Overuse of Antidepressants

January 23, 2013

Look around the room and you’re likely to find at least one person who is on an antidepressant medication now.  I just did a Google search for the “top prescription drugs” and according to Drugs.com, one antidepressant and another psychiatric medication are in the top ten ranking.  I often perform this search with my patients and there have been times when three or even four of the top ten prescribed drugs have been antidepressants and antianxiety medications.

In a recent piece in The Daily Telegraph from the UK, a general practitioner spoke out about the overuse of such medications, often without adequate discussion about the potential side effects of these drugs.  I couldn’t agree more.  Now with that said, I should be clear: I often recommend (sometimes quite strongly) that some of my patients consider taking antidepressant and other psychiatric medications.  We should not be polarized in our thinking about such treatment… these meds are often quite effective and when properly prescribed can have limited side effects (or we can even “leverage” the side effects to our advantage by prescribing antidepressants that have a more sedating side effect profile to patients with insomnia or meds with a more activating side effect profile to folks having trouble getting out of bed in the morning).  But such medications should not be used instead of other treatments such as psychotherapy; they are typically most effective when used in conjunction with talk therapy.  For more information see some of my other blog posts such as APA Promotes Psychotherapy and Use of Antidepressants.

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