U.S. antidepressant use almost doubles

We all know that antidepressant use has skyrocketed in the U.S. That drug class encompasses some of the biggest-selling meds in pharma. But a new study shows just how much the market has grown: The share of Americans taking antidepressant meds doubled to 10.1 percent in 2005 from 1996. That's some 27 million people age 6 and older.

The study also found that as drug use grew, psychotherapy shrank. And that's despite best-practice guidelines pairing drug treatment with talk therapy. Some 32 percent of patients on antidepressants also went to talk therapy in 1996, compared with 20 percent in 2005. That decline could stem from the high out-of-pocket costs of talk therapy compared with meds.

Just why did antidepressant use grow so much, so quickly? The study authors speculate that the introduction of new drugs, a decrease in the stigma attached to mental health care, and the increase in DTC ads all played a role. DTC advertising for antidepressants grew to $122 million from $32 million over the time period, they note.

Could it simply be that more Americans are depressed? Lead author Mark Olfson said more people may just be taking the drugs. "The reasons for this increase are not clear," he told Bloomberg.

- see the news at FirstWord
- check out the Bloomberg story
- get the study abstract from Archives of General Psychiatry
- read the Reuters article