Over one in 10 Americans aged 12 and over are currently using antidepressants, according to recent data from a federal health survey. Indeed, antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed drug for adults ages 18 to 44.
Antidepressant use rose by almost 400 percent from 1988 to 1994 and 2005 to 2008. This increase likely resulted in part from advances in antidepressant drugs, including the discovery of SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors). These newer drugs both treat depression more effectively than the older drugs (e.g., tricyclics) and are associated with fewer side effects.
Yet despite these impressive numbers, many who could benefit most from antidepressants are still not taking them. Two out of three people who suffer from severe depression are not getting the medication that could help them. Thus, while some may complain that antidepressant use is becoming excessive, the data suggest that these drugs may still not be reaching those who need them most.
ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross perspective addresses this situation: Considering the horrible toll of depression on an individual s life, and the fact that suicide claims far too many lives in our country, especially among young people, physicians need to be more proactive about promoting antidepressants for those who need them most. Even now, some physicians are reluctant to bring the subject of depression up, and patients still fear the stigma of mental illness. These issues must be confronted in order to make potentially lifesaving therapy available to them.