle-aged adult women in the age group between 20 and 44 years of age.

The report is the product of an analysis of trends in the use of mental health medication among 2.5 million insured Americans.  It compared the use of antidepressants, antipsychotics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs and anti-anxiety treatment from 2001 to 2010.

ADHD is usually first diagnosed in childhood.  The rise in female adult usage, the report suggests, could be that girls who have ADHD are not diagnosed until they reach adulthood.  This could be because the way in which ADHD is expressed in girls is different and less obvious than the way in which it is expressed in boys.  Girls tend to display less hyperactivity which is one of the defining characteristics of ADHD.

The inability to concentrate and focus on one single task at a time may become more noticeable as girls grow up.  This may be because young adults tend to have more responsibilities to manage than a teenage girl does.

The report also suggests that women take more psychiatric medications than men.  The most commonly used of these are antidepressants which are typically prescribed as a treatment for depression.  Over 20% of women are prescribed antidepressants at any one time. 

Anxiety treatments are used by women at almost twice the rate than that of men use.  The biggest use of anti-anxiety medications is found in middle-aged women with 11% of them taking such a drug last year.

Dr. David Muzina , a psychiatrist and national practice leader of the Medco Neuroscience Therapeutic Resource Centre said ‘Over the past decade there has been a significant uptick in the use of medications to treat a variety of mental health problems.  What is not clear is if more people, especially women, are actually developing psychological disorders that require treatment, or if they are more willing to seek out help and clinicians are better at diagnosing these conditions than they once were.’

Although it is women who predominantly use antipsychotics, there has been a significant increase in the use of these drugs by men.  The usage in men who are aged between 20 and 64 has quadrupled since 2001.

The number of children and young people under the age of 20 who use mental health drug treatments was up in all areas over the past 10 years. However, despite these findings, the use of antidepressants and ADHD medications was down.  Antidepressant use has dropped substantially since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning about their use by children in 2004.

Likewise, the use of ADHD drugs has also been on the decline in both boys an girls since 2005. 

The prevalence of the use of antipsychotics for the treatment of children is very low, currently standing at just 1%, but the number has doubled from 2001 to 2010.

Dr. Muzina said ‘The fact that more children are being treated with atypicals is concerning given that substantial weight gain is highly associated with the use of these drugs in this population, putting children at risk for diabetes and heart disease-related conditions.  When using these drugs, children need to be monitored on a frequent basis to prevent against these serious health risks.’

Source: Medco Health Solutions 

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