Well Being

1 In 5 Americans Now On Mental Health Drugs. Are We Over-Medicating?

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1 In 5 Americans Now On Mental Health Drugs  Are We Over Medicating  blisstree mental jpgAlmost half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, and now a new report tells us that more than 20% of us take at least one medication to treat a mental health problem–a number that is up 22% since 2001. It’s an alarming trend for sure, and has us wondering: Are all of these drugs really necessary, or are Americans over-medicated?

Granted, mental health disorders are a serious illness which require serious treatment. According to the statistics released by Medco Health Solutions, more than a quarter of us suffer from mental health problems which have us taking antidepressants, antipsychotics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs or anti‐anxiety treatments every year. And women are far more likely to take a drug to treat a mental health condition than men with those over 45 showing the highest use.

And yet, the World Health Organization says this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are over-medicated.

So what does it mean? Are more Americans just getting diagnosed with depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders? Are these conditions becoming more prevalent? Or, are doctors simply taking the easy way out and prescribing more drugs than necessary without exploring other alternate treatments first for less severe cases?

In Charles Barber’s Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation, the New York Times stated that he makes a case for Americans being “vastly overmedicated for often relatively minor mental health concerns”. There is also the theory to the sharp rise in mental health medications: We are asking for them. The NY Times also suggested that we are a self-drugging society in many respects. We are often too quick to pop pills when something doesn’t feel quite right. Many of us use alcohol to numb feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. It was even suggested that some Americans are taking mental health medications for “ficticious concerns”. For that, we can point a finger to all of the marketing and advertising that the drug companies are doing (over $5 billion a year) that suggest we may have a problem (even though we thought we were fine until we saw their commercial telling us how depressed we are). [tagbox tag= “mental health”]

In a recent Blisstree post, I talked about the fact that some doctors think depression could actually be good for us because it forces us to face our issues and dissect exactly what is happening in our lives and in our head. Because of this, some doctors still think that other mental health treatments like talk therapy should be explored first because putting a pharmaceutical bandage over our depression or anxiety can often preclude us from uncovering our source of true happiness. Other experts have also suggested that a healthy diet, stress-reduction and even yoga can help bring us back to a positive mental state.

Tell us what you think. Are Americans too quick to take mental health medications?

 

Photo: Thinkstock

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